The SMS Marketing Blog

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SMS: Crime Fighter

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Text messaging as a mobile marketing tool is standard practice across most industries, but the public sector is also harnessing the power of SMS. Healthcare, emergency services, schools - all are benefitting from the possibilities opened up by the speed, affordability and convenience of mass texting.

One of the most significant applications of text messaging is in the fight against crime. Earlier this year, the four major wireless carriers began offering free text-to-911 services. Police departments across the country are realizing what mobile marketing campaign managers have long understood: there’s no greater guarantee of effective communication than SMS. Victims of crime can surreptitiously send text messages in dangerous situations where making a phone call may be impossible, and law enforcers can use SMS to streamline their processes and thus become more effective. Let’s take a look at some of the most innovative uses of SMS messaging in the fight against crime.

Tip Offs

A number of local police departments have set up shortcodes allowing members of the public to anonymously tip the police about a crime they have witnessed. In Bakersfield, CA, citizens have been providing law enforcers with valuable tips for some years; Kern County runs a similar program. In both cases, police stress that these channels are not intended for emergency situations requiring immediate attention, but for anonymous tip offs from people who may not otherwise feel comfortable reporting crime.

Campus Crime

In Tennessee, local authorities are encouraging students to report crimes anonymously. When the scheme was rolled out in 2009, Sgt. Charles Warner from the Franklin Police Department said that young people “don’t want to be labeled as ‘snitches’... they don’t want to be retaliated against and they’re fearful of that.” But many young people are happy to report, say, a student who brings a gun to school, or is dealing drugs on campus. The first police department in the state to launch a text message tip program, other precincts soon followed suit, and similar programs are now widespread all over the United States.

Human Trafficking

Based in Washington, D.C., the Polaris Project runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which accepts calls and texts 24/7. A Washington Post story recounted the plight of one 18-year-old sex-trade worker who alerted the authorities via text message from her pimp’s phone. Police arrested the man shortly after. An app called Redlight Traffic goes further still, with an educational component designed to teach citizens how to identify tell-tale signs of human trafficking and give them a way to combat it.

Law enforcers believe such programs can improve public understanding of potentially criminal situations, even when no actual crime has been witnessed. Citizens can report suspicious behaviour to the app, upload photos and GPS locations, and provide information on vehicle registrations and personal descriptions. Officers can review individual reports and map suspicious activities to improve their chances of being there when a crime is committed. It’s an ideal solution for members of the public who are unsure whether to call 911, but believe they have witnessed potential wrongdoing.

Misdemeanors

It’s not just serious offences like trafficking and gun crime that are being tackled by SMS messaging. Minor misdeeds which clog up law enforcement processes can be prevented by improved communication between the police and the public. In Moscow, drivers can sign up to receive a text alert 20 minutes before their car is about to be towed. When the program launched in June, officials predicted monthly savings of up to $2.6 million.

Record Growth for India's Mobile Marketing Industry

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Mobile marketing tactics such as SMS coupons and geo-targeted ads are being used in practically every global economy, but one part of the world has taken to it more rapidly than any other. In India, the mobile marketing industry has grown by 260% in the past year. Compare that to the 70% growth in the Asia Pacific region and you start to get a clear picture of just how big the strides taken in India are.

The cause for such rapid growth is undoubtedly the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices, which in some parts of the world are becoming the primary point of access for web users.

The expansion of the mobile advertising marketplace in India was studied in detail by Opera Mediaworks, a San Mateo ad platform. The analysis was published in a report called “State of Mobile Advertising.”

In addition to the overall growth figures, the report compared various mobile devices and their success in India. Android has the largest share of the market, with 41.7%. Apple devices, meanwhile, are trailing significantly, with less than a 1% share. 

The face of mobile marketing in India bears some striking differences to its American and European counterparts. This is largely because people living in remote regions often don’t have smartphones, and can’t experience the kind of rich content we’ve become used to seeing on handheld devices in the West. 

According to a Business Week article from earlier in the year, Unilever is issuing 15-minute recorded programs that can be listened to on old-fashioned cell phones. The shows include popular Bollywood songs, comedy routines and product commercials. The free service has proved popular, gaining 2 million subscribers when it first rolled out.

Original, bespoke mobile marketing tactics like this are the only way for businesses to get a foothold in new territories. As of the beginning of the year, there were 364 million rural mobile phone users in India. In January 2014, the pace of mobile adoption in villages was faster than in cities for four consecutive months. In 2013, Indian businesses spent 3 billion rupees ($49.9 million) on mobile ads, and the market is expected grow by nearly 45% by the end of the year (according to the Mobile Marketing Association).

