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What cell phone owners like (and not)

by: Amy Gahran |

To succeed in reaching your community via mobile media, it helps to understand what cell phone users tend to like -- or not. A Pew study offers some useful insight.

Here are a few highlights from The Best (and Worst) of Mobile Connectivity, published by Pew Internet, November 2012:

Cell phones save people time, on balance -- especially smartphones. According to Pew: "One third of cell owners agree with the statement that their phone 'saves you time because you can always access the information you need,' while just 3% agree with the statement that their phone wastes time because you are constantly being distracted or interrupted. The largest proportion of cell owners (56%) say that the time costs and time savings offered by cell phones pretty much balance each other out."

For community news and information projects, this hints at the value of making your mobile presence a useful, convenient, easy-to-use resource. This means content such as directories, guides, tools and databases that address your community's common queries or concerns, and that encourage repeated mobile use, are likely to appeal to your community as long as they save users time

Cell-mostly internet users have unique concerns

According to Pew, 17% of U.S. cell phone owners access the internet primarily from their mobile phone. These "cell-mostly" internet users tend to be mostly black (51%) or Hispanic (42%), young (45%) and lower-income ($3% live in households earning $30,000 or less per year). If your community includes a high proportion of any of these demographics, they're especially likely to comprise a larger part of your mobile (and overall digital) audience.

Pew noted that cell-mostly internet users are "more likely to say that their cell phone saves them time because they always have instant access to information, and more likely to say that they 'can't imagine living without' their cell phone. They also respond positively to the notion that their phone helps them be connected with others, schedule their lives, and be productive when they might not be otherwise. At the same time, these groups are also more likely to worry that they are spending too much time with their phone."

This emphasis on personal connection may give mobile projects that help people feel connected to their community an advantage. Focusing on using mobile for engagement, supporting personal connection, and for sharing and validating people's emotions and perceptions (not just giving them information) about their community may prove especially compelling to mobile users -- as long as your mobile experience is fast and simple to use.

Amy Gahran

Amy Gahran is a journalist, editor, trainer, entrepreneur, strategist, and media consultant based in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to writing
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