The SMS Marketing Blog

[ By Ez Texting ]

Recent EZ Texting Enhancements...and More to Come

EZ Texting is dedicated to ensuring that our industry leading text communications platform remains at the top of its game.  To that end, we’re always releasing updates, enhancements, and other improvements.  Check out some of the items we’ve released over the past six months!

 

Virtual Phone Numbers

Virtual phone numbers allow you to conduct one-on-one correspondence — such as for customer support or appointment scheduling and reminders.

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Zendesk Integration

Zendesk is one of the world’s most widely used customer support platforms. EZ Texting’s Zendesk integration allows you to receive and reply to support tickets via text, and gives end customers an easy and convenient way to get help when and how they want.

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Data Uploading

EZ Texting’s redesigned data uploading tool makes adding new contacts to your account a snap.

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Advanced Search and Filtering

Reporting on sent messages just got easier with advanced search and filtering enhancements.  Search by group, contact name, and number, and filter by date range, message type, recipients, date range, and more.  Once you’ve filtered your data, export it with ease!

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In addition, we’ve implemented some changes that, while not readily visible, are no less important.  These infrastructure upgrades allow your largest campaigns to go out without a hitch.

Stay tuned for more!  The second half of 2016 will see several new features, including:

  • Additional reporting enhancements will enable you to slice, dice, filter, and export the specific data you need.  Use message tagging to identify different types of messages and group them for intuitive analysis and reporting.
  • A handy reminder wizard will allow you to proactively manage time-dependent messaging:  payment reminders, birthday messages, appointment reminders, and more.
  • With an upcoming data capture add-on tool, you’ll be able to capture more than your contacts’ phone numbers when they opt in to your lists.

Research Shows 'Texting Rhythm' in Brainwaves

 

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A new study shows that texting can change a human’s brain waves. According to researchers, people who use their smartphones to send text messages have what’s referred to as a “texting rhythm” that’s detectable upon evaluation of their brains.

Little is known about the neurological effects of smartphones on humans, aside from this bit of fresh fodder; but scientists are coming to find out more about how our brains function while using the devices. The study analyzed data from 129 participants, all whom were monitored for more than 15 months via video footage and electroencephalograms (EEGs). It found the unique “rhythm” in about one out of five participants, all of whom had their brain waves monitored as they used their smartphones to send texts.

 

The Mayo Clinic Study

Researchers working at the Mayo Clinic in the United States found this “texting rhythm” after asking study participants to take part in various activities using their smartphones, such as sending normal text messages, tapping their fingers on their devices’ screen, and using the phones’ audio telephone capabilities. All of these tasks were to evaluate cognitive and attention function.

Only sending text messages caused the brain rhythm to change in study participants. Researchers think that it’s the combination of auditory-verbal and motor neurological activity, combined with mental activity, that creates these unique brainwaves. Further, there seems to be no correlation between the “texting rhythm” and the participants’ demographic profiles, such as gender, age, detection of an existing brain lesion, or epileptic history.

 

Further Findings Including iPad Use

William Tatum, director of the epilepsy center and the epilepsy-monitoring unit at the Mayo Clinic, led the study and says that the new brain rhythm is largely connected to a vastly distributed network that is increased by emotion or attention. He states that the “texting rhythm” is an “objective metric” of the human brain’s capability of processing non-verbal data while using an electronic device.

Researchers hypothesized that the “texting rhythm” might only be found in participants using mobile devices that could fit in their hands, because these devices have small screens and require greater concentration. They saw, however, that the rhythm was also present in the participants who messaged on iPads. 

 

Can We Use This Data to Reach Any Conclusions?

The Mayo Clinic study could provide significant implications when it comes to conversations about interfacing with computers and even driving. Tatum says that we now have a biological reason to refrain from texting and driving. Texting changes brain waves, so people (especially heavy-texting millennials) need to avoid doing so while operating a car.

Tatum also states that there is a lot more research that needs to be done to understand the brain responses generated when a human sends a text. The complete Mayo Clinic study was published in Epilepsy and Behaviour, a medical journal.

84 Percent of Millennials Act on Mobile Push Notifications

 

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If you’re a business owner, the fact that 84 percent of millennials act on mobile push notifications is something to definitely capitalize on...and quick. The location-based mobile platform Retale commissioned a study on the subject in September of 2015, which polled 500 millennial adult men and women age 18-34 years old all over the United States. 

The study found that 94 percent of the millennial generation use location-based services, or apps that identify a person’s location. Retail establishments and brands frequently use such apps to send consumers information about products and services at stores near their locations. These services are a bit more popular among millennial iPhone users at 97 percent than they are among millennial Android users at 93 percent. 

