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“Search” vs. “tell me”

November 17, 2009

I’ve been kicking around a theory of mine for a few weeks. On the frequent occasions where the conversation turns to the mobile industry, mobile marketing, apps vs. the browser and on and on, I try my theory out in the conversation. It centers on the difference between the mobile web and the PC web and it was born out of trying to define the differences between the two by more than just defining them by the access device.

So, without further typing, here’s the theory. Oh, for copyright purposes we’ll call this Dale’s Theory. Again, my theory is this: the PC web is all about “search” and the mobile web is about “tell me something interesting that I value”. Simply said another way, the PC experience centers on “search” and the mobile experience centers on “tell me”. They are not the same.

I used to say when I did press for Sprint TV that mobile customers never planned to be bored during their day or when they would want to be informed about something. However, when a mobile user finds themselves being bored or wanting to be informed while they were away from their PC, they invariably turn to their mobile phone.

I use my PC and my mobile to satisfy both urges but I spend much less time searching around on my phone for the simple fact that a Google search will bring back millions of sites associated with my keyword and I haven’t got the time or patience on my mobile to look at them and that even if I did find what I was looking for it wouldn’t render on my phone. (This is where the folks with full HTML browsers would tell me they could see the site whereupon I would counter with how long are you going to wait for it to render?)

Let’s agree that the PC and mobile web are both good for helping get through your boredom but where they separate is on the “I want to be informed” piece of the theory. Isn’t this the reason we carry mobiles in the first place? To me, Dale’s Theory relies heavily on the mobile phone being a selective, permission-based communication device. The PC is a file searching, sorting and rendering machine. Conversely, I only give my mobile phone number to folks I would want to hear from and vice versa. It seems anyone can reach my PC whether I want them to or not.

So how do you reconcile this difference? What does Dale’s Theory mean? It’s pretty simple. Ask for permission to engage your customers and your audience on their mobile phones and when they say yes, share information they will value in a form that will render quickly and be optimized for their phone. This is what we created Ruxter for.

Relying on your PC-based website to be your mobile presence is a risky proposition. On a mobile phone, your customer only has time to hear one thing from you and it had better render properly or you will only end up frustrating them and worse, they may not come back. They aren’t going to want to dig around in your PC site looking for things while they’re on-the-go.

Dale’s Theory means you need to offer an easy way to let your customers opt-in to hear from you via their mobile phones when you have valuable information to tell them. In doing so, they’ll reward you for telling them about it rather than making them search and dig for it.

Dale Knoop is the President of Ruxter and an industry-recognized pioneer of mobile data services. In 2005 Dale won an Emmy while serving as the GM for Sprint TV. In August 2009 he launched Ruxter which allows anyone to quickly and easily become part of the rapidly growing mobile internet with a fully optimized mobile website they can share with anyone. You can contact him here. Follow Ruxter on Twitter.

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