June 3, 2009

Mobile social marketing: How to do it right

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Katrin VerclasMobile advocacy efforts are just beginning around the world.  What are we learning from these emergent campaigns what works and what does not in using mobile phones to advance a cause or an issue?

Of course, we think that advocacy organizations should start to pay serious attention to using mobiles in their work. There is increasing evidence that mobile social marketing works in increasing brand awareness and moving people to actions. It is also becming an increasingly effective way to engage users and constituents. Here are a few pointers from what we have learned to date.

1. What’s happening in the mobile (social) marketing market that advocacy organizations should pay attention to?

  • Over 84 percent of Americans have cell phones, according to the CTIA, an industry group. Data shows that the majority of users carry their mobiles around for up to 18 hours/day. In fact the mobile, keys, and wallets are the three things most adults will not leave the house without.
  • Sms/texting is growing by leaps and bounds. More than 48 billion text messages were sent in the month of December 2007, an average 1.6 billion messages per day. The rate of text messaging represented a 157 percent increase over December 2006 texting. (according to M:Metrics data)
  • Mobile marketers are salivating, with polls, contests, coupons, and even mobi-sodes, short sms serial stories hitting the commercial market. Pepsi, Ford, Toyota, Burger King all have mobile campaigns, and more and more marketers are allocating hard dollars to “mobile marketing” budgets.
  • Visa announced its mobile payment platform, allowing cardholders to use their mobile phones to make purchases or conduct other transactions by tapping them against readers. Think ‘just in time’ fundraising.
  • There are pilot projects under way to test mobile fundraising via text message where the donation is billed to the customers monthly cell phone bill. Previously prohibitive because of carrier fees, the market for mobile fundraising is opening up this year. The carriers have agreed to waive fees for a set of pre-approved organizations vetted by the Mobile Giving Foundation that has just started operations. While small in scale so far, the mobile fundraising market is bound to rapidly expand in the next 12 months.
  • More and more Americans have unlimited texting plans and WAP-enabled phones, allowing them to do more and more on their cell phones, including watching video and photos, browsing the web, and of course, ubiquitous text messaging. Social marketers now have at their disposal not only text campaigns, but can become more creative with multi-media, WAP push (clickable links to WAP-based multimedia content incorporated into SMS messages), and video shortcodes (consumers receive a video stream directly to their handset in response to texting to a shortcode).
  • In fact, wireless subscribers sent more pictures and multimedia messages. Close to four billion multimedia messages (MMS) were sent in the second half of 2007. In all of 2006, a total of 2.7 billion MMS were sent, according to M:Metrics. Likewise, data services for all of 2007 totaled $23 billion, a 53 percent increase over 2006 when data revenue equaled $15.2 billion.

So, to sum it up: Why Mobile Phones for Advocacy?

The Internet has two distinct benefits over previous media – social interactivity and search. Mobile technology goes even further – not only can all elements of existing media be delivered via mobile, there are additional advantages of mobile that makes it far superior to other media forms. These include:

  • There is a relatively low learning curve to using a phone, making it far more accessible than computers to a wider range of constituents.
  • Mobiles are a highly personal means of communication that reaches the target constituent directly and immediately.
  • They are hence conducive to instant participation and response.
  • Mobiles are small and highly portable, and always-carried. Our mobile devices go with us everywhere.
  • Always-on. Mobiles are always on and thus the ultimate news and alert media, faster than any other media.
  • Donation and purchase channel. While not quite there yet in the U.S. mobile phones will eventually become wallets and payment systems.
  • Hybrid communications tools with varied content and convergence with other media such as the Internet. Mobiles allow for texting, increasingly have multi-media support with built-in still and video cameras, can carry games, music, ringtones, and data.
  • As such, mobile are media and creative devices. Users can increasingly create and share content from their cell phones.

But what’s the ROI for mobile marketers — such as advocacy organizations?

Everyone agrees: The medium is young, it is risky when poorly done, and it’ll take time to judge payoffs. Our research of existing campaigns shows some interesting returns with sizeable opt-ins, and rather impressive open and forward rates. The total numbers are still small but effect is beginning to show.

For example, an analysis of 26 research studies evaluates SMS campaigns in the U.K. Conclusions taken from the report, “Text Message Advertising: Dramatic Effect on Purchase Intentions:”

  • “Overall 44% of respondents found receiving campaigns on their mobile phones very or fairly acceptable, with only 21% finding it fairly or very unacceptable.”
  • “Acceptability was inversely related to respondents’ age (younger people have more favourable views; Chi-square, p<0.01), but not related to gender.”
  • “Most messages were read (89%), and 5% were forwarded to friends.”
  • “For most of the campaigns (20 out of 26), respondents followed the specified call to action, with the most frequent response following the message directions. These included calls to action involving physical travel (e.g. visit McDonald’s or the Carphone Warehouse).”
  • “The overall acceptability of SMS advertising was 44%, significantly higher than the acceptability of telemarketing”
  • “Response rates varied from 68% to 3%, with an average of 31%. This compares very favourably both with direct mail, with reported response rates between 1% and 5 %, (DMA, 2003; DMIS, 2000) and permission-based email marketing, with reported response rates from 1% to 8%, (Rettie, 2002; Doubleclick, 2002; Gartner, 2002).”
  • “The reported increased likelihood to purchase is the most important finding of this research; on average this was 35%, but it was as high as 71% for one campaign.”