 

Acting On Push Notifications

Some 84 percent of millennials respond to push notifications. Engagement following push notifications from brands is high at 83 percent, with men more likely to follow through on push notifications than women at 86 percent and 79 percent, respectively. Some 89 percent of millennials will act on push notifications from favorite brands, with men again more likely to act than women at 91 percent and 85 percent. As previously mentioned, iPhone users are more active on mobile devices in terms of push notifications than their Android counterparts at 92 percent and 86 percent. 

 

Preferred Info

In terms of the types of information millennials like to receive when push notifications pop up, most want deals and discounts (shocking!). Coupons, “instant” deals, customer rewards, sales, and new product information are among the favorite push notification topics, as are store locations, hours, and in-store guidance as to where products are located. Receipts following purchase completion are also among preferred push notification information. 

 

Reasons for No Response

When asked about reasons for not responding to push notifications, millennials cited lack of relevance, intrusion/too many notifications, poor timing, and lack of deals. Considering that 80 percent of millennials look at their devices first thing in the morning and 78 percent spend two or more hours on their devices each day, businesses having issues engaging consumers with push notifications should revamp their mobile marketing strategies.

 

Mobile Marketing Campaign Tips

Whether you are looking to revitalize your push notification strategy or are otherwise working on a new mobile marketing campaign, consider the following tips to help you get the most from your efforts: 

 

  • Text Instead of Call: Millennials might spend half their lives on their phones, but that doesn’t mean they want you to call them and interrupt their days. Opt for SMS messaging instead and go the non-invasive route. 
  • Get Personal: The millennial generation is used to brand customization and essentially getting what it wants when it wants it. Personalize your campaigns based on demographics and buying interests to pique millennial interest. 
  • Think About Security: Security is a constant mobile technology issue, and millennials are very protective of their personal information. Keep this in mind at all times and ensure your mobile options are safe and secure. 

 

Make push notifications work for you…. and enjoy the results.

How Mobile Technology Is Providing Food Security Data in DRC

 

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In many rural places of the world that have shortages of food, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where one in 10 people do not have enough to eat, the Word Food Programme (WFP) relies on food monitoring systems operated via mobile technology. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the second-largest country in Africa and a land filled with fertile soil and abundant rivers, food insecurity or “the availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food” remains a concern and a crisis.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been involved in wars and rebellions for the last 20 years or more. Like countries in similar circumstances, it has had its entire food system disrupted and much of its population displaced. The WFP is using new mobile technology to monitor, and provide, food in these vulnerable communities. It has been using smartphones and voice recognition software to collect food security information on a regular basis since 2014.

 

Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM)

Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) is a project that 15 countries throughout the world have implemented to monitor food security. The first pilot for the program took place in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and its successfully been replicated in Mugunga III, which is a site that hosts more than 4,600 people near Goma. These early mobile data collection projects in DRC will likely be copied in other areas of the province, in the months ahead, and food price collection information will be introduced throughout the nation. 

The primary goal of mVAM is to gather data on food access, price, consumption and coping mechanisms (per household level) remotely. This allows the WFP to access food security in a specific zone in a better way, and it lets the organization provide emergency help if possible. Each month, WFP employees Jean-Marie Kaseku and Mireille Hangi call nearly 300 respondents who live in Mugunga II, and they ask them several targeted and specific questions. They want to know exactly how many days out of the last seven they ate protein, fats, and cereals. They inquire about what coping mechanisms they used if they did not have enough food to eat. They hope to find out if individuals had to borrow money to eat, reduce rations so all family members could eat, or decrease daily meal intake.

 

Remote Data Collection Proves Easier

In countries where infrastructure, like roads, has been damaged, it’s often difficult to know if populations are eating and thriving. Without a means to meet face to face for interviews, remote data collection proves more flexible. This method for gathering data is also more cost effective and quicker. Compare a phone call and technological analysis of data to other methods, such as in-person interviews that cost $20 to $40 per family or transcription of those meetings that might take four to six weeks.

The WFP project is particularly useful in areas of extreme vulnerability and illiteracy. With the mobile food security data collection project, the WFP is able to understand at a more effective level what people need and how to get it to them.

Major Hospitals Turn to Mobile Technology

 

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Some of the largest hospitals in the United States are turning to mobile technology as a primary means of communication. These big healthcare facilities are already using mobile health apps and other tech platforms, or they’re planning on it, says a survey put out recently by mHealth consulting firm, Spyglass Consulting Group.

The group surveyed 19 major hospitals in the U.S. and found that 63 percent of them had an mHealth communications platform in place that would support at minimum 500 web-enabled devices, or that they had intentions of employing such a platform in the next 12 to 18 months. The reach for each would be at least 500 mobile devices and smartphones, but some could connect with more than 5,000 devices.

