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Social Media and the Rules of Engagement: How Devices Differ the Dynamic

Now that nearly 60 percent of adults own smartphones, and more than 30 percent of adults own tablets, according to Pew Internet, the term “social media” has taken on a whole new mobile meaning that has huge implications for business success. No longer tied to giant desktop computers, users are able to be social while on the go. You can Tweet about the movie you just saw while still sitting in the theater, check in at your favorite bar immediately after ordering a pint, and “Like” your cousin’s wedding photos from the peak of a mountain trail, all while taking in targeted advertising from businesses relevant to your interests.

As access to social media and applications become more advanced, more and more people are spending their free time getting their news, being entertained, and connecting with their world through mobile devices. For example, in January this year, more Facebook users accessed the network on their mobile devices than on desktops for the first time ever, notes CNN. For those working in marketing, that means easy access to the most massive, captive audience in the world.

In the palm of your hands

Though their purposes and modes of delivery may be different, you can think of social media as personal bulletin boards for the digital age, a way by which individuals share their ideas and passions, learn about others and, yes, occasionally show off pictures of what they’re having for lunch. The beauty of how smartphones and tablets keep evolving is that they let folks take that type of connectivity on the road. Users no longer need to rely on words alone to share their experiences, when most phones and tablets now come with video and still cameras built right in.

What’s great about all of this easy access is that, without even trying, sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are becoming the single best places to advertise. These sites, unlike difficult-to-track methods such as billboards and print ads, offer highly targeted features that allow you to spread your marketing message. Brands can disseminate their ads to very focused groups, such as single mothers who love to skateboard, or people who already also support your competitors.

Baked-in advertising

It makes perfect sense to advertise through social media outlets. Put simply: It’s the biggest show in town. The Global Web Index reports Twitter churns out 288 million active monthly users, with more than 500 million registered accounts total, making it the “fastest growing social platform in the world.” Mobile advertisers may purchase promoted Tweets, which, like the desktop Tweets, appear at the top of relevant users’ Twitter feeds and send out 140-character-or-less messages promoting a product or campaign.

As for the granddaddy of social networking, 666 million active users drop by Facebook on a daily basis, according to one the company’s latest quarterly earnings reports. And more interesting for those looking at the mobile market specifically, 751 million users access Facebook via a mobile device on a monthly basis. The same report states that mobile now generates 30 percent of the site’s total ad revenue, jumping by seven percent since Q1 of 2012. Facebook’s mobile ad platform includes options to promote certain pages or posts. This allows businesses to engage strangers in their initial marketing messages, by giving them a call to action to “Like” the post or page, thus giving the brand permission to further market to the user. The same goes for Twitter — the appearance on both smartphones and tablets is the same, only the ad appears larger on a tablet.

And then there are sites such as YouTube, which now features short video advertisements before many of its clips. A post on the YouTube blog states the video streaming service generates one billion unique viewers per month. That equates to six billion hours worth of videos being watched every four weeks. YouTube videos make up one of the largest types of content seen on mobile phones, eMarketer reports, with user-generated content barely trailing movies in terms of consumption. While Facebook may rule in terms of users, YouTube provides the best exposure in terms of mobile advertisements. When users watch your ad on a tablet, it’s as if they’re watching a mini-movie created by your brand.

Simple, eye-catching offerings that don’t overcrowd the limited mobile screen’s real estate have the potential to go far. Modern social media-philes love to share what catches their attention, and they do so by passing along those items through links, hashtags and good old-fashioned postings on their various profiles. This is why creating compelling content, such as a funny rap video featuring a celebrity, could boost your brand more than a traditional ad showcasing a product — the more creative the ad, the more potential it has to go viral. Just like desktop social accounts, the power of messages spreading in the mobile world is one your business should consider as part of its marketing strategy.

Creative Commons image by MDGovPics

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