The mobile web is the future of the Internet. And the future is here today – especially for savvy marketers.
If you want to reach today's increasingly mobile consumers, you need to incorporate mobile advertising into your company's marketing plan. If you ignore the mobile market, mobile consumers will ignore you – and reward your more mobile competitors.
The nice thing about mobile advertising, however, is that it's a great equalizer. That is, small businesses have access to the same advertising networks and vehicles as do much larger competitors. In fact, with the targeted opportunities afforded by various types of mobile ads, a small business can be quite effective at reaching today's mobile consumers, thank you very much.
Why You Need to Advertise on Mobile Devices
Why is mobile advertising important? It's all about the numbers – specifically, the growing number of consumers who spend a large part of each day with their smartphones and other mobile devices.
It may surprise you to know that more people access the Internet from their phones than from their computers. The Nielsen research company reports that U.S. adults spend an average of 34 hours each month accessing the mobile web on their smartphones. That exceeds the 27 hours per month they spend accessing the Internet on their computers.
If these numbers surprise you, they shouldn't. Consider that the number of mobile phones in use today outnumber TV sets by a factor of 3:1, and outnumber the total number of desktop and notebook PCs in use by more than 5:1.
eMarketer reports that, in 2013, consumers spent 20% of their time accessing media from their smartphones and other mobile devices. That's more than they spend reading print media (5%) or listening to radio (12%). (Television is still the big dog here, at 38% – although time spent watching TV is declining.)
Looking at these numbers, it's not surprising that mobile ad spending is skyrocketing. The IAB reports that in 2013, mobile advertising represented 17% of all online ad spending -- $7.1 billion, up from just $3.4 billion in 2012. By 2018, eMarketer projects that mobile advertising will represent more than 26% of the total online ad market.
Correspondingly the big online media companies are seeing an increasing amount of revenue coming from their mobile activities. Facebook has gone from having almost no mobile revenue a few years ago to generating 41% of its total revenue from mobile apps and advertising. And about a third of Google's paid clicks now come from mobile devices. Mobile is obviously important to these big companies.
It boils down to this. Your customers are spending a lot of time on their iPhones and Android phones – more time than they spend on their PCs. If you want to continue reaching your customers you have to advertise where they spend the most time – which is on their mobile devices.
Types of Mobile Advertising
There are lots of different ways for you to spend your mobile advertising dollars. There's no one magic bullet here, but rather a variety of options that reach different customers in different ways.
First, you can purchase banner (top of screen) and poster (bottom of screen) ads on mobile websites – through an online ad network, of course. Mobile ads represent a large component of the mobile ad business today, generating something in the neighborhood of 200 billion impressions each month. On the mobile web, these ads are typically 320 x 50 or 320 x 250-pixel images, and can be static or incorporate any manner of rich media, including video.
You can also sponsor messages that appear in the content stream on social networks and other mobile sites. These so-called "native ads" or "sponsored ads" can be quite effective, especially on Facebook and other big networks, where they're more likely to blend in with user-generated content.
Also popular are the context-sensitive search ads that appear in the mobile search results of Google, Bing, and the other major search engines. Mobile users do a lot of searching, especially for restaurants and retail establishments, and getting your ad in front of someone searching for your type of business is a no-brainer.
Know, however, that once you get past the Big Two – Facebook and Google – choosing the right mobile ad network can be challenging. The mobile market today is considerably more complex and fragmented than the traditional online ad market, which has given rise to literally hundreds of different mobile ad networks and brokers. In fact, things are so complex that many mobile ad networks actually "rebroker" their ad buys to other mobile networks. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you could end up with a half dozen or so middlemen between you and the site where your mobile ad actually appears.
There are other ways to reach mobile consumers beyond website or search advertising, of course. Distributing your own smartphone app is a good promotional approach for many types of businesses; you can also advertise in other company's apps. This sort of in-app advertising is becoming increasingly effective and important.
Also important are SMS and MMS advertising, where you send your promotional message to consumers via text messaging. In fact, some researchers estimate that 90% of worldwide mobile marketing revenue is generated by text message ads and coupons, which have the distinct advantage of working on any type of phone, not just expensive smartphones.
Where to Spend Your Mobile Advertising Dollars: Google and Facebook
What do mobile users do on their devices? Well, a lot of time (32%) is spent playing games. Next up is Facebook, which consumes 17% of mobile users' time. Browsing the web takes up 14% of the day, while text messaging consumes 9.5% of total mobile time.
Knowing this, it's not surprising that Facebook and Google are the two largest players in mobile advertising. Combined, these two companies control two-thirds of the global online ad market.
