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Why Aren't We More Obsessed With the Mobile Community Experience?

Written by Molly Talbert | on June 8, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Why aren't we more obsessed with the community mobile experience?

It’s a no-brainer to say mobile is bigger than ever. People are attached to their phones and use them in almost every part of their lives, from connecting with friends, to ordering pizza, to tracking sleep and exercise. And almost every industry is stepping up to the plate, bringing better mobile options to their audience.

Online banking is a great example -- you used to have to go to the actual brick-and-mortar bank to deposit money. Then you could access your account from a desktop computer. And now I almost exclusively use an app to check my finances, transfer money and pay bills. Online banking’s prevalence says a lot about our comfort level with apps -- few things are as important and private as our financial information and security.

Now the big question is: is your community platform just as mobile as online banking?

Digging into the mobile data

The Community Roundtable’s recent 2016 State of Community Management Report confirmed what we should’ve known -- that mobile engagement has an enormous positive impact on overall community engagement. From their research, The Community Roundtable discovered that when members strongly adopt mobile options (like apps, email or responsive design) the number of inactive users sharply drops -- and those communities’ engagement profiles actually outshine best in class community engagement profiles.

It turns out that community members are just as attached to their phones as you are. And it makes sense -- creating consistent, sustainable engagement is all about removing barriers and creating a smooth process. And easy to use mobile experience fits right in with the quest for frictionless engagement.

So the trend is clear -- mobile pays off. If your members can bring their community on the go, wherever they are, engagement increases tremendously.

But now that we know how key mobile is for overall community engagement, we need to dig in deeper and ask, ‘are members satisfied with the options their communities gave them?’ In other words, are you giving members the best mobile experience possible, or are they just making do with what they have?

The truth about the current mobile experience

Over the past few years, community platforms and strategies have rapidly evolved as more and more organizations adopt community as a central tenet of their business. Although desktop versions of community are better than ever, it’s unclear if the mobile experience has kept up the pace.

But now we have the data to answer the question we’ve all been wondering.

According to The Community Roundtable’s report, even though mobile options like apps and email improve engagement, overall, members are very dissatisfied with their mobile community experience.

So, can you participate in community as smoothly as you bank on your phone? The short answer is, ‘no.’ Just because members use their phones to participate in their community doesn’t mean they enjoy the process.

Out of all their survey respondents, 30% of community professionals said that their users access the community via mobile, but only 31% of those people thought that their mobile experience was excellent or very good. Even worse, 46% of users who access the community via mobile actually thought that the experience was fair to poor.

Clearly, there’s a disconnect somewhere. We know that mobile is a crucial part of engagement, but, by and large, members don’t enjoy their mobile experience. Unsurprisingly, it also appears as if members want seamless mobile engagement -- otherwise, why would they go through the hassle of posting if their experience was fair to poor?

If current mobile options -- which very few people like -- are so good at increasing engagement, imagine what would happen if every user had an excellent mobile experience?

Engagement would go through the roof.

So now we’re brought to this question: why aren’t we more obsessed with closing that gap? Mobile engagement increases overall member engagement, and members are craving for a good option. Every other industry has adopted mobile wholeheartedly and, if they didn’t, they’re probably struggling (just look at what happened to the taxi industry).

It’s time we give members the mobile experience they’re craving.

Obsess over mobile

The next step is clear -- we need to work on mobile engagement, which means we need to provide as great a community experience on mobile as we do on desktop.

How do you even start?

First, let’s look at the information we do have. In our 2015 Community Benchmarking Report, we discovered that reply through email is a big hit and proven to increase engagement -- it’s quick, easy and integrates with a member’s existing email platform. If your community doesn’t have this function, it could be worth looking into it.

Second, from our benchmarking data it’s also clear that branded apps make a big difference. Although we don’t know why 46% of users don’t like their mobile experience, it could relate to our findings -- that 44% of communities use generic, ready-made apps. The more barriers to engagement you break down the better. Although both branded and generic apps can improve member engagement, generic apps aren’t always as smooth a transition for members.

What are you doing to close the mobile gap?

Topics: Online Community Management, Engagement, Online Community Software, Member Experience, Online Community

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