Mobile applications — “apps” — have
become all the rage in the mobile
market. A native app, which you must
download onto a smartphone or tablet
computer, allows your mobile device to
perform a new function. From tracking
your calorie intake to playing games,
there’s an app for just about anything
— including associations. And in the
world of iPhones and iPads, the more
you have, the cooler you are.
There’s no shortage of companies
that will sell you off-the-shelf apps or
developers who can tailor-make apps
for your organization. Imagine, for
example, a Facebook-esque app specifically designed to connect and engage
your members during a conference.
While these custom apps can be useful
and convenient, they are outside the
realm of many associations’ budgets.
They also require a separate version for
each type of mobile browser — iPhone,
BlackBerry and Android. And for members who don’t have smartphones? Well,
they’re just out of luck.
An alternative to mobile apps is
mobile websites. Designed for optimal
viewing on mobile devices, these websites are easier to navigate on mobile
phones because they’re more streamlined than conventional websites. They
perform many of the same tasks an
app would, but they can be accessed
from any type of phone, provided it has
Internet access. In addition, most content management systems have mobile
templates built into them, which gives
you the ability to create a mobile version of your entire website, or of just
certain pages. Either way, creating a
mobile website for your conference
often is very quick and very easy.
Unless you have an unlimited budget, the clear choice for most association conferences is a mobile website
because it is both more affordable and
more accessible than a mobile app.
Making Mobile Websites Work
A mobile website starts working for you
long before your convention arrives. It
provides a fresher, more economical
way to promote attendance — and often
gets a better response.
While a mobile website shouldn’t
replace all print and email marketing, it
nicely complements those touchpoints
The American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians recognized
the value of a mobile website and
decided to launch one for its annual
convention in March. It was able
to provide attendees with real-time
schedule information, updates and
reminders, as well as program handouts via the mobile site. Best of all, it
did not cost the organization a dime.
An exclusive sponsorship for the site
was offered to a partner company,
which underwrote the entire project.
The initiative was such a success in
its pilot year that ACOFP is considering expanding the scope for next year.
Convention planners hope to offer
opportunities to multiple sponsors, as
well as build in a session evaluation
function and social networking tools.
“I can’t think of any other marketing tool that actually makes money,”
says Tina Burk, ACOFP’s director of
member services. “I’m excited to use
it for other membership initiatives,
like gathering data on our student
and resident segments.”
Case Study: The American
College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
and offsets your association’s carbon
footprint. It also can target specific
membership segments more effectively.
Now, instead of sending one mailer
intended to capture every member’s
attention, you can create different messages that link to different content for
different member sub-groups.
Another advantage is that pre-con-ference email blasts are much better
received when they link to a mobile-friendly site. The last thing you want is
for someone who’s waiting for a train or
a bus to be sent to a conference website that’s hard to view and navigate on
their mobile device, as it’s much harder
to win them back with future communications when you’ve already lost them.
Peer pressure comes into play,
as well: Networking is one of the top
reasons members attend conventions,
and a mobile site can be linked to your
social network with a running tally of
members who plan to attend. This gives
everyone the opportunity to form con-