Imagine you’re one of the millions of mobile subscribers who have signed up for SMS offers and alerts from a brand. You love getting special offers and last-minute deals right on your phone and remain in the program for almost a year. Eventually, for whatever reason, you decide you don’t want to receive those messages on your phone any more. You reply STOP to the short code they’re coming from and receive a text back letting you know you’re unsubscribed and won’t receive any more messages. Is that final message – the one letting you know you’re unsubscribed – in violation of your request to be unsubscribed?
It’s perhaps a silly question that resulted in a not-so-silly class action lawsuit last year. Banking and financial services company Barclays dished out $8 million last year in response to a class action law suit that used a 1990s-era telecommunications law to claim the confirmation text was illegal. Barclays wasn’t alone; Bank of America, Gamestop, American Express, Twitter, and Facebook were among other companies threatened with class action lawsuits.
The lawsuits posed something of a Catch-22 for mobile marketers: the Mobile Marketing Association and CTIA require that final confirmation message, but the threat of legal backlash frightened many marketers to not include and hope they weren’t audited by the CTIA. However, an important new ruling from the FFC last week has struck down these class action lawsuits and empowered mobile marketers to send that final confirmation message. AdAge reports, “The FCC’s declaratory ruling released Thursday confirmed that companies and organizations may legally follow industry best practices and send a final, onetime text to confirm receipt of a consumer’s opt-out request of a text messaging program.”
The result is removing an unnecessary legal strain on the industry and empowers marketers to spend their time crafting new and exciting mobile initiatives for their subscribers.
For more coverage, check out the full AdAge article here.
Wide-scale natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake demonstrate the power of Mother Nature to devastate areas of the world in a matter of moments. They also demonstrate the power of the mobile channel to empower concerned citizens to fund relief and reconstruction efforts immediately. This post is an overview of how these donations work, what limitations they have, and what other mobile solutions exist for charitable organizations.
Many activities traditionally done in person, by mail or online are now being accomplished on mobile devices, including philanthropy. According the Pew Research Center, about 1 in 10 US Adults (9%) have made a charitable contribution using text messaging. These small donations, usually capped at $5 or $10, appear on a mobile user’s phone bill and are facilitated by two “trusted third party” organizations. Through special negotiations with wireless carriers, the mGive Foundation and Mobile Giving Foundation are able to conduct 100% pass-through mobile donation campaigns. Normally, wireless carriers take a hefty percentage to process payments, especially with premium rate programs which deliver ringtones and other content, and, until recently, with political contributions.
These small donations without any processing fees can add up when a cause is widely publicized. “Mobile giving played an especially prominent role during the aftermath of the January 2010 Haiti earthquake,” Aaron Smith of the Pew Internet Project writes, “as individual donors contributed an estimated $43 million to the assistance and reconstruction efforts using the text messaging feature on their cell phones.” But for smaller charities with less shocking and time-sensitive causes, the outcome might not be as great. Smith found that the 2010 Haiti donations tended to be impulsive – done immediately in response to a televised call-to-action – and that the donor mobile donors tended not to follow the reconstruction efforts closely after their donation. In short, these gifts were small, one-off, impulsive contributions that didn’t allow for further cultivation or growth.
An alternative solution is a mobile pledge program. Text DONATE to 30364 for a demo of SMS pledge flow. Once a donor replies with their pledge amount, an alert can be sent to an email address or mobile number with the contact information to follow-up. This personalization allows for a deeper relationship to be built between the donor and organization, whereas carriers do not share any donor information when processing mobile donations. To summarize, mobile pledge programs
- Do not have a limit on donation size
- Provide the opportunity to capture demographic information about your donors
- Open the door to cultivate an ongoing relationship with the donor.
Mobile donation SMS programs are a strong demonstration of the power of mobile on a large scale, but they are best suited to widely publicized tragedies that are in need of immediate funds. Other charitable organizations are better suited to take advantage of mobile to cultivate a deeper relationship with their donors and ensure they remain on their giving list for the future.
“You have WON the $1000 BestBuy Card drawing!” “A $500 Wal-mart gift card is waiting for you!” “Congratulations on your new FREE iPad!”
Everyone hates spam, especially on your mobile phone. Of all the channels spammers use to illegally and unethically contact you, though your mobile phone is actually one of the most protected. This post is going to cover how spammers do what they do, whose combating them, and how shortcode programs differentiate themselves from spam in the mobile space.
1) How can I become a spammer?
If you decide to hang in the towel at your reputable day job, you’ll need three things to become a scumbag spammer: (1) a list of mobile numbers, (2) a message to send, and (3) a way to send that message.
- To get a list of mobile numbers, you can buy it from a company that does that sort of thing or automatically generate one through good ol’ fashioned guessing. Write a quick script that automatically guesses mobile phone numbers; most of the time it’ll be wrong, but occasionally you’ll be able to illegally and unethically send your message to someone.
- Secondly, your spam campaign is going to need some content. If you’re a part of a radical political or social group, look no further than your founder’s manifesto; but if you’re resorting to spamming for commercial purposes, you can promote your product or mount a phishing scam to steal little old ladies’ credit card numbers.
