Thursday 12 August 2010

5 Top Tips re: Mobiles, Apps, Facebook and Blogs

I must blog, I must blog, I must blog. It’s been there on my list for an age and I’ve made a few stabs, but never posted. It’s an ongoing problem. What’s wrong with me? Is it that I’m using the web less? Eh... no! Not a chance. I’ve become a 24/7er netwise. Maybe it’s the iPhone usage? Well... there’s the thing. The iPhone is so snappy for lookups and sign-ins for social nets there’s not ‘surfing’ per se. But I’m on the net. Amen’t I? Technically, but often appways rather than browsered.

I’m on the social net anyway – and my lookups are constant – never letting a link go un-clicked, or a reference go un-referenced, a fact go un-Googled or a vid go un-viewed (‘sept the flash ones of course which is annoying, but they seem rapidly less prevalent which is concerning). I’m also well podded with Digital planet and buzz out loud and my own penchant for Thinking Allowed.
The faithful (old) Toshiba portégé accompanies me for sit-down work. Hours slip by on comfy seats over lattés or hunched at the office delving my way through big documents before zipping them here and there.

But why not blogging – and this is the point of this blog.

If the web is always with you, as it is with me, you now have to make an active choice to do browser and document work via the bigger laptop screen. This is perhaps where the iPad style device fits in nicely. The trend towards increased access for mid-sized super-light mobile devices with longer battery lives means the capricious nature of much previous net use can now be taken away from work and the office (not the same always) and into the home, the street, the back-room or the coffee bar (I’m in Starbucks right now). The personal and connection work can now stay personal and be dealt with right now, rather than peppered throughout the day when one gets behind a screen.

The other related trend is toward app delivered content. Is it a good thing to have all this content tied up in apps? Well, for some software apps that is definitely true but for other apps I don’t really think so. Many companies really should consider browser delivered services before jumping on the app bandwagon. There are many advantages, such as, you don’t have to keep updating the app, and you can always encourage the ‘add to my home screen’ button to be employed. If the service in question is needed they can find it and return to your site simply with this method. And very quickly, between free and paid for apps, there will be simply too many on the phone – something that iPhone 4 folders addresses nicely. I mysteriously seem to be heading toward my 300th app, having deleted many I don’t use and can do without. Obviously I’m an-typical nerd – but the simplicity and benefits of the app store I, as an early adopter, have found I think will be found by others giving a trend towards more and more apps. Some are really cool. Seriously! But tellingly – several of those on my homescreen are shortcuts to webpages and cloud services. So, the companies in question didn’t have an app, and actually don’t need one for my purposes.

Other apps need to be appified and benefit from being apps. It is the only way that a particular service can be delivered – benefitting from the mobile nature of the service or the iPhone gyroscope thingy. Fair enough. So, an open mind is the best way to go I’d say. Not wishing to dis the client but many want an app without really knowing why – like they want clients to put them in their bookmarks list on a funky new phone. It is always good to have a cost benefit analysis running in the background when you go down this thought cul-de-sac. Functionality and links may be more important to your business than having an app.

Mobile Internet and smartphones mean – to all intents and purposes - that the net itself is disappearing from view. This was always going to happen and has happened with all previous communication technology. The net is now the taken for granted bit that no longer distracts from the content it delivers. Half a billion Facebook users? How did that happen? Quickly and without much effort or worry that it was on the Internet - and now the FB app is so good, it’ll be 1 billion before you know it. If you remove the very young, old or very poor from the world’s population – that starts to look very like 1 in every two people communicates via Facebook – and much of that use will be mobile. Why? Because it’s better.

What this means is that social interaction is now the most powerful driver toward net use and should be the preferred location for engagements of all sorts. The Facebook platform is now most important in the world for social software. If it’s sitting on a MC or PC or iPHone OS... well, it doesn’t really matter.

To close the circle of this conversation and bring it back to blogs isn’t easy. I’m in a funny situation because my work is also my interest and hobby. I was just chatting with another business guy who blogs and we agreed that blogging is important for taking care of the various brands that exist in any business. The CEO is as much a brand as the business brand and that’s important, but also the blog is an important mechanic for extracting insights from the day-to-day experience and bringing them into focus. It’s a process and though it takes a little time (not much), the benefits are tremendous. So, I just have to blog more. It’s as simple as that.

So – time for some top tips:
• Take account of the new way digital media is being consumed in a mobile context
• Take note that the consumption of online content is now often via an app. There are big implications here
• Make sure if you are developing an app – that a browser isn’t be a better way to go – even for mobile devices. The quality of mobile (and iPad browsers) is so brilliant now, and it’s easier to update a website than an app for several devices and OSs
• Use Facebook, and build for it
• Blog for your business and yourself