The SMS Marketing Blog

[ By Ez Texting ]

This App Lets You Send a Text 25 Years into the Future... Sort Of

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In an age of instant communication and 24-hour rolling news, the notion of posterity may seem rather quaint. The emphasis is on the now, with scant consideration for what might happen a few weeks - let alone a few years - from now.  

One new app aims to put long-term thinking back in the spotlight, by providing users with a platform to delay the release of their text messages for up to 25 years. Launched last month, Incubate Messenger is the innovation of Atlanta-based entrepreneur Michael McCluney.  

Incubate’s uses aren’t immediately obvious but, according to McCluney, it doesn’t take long for people to ‘think of reasons they need to strategically time [a] message’ when you give them the functionality. Those reasons range from forgetful spouses priming an anniversary text message months ahead of the date, to soldiers on tour sending a time-delayed SMS to their kids when they know they’ll be unable to reach a phone on duty. In addition to SMS messaging, movies, photos and audio messages are also catered for by the app.

McCluney’s lightbulb moment came when an exhausted friend - and father of triplets - told him of the nightly struggles tending to three 3-month-old babies. The developer suggested his friend make audio recordings to capture the chaos of a trio of screaming infants in the middle of the night. Wouldn’t it be great if Dad could somehow share these moments with his kids when they were old enough to laugh at their tiny selves?  

That exchange inspired one of Incubate’s unique features: Nursery. The feature allows parents to send time-delayed messages to their kids from the moment they are born. Parents simply create an account, which their child can access when they get their first mobile device. Anyone with an account can exchange messages and see how many messages await them in the future but - and here’s the clever bit - they can’t access the message or see the identity of the sender until the date set by the sender. Having a mystery text message that you can’t read for 25 years is the ultimate in delayed gratification, and a masterstroke of an emotional hook.

Asynchronous communication is not entirely new. Boomerang and Gmail both have options for time-delayed messages, as do Vine and Snapchat. But Incubate aims to promote the sharing of information with a little more gravitas than photographs of desserts. It’s about creating a time capsule capable of creating a bond through space and time. Until now, a dewy-eyed father packing his kid off to college can do his best to reminisce about his youth - and probably get rolled eyes and groans in return. With Incubate, it’s possible to capture and store precious memories as they happen, and share them in the future when they’ve taken on new significance.

 

Could Google's Mobile Update Backfire?

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Today sees the roll out of Google’s most significant algorithm update in years. In response to mass migration from desktop to mobile, the search engine will now use a website’s ‘mobile friendliness’ as a ranking metric. 

It’s great news for businesses who put themselves ahead of the mobile marketing curve in time to reap the benefits. It’s not so great for those lagging behind - many of them big businesses with expensive, unwieldy marketing departments. According to research firm SumAll, a staggering 67% of Fortune 100 companies do not have mobile friendly sites. They can expect their traffic to nosedive now the change has taken effect

The changes - dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’ by some - are perfectly consistent with Google’s track record of responding to shifts in search culture. Mobile traffic has increased, and desktop search has declined correspondingly. For the average user, more likely to access the internet from a mobile device than a desktop computer, the update will doubtlessly improve their experience.  

Assuming Google isn’t doing this for purely altruistic reasons, what are their motivations for implementing changes that will not only harm powerful corporate influences but reduce Google’s own ad revenue?  

One answer may lie in the question. Google knows it must close the gap between desktop and mobile ad rates in anticipation of a full-blown small-screen revolution. Another possibility is that Google isn’t so much reacting to external trends, but rather influencing consumer behavior. If sites render well on mobile devices, they will become more popular, thus increasing the number of mobile clicks.

The businesses who aren’t ready for this will definitely suffer. They may even claim that the content available on mobile friendly sites just isn’t as good, nullifying Google’s objective to (ostensibly) provide a meritocratic search tool. The worst case scenario for Google is that big companies switch their search focus to Yahoo or Bing, and move their ad spending to Facebook. Such gloomy predictions have always failed to materialize in the past, and Google remains synonymous with search for the majority of internet users. 

Nonetheless, it’s a risky strategy. Without ad revenue Google is nothing, but they have proven themselves time and again to be deft at bending with the wind. Whether today’s major algorithmic update will turn into ‘mobilegeddon’ remains to be seen, but as risky as the move may seem, betting against Google is riskier still.

 

90% of Mobile Marketing Revenue Comes from SMS

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It is increasingly apparent that the SMS segment of the global mobile advertising market is very dominant due to the rapid surge in smartphone and tablet use around the world. Some 90 percent of adults in the U.S. use mobile phones, 60 percent of which are smartphones.  The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) believes that soon smartphone use in the U.S. will rise to 80 percent. 

