Understanding Mobile-First Content
Photo by Soler FotografĂ­a Stock

Understanding Mobile-First Content

Published on August 17, 2022

It's hardly a secret that mobile devices have changed the media landscape forever. Armed with all the abilities one can imagine, modern smartphones are gradually becoming a travel-friendly replacement to laptops for many. In fact, it has been reported that 20% of Americans access the Internet exclusively from their phones. To those married to much larger screens like laptops and desktops, this may seem a bit hard to believe. But if you reflect on your own smartphone screen time, you'll find that with a few activities rearranged, you too can switch to a smartphone-only work mode. This switch, of course, is subjective and entirely up to you. 

What isn't subjective, however, is the fact that as phones become more powerful, mobile-only (or mobile-first) Internet presence as an idea becomes less abstract. And as to be expected, companies have also jumped on the mobile-first bandwagon, making considerable shifts in their marketing strategies. And nowhere is this more true than in the video world, where most viewers are on their phones watching Youtube videos, accessing streaming services, or simply scrolling their social feeds. Reality proves time and time again that this digital trend is here to stay— time to learn more about it. 


Photo by Sutipond Somnam

What does mobile-first even mean?

First thing's first, let's define the phrase. Mobile-first content is an umbrella term referring to videos, ads, and even entire websites optimized for mobile devices. It does not mean that this content is only accessible on mobile devices, but rather that it is designed with mobile functionality in mind.

Desktop-only content, for instance, is bound to turn off mobile users from websites that are too big to load, have pop-ups without a clear escape route, or autoplay videos and offer clumsy navigation menus. Given how common it is for people to view content on their phones, this is a huge missed opportunity. Thus, it is vital for any marketing campaign to adopt a mobile-first ideology. But the shift does not come without a few questions to consider. Questions like:

Where would this content be viewed?

Compared to consumers using stationary devices (laptops, desktops, etc.), mobile users are—as the title suggests—on the move. Whatever content they are viewing, they want to be able to access it from anywhere in the world. Creatives switching to mobile-first content have to take into account viewership ranging from people on their daily commute to ones comfortably seated on their couch.

What about the audio?

There are reports saying that 69% of consumers watch videos with the sound off. This means that as a creator, you probably should not rely on sound too much to convey your message. But the slew of captioned and subtitled videos on Facebook and Instagram is proof that viewers still want to consume your video, just in a text-video hybrid format. This is also why you see “sound-on” stickers on videos that just need that audio factor.


Photo by Érik González Guerrero

How will consumers be holding their phones?

With mobile-first content, the way people hold devices plays into the experience. Most use their phones in a vertical orientation, which is why you should seriously consider going vertical (read through our guide on vertical video-making). The alternative of rotating your phone for a single advertisement or video can be downright annoying.

Phone orientation also plays a role in how you actually design content. Is your CTA located far away from where a consumer might have their thumb or forefinger? Are you taking up the most screen real estate possible? In a space where creators are constantly competing for attention with small to big brands, your content needs to be as intuitive as possible for consumers.

How can it be optimized for different platforms?

Social media platforms require different formats based on the kind of content their audience prefer. Consumers of Instagram Stories, for instance, are going to be looking at content that’s wildly different than those scrolling through Facebook. YouTube viewers expect a different format from consumers on Twitter. And while you don’t need to make separate content for each of these platforms, there’s an opportunity to create content that you can use on each of these platforms with minimal editing. Here are three things you can do:


Photo by Juan Reig

1. Film wide then crop to size

If you’re filming original content, choosing a wider lens will allow for easy cropping to vertical videos. This way, you wouldn’t have to refilm for mobile; you can just make all the changes in post. Nevertheless, try and keep the mobile-first mindset in mind, meaning placing the subject tightly in the middle of the frame and avoiding camera movements that require a wider frame.

2. Go from blog to script

Turning a blog post into a short video or podcast is an efficient way to re-purpose content and cut down on time spent creating new content. Edit articles down to super short videos, with a focus on brief and engaging captions. Or, you can use a blog post as a jumping-off point for longer, more in-depth content — like an eBook or a podcast. Work with what you have, but take into consideration the unique characteristics of each platform you want to distribute on.

3. Find stock footage

Even pro video creators will admit to not filming 100% percent of their own footage. Video demand is always high, and finding stock footage is a highly streamlined solution. By nature, stock is a mobile-first choice because a clip can be used in so many ways. You can search for vertical stock clips specifically, or crop any existing clips you download for vertical display. You can feature the same clip in several videos across channels, or choose different sequences from the same clip to use on different channels.