Of the Big Two, Google is the Big One – at least in terms of revenues generated. Google's various mobile ad programs control just under half (49%) of the total mobile ad market. Facebook is number-two, with about 17% of the market. Everybody else are just slivers of the pie.
To advertise in Google's mobile search results (and in participating network mobile websites), check out the Google Mobile Ads program. This program works much like Google AdSense for the traditional PC-based Internet, placing your ads in the search results of users placing relevant queries. You can even get ads placed based on physical proximity – that is, your ads appear when someone nearby is searching, which is ideal for mobile consumers. And it's a snap to include click-to-call links in your mobile ads. As with Google's other search-based ad programs, you bid on keywords and pay by the click.
Facebook offers a number of different ways to spend your advertising money, including Pages, promoted posts, and (of course) advertising. When creating an ad with Facebook's Power Editor, you specify whether you want your ad to appear in desktop or mobile news feeds (or both). You can also specify ad placement by location, so you can only send ads to consumers in your area. You should also optimize your Facebook ads with mobile in mind, as a third of all Facebook users access the site from mobile devices.
While Google and Facebook understandably account for the large majority of mobile ad spending, they aren't the only mobile ad networks out there. Just as you probably invest in more than just Google and Facebook for your traditional web-based advertising, you need to consider the same types of alternatives for your mobile ad buys. That means checking out Microsoft (Bing), Yahoo!, and Twitter, and maybe even Tumblr and LinkedIn. These networks all have a shorter reach than the Big Two, but might be better fits for your customer base.
Marketing via Mobile Apps
There’s another unique way to market your products or services to mobile users. Many companies are creating their own branded apps for mobile devices, thus getting their names in front of large numbers of mobile consumers on a regular basis.
The goal with app-based marketing is to develop a truly useful app that also happens to promote your brand or product. Note the word useful; the app needs to provide distinct value to the user, not just be a glorified advertisement. That value has to be instantly obvious and sustainable over time. That is, the app needs to be something that people want or need to use on a frequent basis. You need to serve some sort of need, solve a problem, or offer information that customers have on a daily basis. If your app isn’t frequently used, it’ll be deleted from users’ devices.
Of course, developing a useful mobile app is just the first step in the process. You'll need to promote your app (on both your own website and with your favorite mobile ad network) and develop a strong word-of-mouth among its user base. You'll also want to encourage your users to review your app in the Apple or Android app stores.
You can also advertise your website in other company's apps. In-app advertising is a big deal and getting bigger – the fastest growing sector of the mobile advertising market, in fact. Consider which types of apps your customers are likely to use, and investigate advertising opportunities (typically via banner or poster ads) with those apps.
Mobile Advertising Without the Web
Mobile advertising isn't limited to web-based vehicles. One of the largest segments of the mobile advertising market features good ol' text messaging via either SMS (text-only) or MMS (multimedia) messages.
The primary advantage of SMS/MMS advertising is that it reaches practically everyone with a mobile phone today. Unlike web-based mobile advertising, which only reaches web-enabled smartphone users, just about everyone with a mobile phone can send and receive text messages.
To send someone an advertisement in the form of a text message, that person has to opt into your messaging program and provide his or her phone number. That means getting permission for you to send them text messages. There are a number of ways to do this, of course, but once you're past that hurdle it's time to get creative with the promotional messages you send.
Text messages are surprisingly effective as promotional tools, due in part to the combination of ubiquity and immediacy. When most people receive a text message, they look at it right then. What other form of advertising gets such immediate attention?
In terms of how you can use text messaging to promote your goods and services, the most common technique is to text current sales, bargains, savings, and such. A restaurant might text customers today's specials. A clothing retailer might text about an upcoming sale. An auto repair shop might text a code for a special savings on a lube and oil change. Think about what your customers want to receive, and give it to them.
That also means texting electronic coupons, if you're into that. The coupon can be strictly text-based, containing a code the customer can submit for a discount, or utilize just about any type of attached image, including scanable codes. (For what it's worth, BI Intelligence reports that more than 47 million people used mobile coupons in 2014, up from just 7.4 million in 2010.)
The point is to grab the customer's attention with something of interest or value before he or she closes down that screen or deletes the message. Make sure you deliver a targeted message with real value – which might mean different messages to different segments of your customer base. Make sure to keep the message short and sweet – and include either a link to further information on your website or a click-to-call link.
However you opt to reach your mobile customers, now is the time to do it. If you drag your heels on the mobile marketing front, rest assured that your competitors won't. And in the increasingly mobile world of the future, if you don't reach your customers via mobile, you won't reach them at all.