The key, as Unilever has discovered, is to develop a mobile marketing strategy targeted at basic-feature phones. That means voice-based and SMS messaging services. Understand this, and your mobile marketing campaign in India will reach more people.

5 Reasons Why Mobile Marketing is Top Dog

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Mobile marketing is now so sophisticated and ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget just how new the phenomenon is. Web marketing has been around since the advent of the internet, but apart from a few rather crude SMS blasts, the concept of mobile marketing didn’t really exist until the first wave of smartphones came out less than a decade ago.

It may have taken a while to come of age, but mobile commerce has been making up for it over the past few years, with sales derived from tablets and smartphones expected to reach $100 billion by the year’s end. Google analysts predict mobile search volumes will outstrip desktop by 2015. Every business worth it’s salt is pursuing some kind of mobile marketing strategy, each hoping to corner their share of a smartphone audience that accounts for more than half of the population of the United States.

We’ve identified five key reasons why mobile has become the top priority of businesses great and small:

It’s Local

Right now, 40% of mobile searches are local; 77% of those take place from a user’s home or workplace, indicating an active preference for mobile even when alternatives are available. This is tremendously important for small businesses serving their local area. By targeting local keywords, a small business owner can conduct an effective mobile marketing campaign on a relatively tight budget. Which brings us to…

It’s Affordable

Before the mobile revolution, effective marketing campaigns were expensive. Really expensive. Television, radio and billboard advertising cost a lot of money, way more than your average small-to-medium sized business owner can afford. Big corporations got bigger and everyone else was priced out. SMS messaging has changed all that, allowing start ups to have a realistic chance of success on shoestring budgets. The ROI for mobile advertising is also easy to track, with analytics providing invaluable data like peak search times and customer preferences. With mobile, businesses can tweak their service according to consumer behavior and make their ad spend go further.

It’s Fast

Four out of five mobile conversions happen within five hours of the search. This is critical because searches turn into leads, and ultimately sales. Make yourself available via mobile and you can grab more customers faster than ever before.

It’s for Everyone

The first generation of cell phone owners are now in the valuable 55-64 demographic – and their children are even more tech savvy. Mobile growth is happening across all age groups and ethnicities, which is a solid gold gift for marketing managers.

…and Everything

The top five tasks performed on smartphones are making phone calls (83%), checking emails (74%), search (67%), taking photos (62%) and accessing social media (57%). There’s hardly an online activity that isn’t conducted via mobile. Another gift for marketers, who can focus variously on each task as part of their campaign.

Mobile marketing is here to stay, and it represents a real revolution for small business owners who no longer have to be drowned out by corporate clout. Get on board with your own mobile marketing campaign and you’ll find out for yourself why mobile is top dog.

Gauging Morality via Text Message

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Psychologists have long argued that moral behaviour is a zero sum game. Commit an act of kindness today and you’re more likely to be rude tomorrow, goes the theory. In other words, do-gooders and do-badders are the same people – it’s simply a matter of timing. 

Researchers have now attempted to test that theory in the real world by tracking moral judgments via text message. The study – published in Science earlier this month – measured the frequency of moral and immoral behaviours during a typical day. Thus far peer reviews advise caution but broadly accept the findings of the research.

A team of scientists from the University of Cologne recruited 1,252 people to respond to text messages asking about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ incidents that happened to them or were witnessed by them. An SMS message was send to each participant five times a day for three days. The text asked recipients to gauge the morality of an event that just occurred in their lives. The results were striking.

On average, participants reported one moral incident a day, with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ judgments being attributed in roughly equal measure. Categories included: 

  • Care/harm. Eg, opening a door for somebody versus letting it slam in their face.
  • Fairness/unfairness. Eg, tipping generously or not.
  • Loyalty/disloyalty. Eg, having dinner with your wife versus your mistress.

According to one researcher, the responses provided ‘a sense of the moral baseline of a typical day… and the slice of the moral pie occupied by each of these categories. 

The findings apparently corroborate the long-held moral credit theory, where no good deed goes unpunished. It also supports other historical lab experiments that suggest good deeds are contagious. But while those on the receiving end of an act of kindness were around 10% more likely than the average person to do something nice later in the day, the person granting that kindness was around 3% more likely than average to be rude or dismissive later that today.

