Marketers are convinced there is opportunity at the intersection of social marketing and mobile technology, but it's a nut waiting to be cracked.
Mobile usage has exploded, and b2b marketers are still looking for the best way to reach an increasingly large audience through apps, display ads or mobile-optimized websites.
“Mobile and social go together,” said Prat Vemana, director-mobile strategy at office supply company Staples Inc., which has an aggressive mobile and social outreach to small-business buyers.
“If you deploy something on your site, you often don't get feedback on it for days,” Vemana said. “But when you deploy it on a mobile app, you hear about it that night. It's a highly engaging medium.”
Vemana said Staples' new mobile apps for smartphones and tablets embed sharing buttons (along with the usual rating system) but also allow viewers to write reviews. That's somewhat unusual on mobile sites.
The company's mobile sites also feature “Easy Stories,” with customers sharing how they worked to make business easier. It's a takeoff on the big red “Easy” button that reinforces the company's “That was easy” tagline.
But when it comes to the typical b2b sales cycle, there are some challenges unique to mobile marketing.
“With a b2b audience, many of the most important actions don't even happen online,” said Dan Golden, president-chief search artist at search firm Be Found Online. “It's important to understand what role mobile has within your overall marketing mix and optimize toward the actions that happen on mobile devices, like click to call.”
Golden said he doesn't expect mobile to be major factor in activities such as b2b lead generation, in part because of the complexity and length of the b2b sales cycle.
If this is true, then how can b2b marketers maximize their mobile opportunities, beyond making sure their sites are carefully optimized for mobile users?
First, according to Mihael Mikek, CEO of Celtra Inc., whose AdCreator platform allows companies to make, distribute and track mobile ads, “The biggest challenge facing mobile advertisers is creating great mobile ads.”
This means creating richer content—especially with video and animation—and incorporating that across all your marketing channels, including social media sites, which are popular among mobile users who share posts and tweets.
“Advertisers are increasingly using mobile video and animation,” Mikek said. “In the future, customers will reach for their mobile devices before anything else. If you want to win eyeballs in mobile, you need to be interesting and relevant at the same time.”
Mikek said the best way to deliver this experience is via HTML5 coding. It can not only deliver such rich experiences as photo galleries, games, video and social media sharing but can also access device functions such as touch, gyroscopic features and location awareness, he said.
Mobile tracking and analytics, too, will have to improve as the technology develops.
“Certain paid media platforms can have some limitations, specifically issues with cookie-based tracking,” Be Found Online's Golden said. “People browse differently on mobile devices.”
Because of mobile's complexity, standard metrics like click-through rates are a poor indicator of a campaign's success, Mikek said.
They are “too simplistic,” he said. “Mobile advertising measurement is focused on engagement. Effective rich media advertising metrics track users across platforms. Reports should also include detailed insight into user engagement so you can measure ROI and brand interaction across the entire campaign.”
Ideally, Golden said, any marketing metric system wouldn't simply track users in any single environment—such as mobile or desktop—but across devices, as well as multiple social channels.
“That's the real exciting piece,” he said. “Right now, with many cookie-based tracking platforms, we're often not seeing the full spectrum of devices and channels that unique customers are using.”