In the non-commercial realm, there is concrete evidence that text messaging gets people out to vote. In 2006, the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project and Working Assets, two groups in the United States, worked with researchers from the University of Michigan and Princeton University to study the effectiveness of text messaging on voter turnout. The researchers sent text messages to young people reminding them to vote.

The methodology was sound: Researchers selected a random sample of 4,000 mobile phone numbers from 8,000 people who had registered to vote, and tested variations of different messages.

  • Overall, they found that the text message reminders increased the likelihood that the voter would go to the polls.
  • Text messages increased the chance that a person would vote by 4.2%
  • 59% of voters surveyed found the messages helpful.
  • 23% found the messages bothersome.
  • Each additional vote generated cost $1.56; much cheaper than conventional methods like door-to-door campaigning or fliers.

Similarly, a study by Limbo, a mobile marketing company, evaluated ‘brand’ awareness of presidential candidates. The study included short ads (30-40 characters) on the bottom of text messages. The ads advertised U.S. presidential candidates. According to the study, 6% of respondents reported significant changes to their voting intentions and 22% said their voting intentions had been changed a little. The study found that:

  • 6 % of those surveyed after the campaigns said that the advertising had changed their voting intentions significantly. This was highest for men at seven percent (7%), those aged 35+ at seven percent (7%), and for African Americans at nine percent (9%). An additional 22 percent (22%) said their intentions had been changed a little
  • “Fourteen percent (14%) said that their perceptions of the candidate was now more positive than before seeing the campaign, with only four percent (4%) saying it was now more negative, a net 10 percent (10%) increase in positive perception. Barack Obama saw the biggest uplift, with a net gain of 16 percent (16%).”
  • “Thirty-seven percent (37%) paid more attention to news coverage about the candidate.”
  • “Twelve percent (12%) became more aware of other marketing for the candidate.
  • “Seven percent (7%) visited the candidate’s website with a further 24 percent (24%) intending to do so in the future
  • “Five percent (5%) visited the candidate’s mobile Internet site with a further nine percent (9%) intending to do so in the future.”

We have seen other positive effect as well, in the form of increased PR, for example. A clever campaign, especially one that goes viral, will get earned media coverage and word-of-mouth exposure.

What are advocacy organizations concerned about?

According to a recent article Brandweek, there still is considerable “consumer resistance, the main reason behind the carriers’ historic refusal to open the gates to ad content.” Brandweek goes on: “Studies have shown that consumers are less than thrilled with the idea of receiving ads on their cells. While early adopter teens are among the biggest targets, three-quarters of cell phone users ages 10 to 18 said they do not think it’s OK to be marketed to on a mobile device, according to a study of 2,000 users conducted by Weekly Reader Research, Stamford, Conn., on Brandweek’s behalf. Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., found 79% of consumers are turned off by the idea of ads on their phones and a mere 3% of respondents said they trust text ads.”

There are now strict guidelines, drafted by the Mobile Marketing Association, on opt-in and opt out procedures.

This means, of course, that advocacy organizations need to be scrupulous about their opt-in practices and absolutely meticulous in following the mobile marketing code of conduct. Organizations need to be aware that their brand is at stake, and people will get very annoyed if they perceive an organizations is spamming them.

Final word

People increasingly do not want to sink in the typical advocacy ‘push’ hole that benefits you organizationally, but in the end has no impact on the issue, nor engages me, the constituent, in any way, makes the issues relevant to my life, makes me smile, asks me to do something, or feel better and closer to the cause you are advocating.

In the end, because mobiles are an intimate medium, there is a huge opportunity for a conversation that few advocacy organizations used to messaging OUT have any idea how to do effectively. Mobiles are very much a read/write medium in the web 2.0 fashion and only those organizations willing to hear back and engage in ‘it’s the conversation, stupid’ will end up running catchy, creative, engaging, and innovative mobile campaigns.

For more use cases and idea, see MobileActive.org (search for advocacy in the search box for use cases).

Republished from MobileActive.org.


• 20 tips for mobile advocacy (Socialbrite)

A user’s guide to mobile activism (Socialbrite)

How to set up an SMS campaign system (Socialbrite)

10 mobile apps for social good (Socialbrite)Katrin Verclas is co-founder and editor of MobileActive.org, a global network of practitioners using mobile phones for social impact. See her profile, contact Katrin or leave a comment.

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One thought on “Mobile social marketing: How to do it right

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