It appears that committing an act of kindness really does imbue us with a sense of moral license to behave less well in future. This modest SMS experiment is the first tentative step towards a greater understanding of our moral makeup, and though we may not like what we see, it’s undeniably fascinating.

Five of the Best: Strategies for SMS Marketing

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As we move through this ever-changing era of new media marketing, many businesses are innovating with the latest and greatest of tech strategies to reach their customer bases. Certainly geo-targeting and push notifications are significant mobile marketing tactics. Smart business owners, however, maintain that SMS marketing is still at the top when it comes to affordability and ubiquity. Here are five of the best techniques for maximizing your returns with mobile text marketing.

1)     Create Timely Content

Reach your customers when they’re open to hearing from you, and hence more likely to respond. Find out what your clients value at any given time, and deliver offers to them that are relevant and time-sensitive. Existing campaigns that work should not be halted, but it’s always important to find new opportunities to grab hold of both potential and loyal customers based on current trends.

2)     Invest in Loyalty

Business owners that provide loyalty programs for long-term customers augment customer relationships while targeting a group that values the company’s products. Not only do companies increase repeat customer sales, they’re also able to analyze repeat customers’ buying habits, making it easier to create targeted product promotions. Create exclusive VIP clubs and promotions to make loyal customers feel special. Loyalty lists don’t have to be that large to be profitable either: many businesses make their bread and butter off of a relatively small group of people. Recent studies show that twenty percent of customers drive eighty percent of sales. Target your repeat and long-time customers to make sure they feel appreciated and valued.

3)     Contests & Sweepstakes

Make it simple for customers to enter into contests and sweepstakes through a text message. These days no one wants to hassle with filling out a form when a simple message will suffice. SMS accessed contests make the process easier on your clientele, while offering potentially valuable opportunities for customers to engage with your brand. Contests and sweepstakes are great incentives for opting in to a marketing list.

4)     SMS in Multi-Channel Campaign

Multi-channel campaigns often overlook the opportunities available through the SMS channel. Mobile marketers know the truth: since SMS is a built-in feature of every mobile device, and everyone has cellphones nowadays, why not take advantage of this channel? User data can be accessed seamlessly, and 95% of text messages are opened by mobile users. Include a call-to-action in the SMS-arm of your campaign, and provide ways for users to sign up for other offers to maximize the value of your advertising. Offer text messaging opt-in opportunities through other platforms, with special incentives for opting-in.

5)     Foster Interaction

If consumers agree to allow texts and calls to their personal phone, they expect something valuable in return. Think of exclusive offers, easy ways to purchase or ask questions, customer surveys to improve overall products and services, and other valuable information relevant to the consumers. The more positive interaction with customers, the more brand loyalty and potential sales your company will foster.

Follow these five strategies in your next text marketing campaign, and discover which work best for your consumer base. And remember, setting up a text message campaign is extremely easy, but reaching customers via text messaging is even easier.

 

What to Expect from the iPhone 6

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This week Apple unveiled a triad of new devices: the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 plus, and the iWatch. The anticipation mounting over the new technology has the blogging world abuzz, but most of the talk is about the oversized iPhone 6 plus (which many iPhone users scoff at), or the iWatch (which nobody seems to take seriously). Unfortunately for the iPhone 6, the blogosphere seems to have failed to represent what she has to offer.

LARGER

The iPhone 6 has undergone a major revision in its latest release. Perhaps the most interesting thing we noticed about the new iPhone – it is a little larger than the last generation, the iPhone 5S, by about a half an inch. It appears that the designers of the latest iPhone have been interpreting the data about the competition: a little more than one-third of mobile users prefer to use a smartphone that has a larger screen. The smartphone is also heavier than its previous incarnation, weighing in at about 4.5 ounces.

SLEEKER DESIGN

The design of the body has been altered as well. The iPhone 6 has veered away from square edges, and now has a more rounded yet significantly slimmer shape (a little bit thicker than a quarter inch). This makes it one of the thinnest devices on the market. The power button has also been moved from the top of the phone to the right edge.

In the weeks leading up to the unveiling, Apple claimed that the glass in their screens will be upgraded to handle many more bumps and scrapes before shattering – good news for any mobile user who’s dropped their iPhone before. Also with the new Retina HD screen, the iPhone 6 has received a significant upgrade from its cousin, the iPhone 5S. When compared to other models though (like those of Samsung’s line of phones), many would argue that the screen designers could have gone further in creating a better display.