 

For Doctors and Patients

Hospital mHealth strategies and plans put doctors, and patients, in communication with one another through mobile technology. Gregg Malkary, Spyglass founder and managing director, says that mobile devices like smartphones are now replacing desktop computers, landline phones, and pagers as a preferred means of communicating and accessing patient data. The mHealth apps and technology allow for retrieval of important information, and response to pressing matters, from any location at nearly any time. 

 

All Hospital Departments Are On Board

With the integration of mHealth mobile technology into a hospital’s day-to-day routine, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, financial personnel, information technology professions, and ancillary care workers are all able to come on board to best support the care of patients. Patients today are looking at their healthcare options as they would any other choices in any other industry. They’re checking out what hospitals offer and assessing which ones will ultimately make their care easiest. This means they’re often choosing to get treatment done at hospitals that communicate seamlessly between departments, which is where mobile health technology can come in.

 

Security and Reliability

Of course, having access to easy communication and patient data retrieval is not all that’s required when implementing a mobile health technology system. Security and system reliability are crucial. At the 19 big hospitals surveyed, patients and doctors are finding that these needs are being met across the board, throughout the hospital’s departments. From radiology to housekeeping, different professionals at the facilities have their needs met with the current mHealth platforms.

Spyglass also reported that 83 percent of people surveyed said they required a mobile health communication platform that was comprehensive in scope, meaning it worked for them inside of the hospital and out. Seventy-eight percent thought that, for any mHealth platform to succeed, it would need to have a tightly integrated IT infrastructure and be available on a large scale. Out of all the respondents, 50 percent said that the existing tools available to them offer limited options for reporting and analyzing data. 

Malkary stressed that all of the U.S. health provider organizations reported that any smartphone communication system considered would need to be highly reliable, easily manageable, scalable, and support the critical mission of patient communication.

Staying HIPAA Compliant Under the New Mobile Guidelines

 

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Text messaging has become a way of life and a primary means of communication, which means that even our doctors are sending us texts regarding prescriptions and other matters concerning our health care. For many, this type of communication is well received and easy to engage in. But with the new convenience comes the need to make sure that mobile messaging is Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant.

Text Messaging and Healthcare Requires Extra Precautions

The Pew Research Center says that almost two thirds of people in the United States own smartphones, which means there’s a good chance that patients and doctors are used to communicating via text messaging. Both of these groups likely feel comfortable exchanging SMS messages in the course of discussing patient orders and treatment. But in a healthcare setting, SMS service takes on extreme importance. 

The Joint Commission recently said it’s acceptable to use text messaging to submit patient orders, within certain parameters, but it cautions that critical steps are needed to remain HIPAA compliant. Firstly, it says that in order for text messaging regarding health to be compliant, people must be happy with the service. According to Al Villarin, MD – a CMIO at IT consulting firm Burwood Group – compliance begins with a contract between the clinical and the technical. To remain compliant, any healthcare tool must fit easily into an existing workflow and be well received by everyone in the loop.

Burwood Group executive director Tim Needham, who oversees healthcare solutions delivery practice, agrees and says that new communications systems succeed only if they can involve the entirely of the participants. Physicians, therefore, must only use technology – in this case SMS services – if they deliver value and are efficient. Otherwise, healthcare practitioners and patients will revert back to the default methods that they know.

 

Careful Consideration of Text Messaging Services Is needed

To remain compliant, it’s important that healthcare facilities and professionals carefully screen potential SMS services to make sure they offer secure communication systems and ease of use. Thankfully, most vendors in this area have focused on security and ease – and therefore HIPAA compliance – for the last few years. They’ve developed tools that seem to be well adopted across departments. Still, finding those sms services that the entire industry takes hold of is another story. This has been difficult; the potential is there to make healthcare communications more organized for all professionals and patients.

As part of the HIPAA compliance evaluation process, it’s imperative that each hospital and physician’s office take the time to analyze the effectiveness of its mobile communications – and then make necessary adjustments if needed. A tool is only as good as its ability to serve the people, and compliance is most likely found when it can be proven that all parties feel satisfied with the service used.

SMS Can Help Smokers Kick the Habit

 

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Data collected from multiple recent studies show that SMS messages can help smokers kick their habits. Research focused on smokers receiving encouraging messages like “Be strong” and “You can do it!” revealed that these text interventions are helpful in getting smokers to abstain.

The researchers behind the study used meta analysis, a technique that combines findings from many independent studies, to arrive at their conclusion. The scientific team analyzed 20 manuscripts that documented 22 SMS messaging interventions dealing with curbing smoking in 20 countries. It sought out information about how mHealth text messaging – with a specific health issue in mind – could directly impact decisions made by individuals that could positively impact their states of wellness.

