How do you target an audience when their core behavior transcends traditional definitions of device usage? For example, what happens if you encourage long-form writing on a mobile device, or offer time-sensitive rewards on a home console? Odds are you will experience lower engagement rates and slower (if not declining!) community growth.
An emerging challenge in driving user engagement, targeting devices that are no longer restricted to an identifiable environment introduces a number of complexities, particularly in defining your use cases, and ultimately, your users. Let’s see how we can make the process more intuitive.
The Attraction of Hybrid Devices
These seemingly magical “hybrid” devices are fully functional in both home and mobile contexts, and have recently come into the gaming world spotlight thanks to the Nintendo Switch.
The Switch is primarily designed to be a home console, but like its predecessor (the WiiU) it features a controller with a large and high quality touch screen. Yet unlike the WiiU, the vast majority of the Switch console resides within its controller, allowing players to simply pick it up and play their games on the road (or rail, or air, or at school… you get the idea).
Additionally, the actual input elements of the Switch (side panels with joysticks and buttons) can be completely removed and shared between two players, allowing local multiplayer without additional hardware.
Other than the Nintendo Switch, the only thing that comes close would be The Superbook, although that wouldn’t be considered a “true” hybrid device. But while the versatility of these consoles is fantastic for gamers, it raises serious questions for community managers trying to effectively reach their target audiences. Here are the two biggest obstacles they face:
1. They don’t know how users engage.
Do users primarily engage on the hybrid device or do they stick to more traditional hardware (mobile devices, laptops, and PCs) for their discussions and content creation? What input methods do they primarily use?
2. They don’t know where users engage.
Different environments will encourage different forms of engagement. For example, offering rewards for long-form text content (feedback, reviews, discussions) will likely see some degree of success when targeting non-mobile devices, as it’s safe to assume the user has immediate access to a physical, or digital, keyboard. But how to know where to use what?
Does that mean it’s not worth targeting hybrid devices? Absolutely not! Now is a better time than ever, since everybody is struggling to understand where this new type of hardware is going. You just need a little direction.
How to Define Your Hybrid Device Audience
Ultimately, the best way to avoid struggling like your competition is to accurately define your audience in a device-agnostic context.
Do your research to truly understand the advantages and challenges with using the hybrid device. Just because the Switch offers local and mobile gaming doesn’t mean users play games at home 50% of the time. There will be personas who use the Switch exclusively during travel, or others who only play at home. Know the differences between them.
While even distribution looks great on paper, it’s rarely that clean in reality. For example, some users complain that the Switch doesn’t have a strong WiFi adapter. Does this mean more users are playing local multiplayer, or are they just playing alone? Perhaps this alleged issue doesn’t even affect users in the long run since the desire for connectivity overpowers the frustration with a weak connection. It’s up to you to find out.
Let the gaming network do the research for you
Gaming networks research the number of Switch games that offer local multiplayer. By comparing the most popular games that offer multiplayer modes against single player-only games, they can estimate the percentage of users that engage in different forms of gameplay.
If the numbers say that 5% of gamers engage in local multiplayer games, it may not make sense to invest a majority of resources in encouraging face-to-face user engagement.
Granular user polling tells a story
One sound strategy is to Invest in more granular user polling, and create user polling that’s simply more appealing to respond to.
A great example is the modern use of semi-interactive Facebook Live polls that respond to the number of different reactions the post gets (Likes and Loves could translate to “Playing Alone” and “Playing with friends”). This gives you insight into your users from another perspective, and helps you fill in the holes when defining their personas.
User experience goes a long way
Finally, think about the core behavior of users. If the interface is potentially headache-inducing (overly bright, fast-paced, or vibrant), create personas based on the assumption that users are most likely engaging at home. If the screen is on the dimmer side, or if there are reported issues of glare, you can assume little engagement is done outdoors.
Simply put, consider what input methods the device has, and what external connections it supports, and go from there.
Take nothing for granted, and get inside the heads of your audience before you start seriously analyzing the device itself. Promote engagement around the most realistic use cases. Go with your gut, and keep an eye open to observe real-world scenarios. Search for negative keywords to listen for common user frustrations with specific use cases.
This is an exciting development in modern hardware, and we expect to see many more hybrid devices as technology advances. So be prepared!