UPDATED HARDWARE & SOFTWARE

The camera has been upgraded in the new iPhone 6 to one with a wide-angle lens. Called the iSight lens, it incorporates a 2.2 aperture with noise reduction and an autofocus that’s twice as fast. The rear camera also has a slo-mo video mode to enhance slow motion recording. The front facing camera is much better too, now an HD camera with a 2.2 aperture that allows in more than 80% more light.

But there’s one big question about the operating system. Will Apple update its iOS – yet again – for the newer available iPhones? The answer is no. Apple is running the new iPhone 6 on the same platform it unveiled earlier this year, the iOS 8.

All in all, the new iPhone 6 will be exciting to see in action, due to the attention the designers have paid to the model. It may not be exactly what the critics would’ve asked for, but it will certainly prove to be an excellent addition to the Apple line of products. Due to hit the shelves on September 19th, the price will be comparable to previous versions (about $650).

(More Than) Texting From Your Computer

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As many iPhone users know, it can be a breeze to respond to iMessages whether you have your phone or not. Due to the fact that Apple has designed the iMessage platform to run on Mac, tablet, and smartphones alike, users have the benefit of sending and receiving messages from a computer if they want to. But what if you don’t have this luxury? Perhaps you are using another type of smartphone or you prefer PCs. Well, now you have an answer.

A new platform called Pushbullet serves to mirror all of the content on your android device, sending it to the computer of your choice. And yes, this includes text messages.

Many will argue that they don’t need to send or receive texts from their computer, but note all of the powerful benefits. First of all, mobile phones have much smaller interfaces with tiny on-screen keyboards that can be difficult to navigate. When you attempt to type on them, they autocorrect your every word. Were you to type the text message from your computer, you could type the whole text message on your regular keyboard – some without even looking at the screen.

When you work on a computer all day long (as most people do these days), isn’t it easier to send and receive text messages without having to look down at your phone every few seconds. Sending and receiving SMS messages from your computer is easier on the eyes and the neck. Also, you can turn off the loud text alert in the office without worrying about missing texts due to silent mode.

The Pushbullet platform also provides messaging history. If you have more than one mobile device, you can review all of your messages at once, along with any documents currently on the mobile device.

Pushbullet technology allows users to send a variety of items from their computers to their phones, save SMS attachments on a computer’s hard drive, and seamlessly transfer links between computer and phone. Essentially, Pushbullet has a variety of options for Android/PC users that can increase productivity immensely, which is arguably even more significant than sending a text messages from a computer.

Touchpoint Device Incentivizes Brick and Mortar Customer Tap Ins

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Getting push notifications in front of customers is one of the primary concerns of the modern mobile marketing campaign, but it’s important to remember that sending your message to smartphone screens is a highly personal – invasive, even – activity. That’s why any mobile marketing campaign must be conducted with care and sensitivity.

Enter Tapcentive. The San Francisco-based firm recently launched an automated platform that allows customers to earn coupons, points and other rewards by tapping their phone to a $35 ‘Touchpoint’ device. The small device contains a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon and a near field communications radio (NFC), both of which detect the tap of a customers phone. Android phones already carry NFC chips, and Apple is expected to follow suit with its latest iteration of the iPhone. Here’s how it works: 

  • A customer taps the Touchpoint device when they enter a retail store
  • The store’s app launches automatically or, if the customer does not have the app, can be downloaded via the Touchpoint platform (along with an instant reward)
  • A mobile marketing communication channel is now opened between customer and brand – all instigated by the consumer

This last point is crucial. The thinking behind Tapcentive is that greater engagement with the opt-in process translates to greater long-term engagement with the brand. It’s a cocktail of pull notifications, push notifications and straight up incentives. 

And, according to the brains behind the innovation, there’s a lot more to come. Tapcentive plans to add more features capable of reaching the customer via social media, website, email and text messaging.

The notifications themselves are also breaking new ground, representing part of the ‘gamification’ of mobile marketing. For example, a store might set up a game in which the customer wins a coupon for going around the store and tapping Touchpoints in four different departments. Another game might reward every 25th customer who taps a Touchpoint, or register them in a sweepstakes.

It’s all centrally managed via a web portal which plans the types of content available at each Touchpoint, and the triggers by which the platform will start communication with customers. There’s also the standard built-in analytics tools to measure the effectiveness of each mobile marketing campaign. If you’re interested in mobile marketing innovations, keep an eye out for the telltale Tapcentive Touchpoints in stores near you!