“With consumers carrying mobile devices wherever they go, it has become crucial for marketers to target this large consumer base with mobile advertisements and promotions,” according to Transparency Market Research (TMR). “A mobile advertising platform firm provides services to marketers that allow them to send these advertisements to consumers using mobile devices. Each distinct mobile advertising platform contains opportunities for marketers to deliver their message to a broad range of consumers.” 

SMS is subsequently a “big deal,” as mobile advertising services are easily sent out via text message. Mobile advertising is also being used to place banner ads on smartphone apps, which appear either at the top of the app (mobile web banner) or at the bottom of the app (mobile web poster). One of the many advantages of SMS is it allows users to view and send short messages without worrying about privacy issues or seriously interrupting the receiver’s day. It’s therefore not shocking to note that SMS accounts for 90 percent of total mobile marketing revenue. Simply put, it's the most cost-effective of all mobile marketing tactics.

In addition to SMS, multimedia messaging services, aka MMS, are experiencing an increase in popularity. Other services gaining momentum include full-screen interstitials, mobile videos, and mobile games. 

Transparency Market Research believes the next few years will see advertisers in the global mobile ad marketing space focus increasingly on performance. An increase in ROI spending will likely occur, as will the quantifiable results that follow. Preference for location-based advertising is also growing, and will only get bigger and better in the future. Such advertising makes it possible for advertisers to target specific portions of their target demographic, therefore dramatically enhancing mobile ad effectiveness.  

Unlike traditional phone calls, “spammy” emails, and the days of going door to door, SMS is a safe and effective means of catering to target audiences. Most read text messages as soon as they come through compared to the hours that pass before reading an email or the disgruntled consumers on the other end of a marketing phone call. In addition to its effectiveness, SMS messaging is a low-cost marketing option. No wonder it makes up 90 percent of mobile marketing revenue….

 

Here's Why Your Web Development Should Start with Mobile

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Responsible design goes way beyond pixel measurements and assorted limitations, as it’s about deciphering the behaviors and preferences of a target audience, and meeting their needs, whether through smartphones, tablets, or websites.  

Consumer habits and expectations change depending on the device they’re using, meaning content and information must be displayed in the right way. The best option for learning about a target demographic and testing their “commitment to proper responsive build” is starting with a “mobile-first” approach. And while mobile may be the smallest of frequently-used platforms, it is still the favorite. Let’s take a deeper look at starting web development with mobile: 

 

Content 

When developing a brand, quality content is key. However, working through large blocks of copy and trying to find the important points gets tough, making it essential to ask the following question: What is the point I’m trying to make? Once the key theme is identified, it’s time to cut out “filler” content so the resulting post easily fits on a mobile device screen. This not only looks much better, but also makes it more readable for consumers. 

The other benefit to resizing content for mobile screens is once you’ve made the post fit, sizing it for tablets and the like is quite simple. 

 

Form and Function

Yes, you’re working with a smaller screen when crafting content for mobile, but that doesn’t mean it’s supposed to be anything short of engaging. Think form followed by function, and go for attention-grabbing headers and titles, visually-stunning telegraphic iconography, concise messaging, and quick yet memorable, meaningful takeaways. Create phone, tablet, and desktop “experiences” that takes user mindset into account—again, begin with mobile and go from there.

 

A Prime Example

A common request marketing agencies receive from clients is creating a product gallery. In terms of mobile, the gallery must be easy to swipe through so one product per swipe is featured with minimal copy. This results in a more intimate browsing experience. Image pairings are possible for tablets and desktops, or showcasing the entire product page. 

 

Wrap-Up 

Don’t think of mobile as far better than the other options, as each offers its own benefits. Rather, view them as complimentary. On mobile, for example, it’s easy to focus on a given element, while desktops make it possible to display an entire product line and emphasize that the brand meets the needs of a whole range of customers. It’s also possible to group products “visually, physically, or factually” in light of varying market approaches. 

The ability to solve the same issue on different devices is one that cannot be discussed enough, as it makes the ability to change content according to platform easier in the future. It also helps significantly in terms of prioritizing per device, and creating responsive designs. 

 

Wrap Raises $3.5 Million in Series A Funding

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In today’s mobile era, content in increasingly digested in “bite-size” chunks. Wrap Media is a new company looking to develop a viable alternative to what it calls “wraps,” or small stories delivered as swipe-able content on mobile devices. The company has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding from FF Angel LLC and Raine Ventures. 

