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Mobile resources: 3 tips for engagement & more

by: Amy Gahran |

Today I'm giving a short talk about mobile -- part of a session on social media at this year's Knight Media Learning Seminar in Miami. (Watch the livestream of sessions, 2-6pm ET.)

I'll be covering 3 basic tips/strategies for using mobile well to engage communities effectively. My colleague Stephanie Rudat will be covering mobile apps for social media in the first part of our session, so I'll be exploring beyond specific mobile apps.

Here are some links that will be useful to people who want to learn more. (I'll be updating this list today and tomorrow with other relevant resources as they come up at the conference.)

1. Interactive texting:

  • PollEverywhere."Freemium" service to conduct polls via text messaging. Especially engaging at events. Offers a mobile app for presenters.
  • Tip: Including 1:1 interaction can save you money.More than simply doing broadcast messages, but can convince carriers that you are doing communication rather than just marketing and don't need a shortcode.
  • Groundsource. Variety of services to support community/civic engagement via interactive text messaging. Supports segmentation 1:1 and 1:many interaction, photo messaging, analytics and more. Currently seeking organizations for beta testing.
  • Textizen. Platform for interactive text messaging for engagement, developed with support from a Knight News Challenge grant. Supports surveys, feedback or data collection, mapping and other data visualization options, user-specific reminders and alerts, photo messaging and more. One Region Forward (a collaborative effort to engage residents on long-term regional planning in the Buffalo-Niagara region of New York) uses Textizen to support their Text It Forward service. More on Textizen.
  • RedOxygen. Example of a bulk SMS vendor. If you are going to be doing mostly broadcast text messages, you'll need a service like this to use a shared shortcode to stay on the right side of the law. Reasonably priced, with a pretty good back-end interface for managing your subscribers, messages, and campaigns.
  • Mobile CommonsFully featured mobile engagement platform. Pricey but excellent.
  • Tip: Choose a platform that you can offer free to your grantees. All of the above platforms allow this, but you have to know to ask, and negotiate on usage.

2. PDFs (and other file downloads) are death on mobile."Mobile friendly" means that people do not have to download a file which must be read in a separate app (not the web browser), and that your content does not require pinching and zooming or side-to-side scrolling to navigate.

Best approach: Responsive web design (even as a microsite). Also can be used for e-mail!

3. Shoot & edit mobile-friendly media on your phone.

  • Various apps for photos, video, audio recording. Amy likes: A Better Camera, Vignette, Pixlr, VidTrim
  • Experiment with editing features: crop, exposure, contrast, filters, etc.
  • Practice ahead of time!
  • Shoot highest resolution. HDR mode if possible. BUT: clear image files off your phone periodically.
  • Good lighting
  • Get close! Tight shots
  • Reduce background noise/clutter
  • Post/tweet edited version

Wherever possible, link to mobile-friendly content/media. Remember to check before you tweet!

Bonus tip: Do NOT build your own mobile app! In most cases, it's overkill. You don't want to manage a software project. Mobile browser is a better option.
- Even for events. Check out Sched.org 

Mobile-friendly e-mail:

Interactive voice response: Call in and enter numbers to navigate a menu tree. 311-style info lines, sign up for services, more. Platforms which support this feature:

  • Twilio (Commercial software, also does interactive texting and much more. Huge developer community)
  • Asterisk (Free open-source software, but geekier to set up)

Podcasting: Useful especially for short updates, or in communities where people spend a lot of time in their cars (like radio)

  • Recommended host: Libsyn
  • Evoca: Collect audio recordings for later use (interviews, call-in feedback, etc.)

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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