 

mHealth Via SMS Service to Meet People Where They Are

Receiving a personalized message regarding a health issue might be what it takes to get an individual to finally make the connection that choices are contributing to sickness. This is the focus of the mHealth text messages that are delivered straight to those who have agreed to participate in the trial. The SMS messages are short, direct, and supportive comments that remind receives about poor health choices and offer education. They’re messages a friend might send, and more.

The SMS interventions ideally will be adapted to suit the participants’ lives and natural environments. They’ll be on-point, regularly scheduled, convenient reminders to take immediate action toward smoking cessation (and hopefully other bad lifestyle choices in the future).

 

More Research and Trials are Needed

 

The study’s lead researcher, Lori Scott-Sheldon from Brown University, says that the evidence revealed in the trials provides inarguable support for the effectiveness of SMS messaging interventions. She offers that these messages have absolutely reduced smoking behavior, but more research is necessary to understand exactly how the interventions work, why they work, and under what conditions they’re most effective.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research published the study. Scott-Sheldon added that tobacco use is a preventable health issue and one of the leading preventable concerns. This is why, she purports, text messaging shows such promise. The SMS services are low cost, they’re able to reach a wide audience, and they don’t take many resources to implement. The mHealth messages, Sheldon-Scott says, should be a “public health priority” so that smokers can get the intervention they desperately need. 

Since SMS messaging has reached near-market saturation, it makes sense that the technology be used as an easy, cost-effective, and direct means to get health information out to the public – and to hopefully influence individuals in a way that creates immediate positive changes in their lifestyles. 

There are not many groups in the United States, or in the world, who do not have access to text messaging, and therefore the potential for an SMS service like the stop-smoking texts is great. A senior research scientist at The Mirian Hospitals Centres for Behavioural and Preventative Medicine, Beth Bock says that widespread availability of a good stop-smoking program can make a powerful statement – and impact – on public health.

'Marcher' Malware Targeting European Bank Customers

 

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Android mobile device users in the UK have a serious potential problem to deal with. A destructive piece of malware that steals banking usernames and passwords, called “Marcher” malware, is targeting their private information.

“Marcher” has been ripping off Android users’ logins since 2013, when the cyber fraud program entered the underground forums for Russian speakers. In the beginning, the malware only went after credit card info by overlaying a phony screen on the Google Play store, which asked for credit card numbers, expiration dates, and codes from users. Then it targeted large banks and financial services, focusing on companies in Germany.

The evolution of Marcher now threatens those who bank with financial companies in Germany, the UK, France, Austria, Turkey, and Australia. Marcher only attacks Android devices; there are no reports of an iOS Marcher malware version.

 

Specific Targets Within the Android Market

Android users who have the popular KitKat, Jelly Bean, and Lollipop versions installed on their mobile devices are among those hardest hit with the Marcher malware infection, according to Check Point security company researchers. These users have frequently been receiving phishing emails that purport to be a Flash update. After users click the links in their emails, which they think will let them upgrade their OS and safeguard their devices against identity theft and data loss, Marcher’s process of devastation starts.

The three-step road to havoc involves deception and trickery, as users are coaxed into enabling the installation of the malicious app (outside of the Google Play store) and installing it, which leads to the fake overlay screens popping up on bank apps to gather personal information. These overlays are made to look like necessary components of users’ approved banking applications. Check Point says that they’re easy to create and often programmed by individuals that the original malware operators have outsourced.

 

Banking Apps Are the Target, But Not the Only Victim

About 88 percent of the apps that Marcher targets are banking applications, but this malware also goes after airline, ecommerce, and payment system apps. The primary goal of the malware is to steal login information, which allows easy access to personal information, funds, and more.

IBM says that Marcher’s capabilities turn users’ mobile devices into tools that can harvest authentication elements and credentials whenever the criminals’ needs arise. When a mobile phone or tablet becomes infected with Marcher, those who control the malware can continue to send text messages encouraging users to go to their mobile banking apps and give up private details. This is often done by sending an SMS message that claims money has deposited into a user’s account. 

IBM states that users are typically curious, and that they follow up on the SMS message by checking their accounts right away for the unexpected transfers. Unfortunately, the fake overlay is waiting for them, and it steals their banking credentials. This is possible because the Trojan hijacks the text message, and it fetches for overlays that match a long list of banking apps that the user might have on his or her device. 

These deceptions are just a couple of the ways that Marcher is creating mayhem for Android users. As is true with other malware programs, a crucial way to avoid the devastation is to carefully monitor the SMS messages that arrive on your mobile devices. IBM suggests that Android users not follow any URLs from text messages or emails that offer unexpected perks, bonuses, problems, or tools. It’s best to treat these messages with extreme caution, and to delete them immediately and follow up on issues of concern by phone or on a separate device.