News media companies have many options when it comes to messaging their mobile users — from push notifications, in-app messages, mobile email, mobile social media, and even the humble SMS text message.

So, how do we sift through this (sometimes overwhelming) number of possibilities and target our readers effectively?

Mobile platforms are an important way to message our readers who increasingly have their smartphones and tablets within arm’s reach 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

However, it is also easy to fall into the trap of sending too many messages and annoying people. This is especially true when the same message is being delivered across multiple mobile platforms, which represent a market that has grown incredibly in complexity in the last couple of years.

The key to solving this issue, however, is simply thinking “reader first” and relevance.

SMS texting, for example, is a widely popular method for reaching our mobile users and is expected to remain relevant for some years to come. However, those users are also increasingly using their mobile devices to check for email messages, making it crucial for us to ensure our emails are optimised for the smaller, mobile screen.

Then there are push notifications, which have become a great method to reach readers who have maybe downloaded your news app. (Typically, these can include push notifications, app-originated notifications, and in-app alerts).

And the choices don’t end there. Mobile social is another (increasingly popular) way to communicate with your mobile audience. And soon there also will be HTML5 push notifications, giving us a method of messaging users who are on our mobile Web pages.

But one key factor we need to think about above all is relevance.

The challenge for all news media companies (because mobile is such an individual and personal medium), is that users here have a high expectation that messages will be both relevant to them and add value to their everyday lives.

Increasingly sophisticated analytics is one aiding factor, but testing pre-campaign and thinking it through pre-execution is worth the trouble. We have to align the choices — or, indeed, channels — with the user experience on mobile.

For instance, a text message might get great adoption or response, but it is not perhaps a channel that a user would associate with our “app communication.” Instead, we might well benefit by directing users to mobile Web sites.

Email is becoming ubiquitous on mobile; however, sometimes the volume alone can overwhelm our audiences and lead to them ignoring emails. “Push,” however, is more closely linked with reaching users who have downloaded the publisher’s app already.

Also, there are a number of messaging opportunities in the app experience itself, from push notifications to in-app alerts, and one of the challenges is matching the channel with the target user experience on mobile. It’s not rocket science but it’s amazing how many people don’t get this. User experience can be as important as the content itself!

One great way to get started is by asking your readers to get involved with a panel, survey, or via your customer service team, asking which types of communications they want, when, and how they want them. Qualitative reader opinion can be worth its weight in gold!

And it’s important for audiences to think of mobile messaging as a two-way communication channel. It needs to be a dialogue. Ultimately, you want them to receive your messages at a time, place, and manner in which they want them. Don’t forget this!

You also need to think about mobile as being interactive. Modern audiences increasingly are driven by instant gratification and, even today, the fastest way to reach them with an interactive message can be via SMS: They send something to you in the form of a request from a short code … and get something back right away.

As ever, do have a clear strategy and, within this, develop a tactical messaging plan. Your “light” app users, for instance, might be targeted with messages that encourage re-engagement, while your “heavier” users might be encouraged to share certain content via their social networks.

If you are relevant, you can motivate your readers to be your ambassadors! And, referriing back to the INMA 2013 Outlook report, remember: mobile + social = rapid engagement levels for the future. Crack this and we unlock better engagement and increased reader loyalty.

Good luck!