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Innovating into the new year: Mobile Media Key Areas for Business to foucs on

January 6, 2009

So far, the most successful mobile-phone campaigns have relied on text messaging. A text message is a series of up to 160 characters, typed on the keypad of the sender’s mobile phone, that travels through wireless networks and arrives on the screen of the recipient’s mobile phone. The term SMS stands for “short messaging system” and is used interchangeably with “text messaging.” You might also hear people refer to it as “texting” or just “text.” The growth of text messaging has been explosive. In the United States, over 63 percent of mobile phone users send texts,as compared to 90 percent in Germany, 83 percent in Spain, 85 percent in Britian, and 65 percent on average across Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, China, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

The Old Advertising Rules Still Apply

Each supporter needs to opt in to your campaign, according to carrier policies. This means that you’ll need to promote your campaign widely in order to convince people to opt in. You might use announcements from stage and on event screens, Web site promotions, and newspaper and outdoor advertising. In all of these scenarios, the old rules of advertising apply. Higher frequency and greater reach result in better response rates. Promote your call to action far and wide.
Use a Trusted Messenger at Live Events

If your organization is not well known, you face an obstacle in persuading young people to text your shortcode, because most young people know that their numbers are captured when they text in. Ask someone who is known and trusted among your community of supporters to make the announcement. In trials of our texting software at events, we found that when a person unknown to the community asked people to text in, response rates were around 1 percent, but rates increased to 15 percent to 45 percent when a well-known person made the request.

To maintain this level of trust, you’ll need to treat your supporters’ personal information with respect, which means giving them an easy method for opting out of the text campaign and not selling their numbers to third parties, unless they grant you permission to do so.

Provide Incentives

What does a young person get in return for texting your shortcode and giving you their personal information? In the case of Bono’s concerts, participants’ names scrolled across a giant screen. Some organizations give away backstage passes, coupon codes, bumper stickers, or ring-tones. If possible, devise incentives that support your cause while taking advantage of the immediacy made possible by mobile phones.

For example, San Francisco Health’s SexInfo campaign offered valuable and confidential information in return for participating. The incentive was a relevant message at the location where the campaign was advertised. Bono scrolled names across the screen immediately upon receiving the incoming text message. Connect the incentive to the participant’s immediate location.

Ensure Timeliness and Relevance

Timeliness is counted in hours, not days. Relevance is measured in terms of the value of information in a given place.

Being timely is easy. Avoid sending messages that refer to events that occur in more than twenty-four hours. Ask your supporters to make a call now or to come to an event in an hour. Don’t tell them about a speech taking place the next evening. Text messages are ephemeral— take advantage of the near term.

Relevancy is a lot more difficult to achieve, because it depends largely on a supporter’s location. If the person is at home and you send him or her information about environmentally friendly fish, the message is not very relevant. If the person is running errands, it’s more relevant. And if the message is received while he or she is at the market, it’s incredibly relevant. The best way to ensure relevance is to encourage your supporters to request information from you when they’re at a location that fits your campaign.

Write Clear Texts

Confusing language hampers many texting campaigns; you’ve got to keep the message simple. With only 160 characters at their disposal, organizations use shortcuts and take numerous liberties with language.

This call to action is a jumble of words and numbers—it’s incredibly confusing. Follow the old K.I.S.S. adage (Keep It Simple Stupid). Here’s a much simpler call to action from SexInfo:

Use Texting as an Initial Hook

Texting is great for reaching a large number of people in an instant. It also works well in situations where you want many people to be able to reach you simultaneously, such as at a concert. But texting is a shallow medium. If your campaign isn’t suited to delivering extremely valuable information in the space of 160 characters, consider moving the supporter to a more immersive medium, such as voice. Use texting for its strengths: immediacy, timeliness, and ubiquity.

Support a Broader Campaign

Integrate texting, ringtones, and mobile photos into your campaign.

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