Multi-screen Content Marketing, as solopreneurs should understand, is not about having a business or brand presence on lots of screens like laptops, mobiles or tablets. It’s basically about understanding why people are on these different screens, why they are using so many screens and what they are getting out of each one that’s different … and then giving them content that helps them achieve what they find most convenient to do on each screen. People may use some screens for having fun, some other screens for gathering information and making purchase decisions, or yet some other screens for connecting with others.
If you dig beneath their device-driven activities, and see what people do and figure out why, you’ll notice a very consistent, and predictable pattern of usage emerge, common to target audience segments. Experts in Content Technologies & Trends believe there may be even more screens in the future than we have at present, and even more people who may use multi-screens. The smart ways to create content marketing campaigns for multi-screen users is to aim for messaging that’s different for different screens, depending on studied patterns of screen usage of your target segments. At the same time, messaging must also seem choreographed and fluid across screens. It is not about merely making the same content responsive for different screens.
Let’s look at an interesting case study to understand how brands can use multi-screen campaigns
As you may have guessed, you simply cannot slap the same website on all screens to market yourself effectively to people who use different screens like tablets, laptops and mobiles. Neither can you just chop up your campaign randomly and put whatever seems to fit on any device … your consumer will only get a disjointed picture of your brand.
To craft a very “aligned” multi-screen campaign takes great understanding of how people use their various devices and screens – and to make your cross-screen messages appear coherent, seamless, non-repetitive and complementary. To give you an example of how a multi-screen campaign could work, I’ve given below one such campaign I was involved with …
A tour operator case study demonstrates the way to build multi-screen campaigns
An interesting solopreneur client of mine, a tour operator, came to me with the keen interest to exploit four screens – billboards, laptop, tablet and mobile – with meaningful brand communication on each of them. These were all aimed at consumers making long-distance road trips. We had to do a fair bit of research on his customers and their screen usage patterns. This research then showed us exactly how road travellers in our target segment used these four screens.
As part of our multi-screen strategy, therefore, we planned our campaign this way:
- We put hotel ticketing information and pre-payable road tolls on laptops, since most pre-travel payments were being done at offices and homes on laptop.
- We put destination visuals, highway-side sightseeing, food stops, and shopping, gas and medical stops on tablets, since we found passengers in cars used them the most during journeys.
- We put up-to-the-minute traffic and weather forecasts on mobile, since we knew these would be docked into car dashboards during road journeys.
- And finally, we used the electronic billboards to beam welcome messages to travellers as they reached towns and cities or key milestones.
Thus, whichever way the target audiences turned, they got the right information via the right screen, after we had completely studied their screen usage habits during road trips. All screens showed a menu – with suggestions on the best device to use to see each menu item from. The journeys were seamless.
The key take-out: Multi-screen marketing strategy has no one correct sequence for all brands. For every brand, and for every type of consumer activity, there is a pattern to screen usage that we can unearth via research. The moral? Know your customer better than ever, if you want to be everywhere where his head turns, with the right kind of information he requires.
Step #1 for multi-screen campaigns: beware making all the wrong assumptions
To help other solopreneurs who want to build multi-screen content marketing campaigns, I want to share our insights and learnings, and the exact sequence of steps we took, to make our case study very successful.
So here then is the first step … don’t burden yourself with all kinds of wrong assumptions.
First, you can’t assume that consumers see computers, mobile phones, and tablets as interchangeable. A lot of marketers treat laptops, mobiles and tablets as identical devices – their only difference being their varying screen sizes. This is a wrong assumption to make, because each device has its capabilities and limitations as well.
Further, although we do some of the same things across these devices (like watching video or searching for information) there are some things we prefer doing only on certain devices. And these preferences change for every human being. If I like seeing email on my laptop, I can’t say most people would prefer that.
Many of my friends prefer mobiles for email catch-ups. I like watching videos or news on my tablet, while I know of many who would prefer TV apps on laptops.
Also, subtle nuances like where we are located when we use these devices, whether we are sitting or standing, whether we are carrying other things like books or bags in our arms, and what the ambient lighting is like … all these affect our preference of devices for the activities we like to do.
In summary, each type of screen fulfils different needs in our lives, and added to that is our general comfort in using that screen at a particular time of day, depending on our other activities. There are no clear rules. You have to get to know your customers and their preferences from direct research.
Second, you can’t make the cardinal mistake of prioritizing devices over people. When you ask a lot of marketers how they are planning their campaign mixes, many would give you their content plan, segregated by device, as an answer. If you have a marketing plan that’s led by devices, you will not really be able to touch a chord in your customers, or align content to their needs. Instead of focusing more on the devices, we should focus on the customers and their content needs, and then work backwards to the devices they are likely to use to fulfil those needs. This would the right sequence to “follow the customer”.
Third, don’t assume that devices are only of three types – tablets, laptops and mobiles. What about “wearables” or “surfaces” – or a host of other inventions that we may come across as we go forward with technology? Today we have three devices to deal with, tomorrow we may have fifteen. So while your campaign is device-sensitive in its delivery, it has to be single-minded in its strategy. What you say must be steady. How you say it may be differently delivered across devices.
Fourthly, don’t think that people see just one device at a time. They may see more than one! In fact, there’a a whole new vocabulary out there describing how people may see many devices and screens, simultaneously or sequentially. Here are just a few bits of jargon to know …
- “Meshing” or “Spider-Webbing” is simultaneous usage of multiple devices by consumers for related content. For example, this could be watching the cooking channel on the laptop and searching for the recipe online via tablet.
- “Stacking” or “Content Grazing” is simultaneous usage of multiple devices by consumers for unrelated content. For example, this could be checking social media on mobile while a football game is being watched on the tablet.