Launching a wrap from your mobile device is easy enough, and once launched you may swipe left or right through the assorted pages to view content. It’s also possible to watch embedded YouTube videos or tap through links to connect with Wrap on social media. As far as potential use goes, options include sharing stories and embedding coupons or merchandise you can purchase from automated business emails, such as digital receipts and order confirmations.  

The folks at Wrap Media stress that what they’ve created is not “another website creation service,” but a “presentation layer” that sits pretty atop any platform. While wraps are currently delivered via the mobile web, founder Eric Greenberg says the company’s long-term goal is to provide such experiences from anywhere, whether a small smartphone screen or a gigantic living room television.  

Greenberg had the idea for Wrap while building a mobile gifting app through a card-based user interface. He found the interface had more potential than the app itself, and subsequently shifted company focus to the interface. Greenberg is also the founder of several other companies, including systems integrators Scient and Viant. 

Wrap’s web-based authoring service provides companies with the ability to create app-like messages using simplistic tools, and messages may be shared as links on social media, SMS, and email. The idea is to provide a new format for mobile marketing so companies can share their stories without having to invest in serious development and design resources, even though it still looks like they did. Wraps are created in 15 minutes or over the course of a few hours depending on the amount of content involved. 

“This is a story that can’t be told today…because you’d have to develop something from scratch. And to do something like this, is a minimum of six figures,” Greenberg explained. “So instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with developers and designers, you can literally create these interactive experiences with a junior marketing manager, with no code and no design experience.”  

Companies currently utilizing Wrap’s services include CBS Interactive, Loverly, and StumbleUpon. Wrap is also in talks with some 50 other companies. Pricing is on a transitional basis as well as software-as-a-service, as Wrap is still in private beta. Service is intended to start around $300-$500 per month. 

The $3.5 million Wrap has acquired in funding includes $3 million from Founders Fund’s seed stage fund FF Angel LLC and Raine Ventures. The remaining $500,000 is out of Greenberg’s pocket. He also seeded the company with another $2.5 million, resulting in $6 million in raised funds. 

Wrap is expected to launch in September 2015. 

 

Apple Watch Pre-Orders Reach a Million

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Apple recently began pre-selling three versions of its new smart watch to the world, with orders now hitting the one million mark. And that’s just in the United States.  

Unsurprisingly called the Apple Watch, the device allows you to read emails, send messages, and answer iPhone calls, all from the convenience of your wrist. A Taptic Engine feature alerts you through—you guessed it—a tap, so no notifications are missed. The Digital Touch feature makes it easy to communicate by sending a tap, sketch, or heartbeat. There’s even health and fitness features, as well as Apple Pay.  

The watch is available in aforementioned three collections: Apple Watch Sport, priced at $349 and $399; Apple Watch, which costs between $549 to $1,099; and Apple Watch Edition, a watch created from custom rose or yellow 18-karat gold alloys. Prices for the Edition start at $10,000. 

"Apple users were waiting for the Apple watch, so when we saw this huge surge in demand, we were not surprised at all," Jaimee Minney, vice president of marketing and public relations for Slice Intelligence, told ABC News. 

The future of the Apple Watch looks good despite what Slice calls “ho-hum reviews, even by some of the most ardent Apple fans.” According to the company, the average Apple Watch buyer ordered 1.3 watches, spending $503.83 per watch. Consumers opting for the Apple Watch Sport edition spent $382.83 per device, while those ordering the Apple Watch edition spent $707.04. 

“Among those buying an Apple Watch, 72 percent purchased an Apple product in the past two years -- iPhone, Apple computer or iPad -- and 21 percent of them pre-ordered an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus mere months ago,” Minney wrote in a recent blog post. “Nearly one-third purchased two Apple products and 11 percent bought all three devices, in addition to their new watch.” 

Watch accessories are also popular, with Minney noting consumers who purchased the Apple Watch or the Sport edition choosing the larger 42mm case. The space gray aluminum case is a favorite as well, edging out the silver and space black cases. 

“The Black Sport Band was by far the most popular among both Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport buyers, with 49 percent overall pre-ordering one, followed by the White Sport Band at 16 percent and the more expensive Milanese Loop -- $149 versus $49 for the black Sport band -- rounding out the top three at around 10 percent,” Minney remarked.  

According to Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, should Apple continue to see one million units per quarter the company would easily become one of the most profitable watchmakers in the world. This means second to Swatch in regards to profitability and only just behind the legendary Rolex brand. 

“If you told people about a new Apple product that cost $400 and asked them if they would buy it, 1 million people would say yes," Entner said. "They don’t even need to know what it is -- and more often than not they wouldn’t be disappointed. Since the second coming of Steve Jobs, the missteps that Apple has taken are few and far between.” 

 

Mobile Devices Mostly Impervious to Hackers, say Verizon

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Mobile has revolutionized the tech industry, creating as many new businesses as it has destroyed old ones. In the past decade, a ‘marketing strategy’ has turned into a ‘digital marketing strategy’ before morphing swiftly into a ‘mobile marketing strategy’ and it’s left countless heads spinning. 

Oddly, there is one perennial area of concern for the industry that has remained largely untouched by the smartphone: hacking. 

According to a recent report from Verizon, mobile devices are seldom used by hackers to commit their nefarious deeds, which is not all that surprising, given the limitations of inputting complex code into small-screen devices. Perhaps more surprising is just how few mobile devices are targeted by hackers. 

The Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) is Verizon’s annual paper on cybersecurity issues. This year’s DBIR has concluded that “mobile devices are not a preferred vector in data breaches.” In other words: criminals use laptops and desktops to hack into networks.

The report draws on data from tens of millions of mobile devices on Verizon’s own network. It found just 0.03% of tablets and smartphones were infected with serious malware - significantly below the 0.68% rate of infection from unwanted software affecting non-mobile devices. 

That’s not all the good news. The few infections that make it through to our phones are generally less serious than the types of spyware and malware affecting our computers. The lion’s share of ‘successful’ mobile viruses were relatively harmless pieces of ‘adnoyance’ software, which are aimed at trying to direct users to purchase security packages and other money-making schemes, or collect personal data. These types of infection are also much easier to spot than the more malicious desktop infractions. 

Apple users won’t be surprised to learn that the vast majority of infections were found on open-source Android devices. In fact, most suspicious activity logged on iOS devices were failed ‘hit and hope’ scams aimed at Android users. 

This information, while reassuring, is not an excuse for lax security practices. But it does suggest the new model of closed, app-based software - designed to be impervious to hackers - is working, and that can only be a good thing. As more and more online activity is conducted via mobile devices, the tolerance for security breaches will (hopefully) continue to plummet. 

 

Can Text Messaging Encourage Students to Apply for College?

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One thing’s for darn sure: young people love, love, love to text. Texting replaced phone calls as the main way to communicate on mobile devices some time ago, with a 2012 Pew survey finding the average teen sending 60 messages per day. And while encouraging teenagers to text is like encouraging them to eat ice cream, convincing them to apply to college is much more challenging. 

University of Pittsburgh researcher Lindsay Page has researched the college application process extensively, and came up with the “summer melt” theory, or the theory that many students, especially those in the low-income bracket, refrain from enrolling in college due to financial and logistical challenges that occur following high school graduation. Page and colleague Benjamin Castleman, a professor at the University of Virginia, tested several interventions designed to make the process easier. 

“We started out very low-tech, having counselors or college advisors basically receive a caseload of students,” Page said. “And it was the responsibility of the counselor or advisor to use all of the modes of communication at their disposal to reach out to the students. So it would be calling and emailing.”

Neither of these methods did much, so Page and Castleman decided to reach teens through their mobile devices and via one of the activities they enjoy most--texting.  

“It’s a deceptively simple idea,” Page noted.  

Page and Castleman devised an experiment in the summer of 2012, starting with groups of recent high school graduates in Texas and Massachusetts. Some students received 10 reminders over a set period suggesting they complete paperwork, fill out housing forms, and take placement tests. Other students did not receive texts.  

The overall results of the experiment, which will be published later this year in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, showed Page and Castleman that their “deceptively simple” solution could work very well in the real world.

“This is definitely something that is very promising,” Page said. 

Delaware was the first state to utilize the texting program. Each of its 8,726 high school seniors were eligible to receive text messages, which started in January as opposed to the summer. More than 4,000 students have enrolled as a result, as have 363 of their parents. 

The state’s computer program sends out 400 texts over two-hour period about three times each month. Texts are streamlined to the phase of the students’ application process, for example those who have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form would receive different notifications that those who have not. And once schools are chosen, many students receive text messages concerning their future plans. 

“Even after students apply to college there are many time-sensitive tasks they need to keep up with,” Page said. “Really the goal is to say hey, don’t forget you need to do this thing. Do you have questions about doing this?”

Will more states implement this system? It seems quite likely.