- “Shifting” or “Quantum Usage” is sequential usage of multiple devices by consumers for related content. For example, this could be browsing for airline tickets initially via a smartphone, but completing the purchase via a laptop.
- “Social Spider-Webbing” is a term exclusively used for social connecting with others, on 2 or more screens. For example, this could be chatting on Skype with someone on a laptop, while also tweeting away on mobile to other friends.
Step #2 for multi-screen campaigns: know how your customers use their screens
One thing to bear in mind as you research your target audiences for their specific screen usage patterns, is that there are some characteristics of screen-use common to most people. In other words, for certain types of activities there are some “most preferred” screens. Let’s see what these activity-to-screen-associations are …
The laptop screen is closely associated with activities that enhance knowledge and productivity. The laptop is the most preferred screen for business-related work. It is the screen that appears to “own” information, data, intellectual engagement, advice, and business communication. It aids people in feeling knowledgeable and making good decisions. Notice how we said, in our case study for the tour operator, that we put “hotel ticketing information and pre-payable road tolls on laptops, since most pre-travel payments were being done at offices and homes.”
Long-form content also works best on the on the laptop – like blog posts, ebooks, pdf documents etc. Marketers could ideally use laptop screens to offer advice or business-related information, or for enabling activities of an “official nature” like checking on travel tickets, or making big-ticket purchases that require supportive documentation. Laptop screens also enable long-duration business activities like learning courses or attending webinars.
The mobile phone screen is closely associated with activities that are inwardly intense, outwardly connecting or urgent to know. Mobiles are always carried around as “personal-ware”. People seem to like using them for browsing content that is personal and meaningful, or that can connect to them others socially. They also use mobiles for general information that they need urgently.
Mobile use is generally done in spurts of intense activity, and unless people are in a travelling mode, they don’t stay hooked to a mobile screen for long periods continuously. In our case study for the tour operator, we put “up-to-the-minute traffic and weather forecasts on mobile” as part of our content strategy.
For content marketers it’s interesting to note that people like carrying their “favorite things” in their mobiles – like photographs, sentimental texts, health tips, contact details of friends, or saved e-mails that feel good to read again and again. If brands can become their “friends” they too could send content that mobile users may like to “save”. When brands use humorous quips or cartoons or jokes, or show interesting quotes as images … these tend to get “collected”.
Many marketers think that mobiles are a great way to deliver content that spurs the impulse-buying intent – like gift coupons or promotional deals. This is not wrong, but since the mobile is very personal as a device, people like getting those offers only from brands they like. They do not welcome intrusion from unfamiliar brands or people on mobile screens.
The tablet screen is closely associated with activities that are do with exploration and experience. Since people generally boot up their tablets when they are at leisure or want to do some deep searching, it creates loads of opportunities for marketers to try and drive deep immersion and engagement with their brands. People in an exploratory mind-set aren’t looking for superficial or quick discovery journeys. They want to visit previously missed territory, discover exciting new things, and go in depth into what fascinates them.
Marketers, unfortunately, are not aiming content well enough for tablets. They should ideally be inviting their audiences on brand-led topic hunts, filled with pictorial richness. They should be layering content, allowing people to go as broad as as deep as they wish into different topics of interest or curiosity. The best screen to facilitate “brand-experience” is often the tablet. In our case study of the tour operator, notice how we have aimed “destination visuals, highway-side sightseeing, food stops, and en route shopping” content for the tablet for people on road trips.
Step #3 for multi-screen campaigns: build coherent cross-screen campaigns
When strategizing for multi-screen content marketing, you also have to consider how consumers may use different screens in combination. When audience attention spans are dwindling by the day, it makes no sense for devices to have repetitive or overlapping content. So whatever content you’d like to put out needs to be orchestrated across devices, to flow smoothly in and out of a consumer’s consciousness.
The right information has to be available on the right device, but it must all be fluid and easy to get through without a sense of jerkiness or back-and-forth. How do we achieve this kind of “choreography in content” in a cross-screen campaign?
One way that smart solopreneurs have tried out and succeed with is to follow the flow of the buyer’s journey. The diagram below, for example, shows the 8 steps of any buyer’s journey – from discovery of a need to the ultimate buying and experience of a related product.
Research your target audiences and try to evaluate which type of information they need for each stage of the buying journey. Then devise a grid.
Fill in Column 1 with the eight steps of the buying journey of your audience.
Fill in Column 2 with the ideal informational content to give your audiences for each stage.
Finally fill in Column 3 with your choices of screens to aim content at, based on the type of information and its dictates, as well as your consumers’ screen preferences.
This way you’ll be able to avoid all these mismatches:
- Mismatch of information to screen-limitations
- Mismatch of information to consumer buying stages
- Mismatch of information to buyers’ screen preferences
One very important point that you should not miss out on in cross-screen campaigns is “making suggestions” to consumers on the best navigation between screens. You can do this very easily via a menu that’s available on all screens – each menu items can have a suggestion next to it, on the best device to use to see that item.
Remember: the multi-screen consumer is not to be feared or ignored. Multi-screen consumption of content is a reality. All these screens don’t limit a consumer’s attention span – they actually multiply it. Marketer-consumer relationships can be deepened and enhanced by the number of screens they use.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of aspiring digital solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Technologies & Trends”:
- Real Truths On Artificial Intelligence For Content Marketer Solopreneurs!
- Clear Your Throat And Get Ready For The Voice-Search Revolution!
- Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality And Gains For Content Marketers!
- Are Content Marketers Ready For This New Internet Of Things?
- Location-Based Content Marketing: SoLoMo Factor For Solopreneurs!