- Lastly, you’ll need a way to send these messages. You’ve got a few channels: longcodes, shortcodes, and email. Longcodes are regular 10-digit cell phone numbers you can pick up from any cell phone store. Shortcodes are a 4-5 digit code that requires provisioning and carrier approval, which can take a while and might not work if you’re a spammer. Email takes advantage of the fact that everyone’s mobile number is also an email address based on their carrier (i.e. email@example.com), so when you program that code to guess, you can have it guess carrier to and try to reach people this way. The favorite medium of choice for spammers is longcodes since they’re inexpensive and difficult to track.
So what – besides a basic ethical conscience – is stopping everyone from turning to a sinister life of stealing information from unsuspecting mobile users?
2) Who is combating spam?
There are several entities that are dedicated to making sure the mobile space stays a valuable space for consumers, marketers, and brands.
- Mobile Marketing Association is a worldwide non-profit trade association established to foster growth of mobile marketing. They publish a best practices document which is the mobile marketing bible. If you’ve ever heard the term “compliance,” it refers to being compliant with MMA’s Best Practices.
- CTIA, which originally stood for Cellular Telephone Industry Association, is an industry trade group that advocates for legislation and regulation in the mobile space. They also conduct audits, so if there’s an opt-in shortcode program out there that isn’t playing by the rules, they’ll hear from the CTIA.
- U.S. Government has passed legislation that makes SMS spam illegal. While enforcement is always difficult, there have been a few class action lawsuits that have fined some spammers substantial amounts (~$500 per spam message)
- Carriers are committed to curbing spam, too. If their subscribers are getting continually spammed, they’re might start to lose customers. We can actually help them police the space, as well. If you receive a spam message, you can copy and forward to text to the shortcode 7726 (that’s “SPAM” on most keypads) on most major carriers. Your carrier will then prompt you to reply with the phone number that sent the spam message to you. This data is then aggregated to identify the most prolific culprits, but again, nothing is to keep the spammer from just buying a new track phone.
3) How can I tell what is and isn’t spam?
Opt-in messages and alerts are often confused with spam since they might appear similarly on a user’s phone. However, opt-in shortcode programs are designed to deliver relevant content to subscribers who want them and give permission to brands to send them. Whether it’s a mobile coupon, an information alert, or an interactive instant win promotion or sweepstakes, we allow brands to engage with their subscribers to build a database of users who want to connect with them. Furthermore, opt-in programs are required to inform subscribers up-front about what they’ve signed up for and how they can get it out of it. An initial compliance message includes:
- Description of the messages you’ll be receiving
- Knowledge that message and data rates apply
- Expected messaged frequency
- Ability to text HELP for additional information
- Ability to unsubscribe by texting STOP or STOPALL
These regulations are required for shortcode programs, so you can be confident when you receive a message from a 4-5 digit number, rather than spam from a longcode or SMS email.
There are terrible scumbags out there who are abusing SMS to spam people – you might be one of them – but know that there are very big entities combating it. And Cellit: ePrize Mobile Solutions is committed to running compliant shortcode programs to connect brands and businesses with the subscribers that want to interact with them.
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In this cost driven society, we are constantly looking for barometers by which to easily measure the products and services we buy and buying these products at the best price possible. Regardless of whether it’s for personal or business applications- as we might be considering hiring an appliance repairman and comparing the cost of in-home service calls, or perhaps a media buyer evaluating cost-per-points of television show to advertise on, or even a business looking for rental space by calculating price per square foot; all have standard gages by which to easily measure comparative efficiencies.
In those engagements, do those responsible for contracting or purchasing really ask the right questions? For instance, while the repairman might charge less than his competitors, how much experience does he have with your brand of appliance? In the case of the media buyer looking for the lowest cost per point programming, do those television shows have the appropriate demographic and psychographic composition for the product you’re advertising? And if it’s a business looking for the least expensive cost per square foot, wouldn’t it be important to know about any potential maintenance issues tenants have experienced?
However, if we choose to neglect our responsibilities, to ourselves or to our companies, and rely too heavily on rudimentary one-dimensional metrics, are we truly getting the best price, are we getting the best value?
The answer is an unequivocal ‘no’.
Mobile marketing, still a relatively new frontier, frequently struggles to fight against having antiquated, commodity based metrics assigned to it, as if it were a traditional (also read “fledgling”) media outlet. So, as print is evaluated by circulation, radio and television by cost per thousand/point and outdoor by daily effective circulation (DEC’s)- mobile application service providers (SMS companies) are more often rivaled by cost per text by the un-savvy majority.
For those looking for a SMS technology partner, the cost-per-text is merely one small component- it’s the platform and people that really count if you want a successful program. However, knowing what to ask, beyond cost-per-text, in order to discern between mobile providers is seemingly the greatest challenge for entering the space; perhaps we can offer some assistance to make sure you are getting the best value for the price.
Ask your prospective partners the following ten questions:
- Is the solution developed in-house or white labeled? If the company is white-labeling (rebranding) an SMS platform and reselling to you, it’s a huge red flag and you should immediately dismiss them from the vetting process. Mobile marketing is both a technical and marketing solution with special nuances that require area expertise. Your risks for being sued are exponentially greater the further you’re removed from the platform and its experts that are there to keep you safe.
- How long have they been in the mobile business? If it is a number less than 5 years, there are so many experienced players, no reason to suffer through the growing pains of a small company, or be victim to their freshman mistakes.
- Do they self-aggregate and/or use Tier 1 aggregators? If they are not capable of self-aggregation, keep looking, their know-how is limited and connectivity to carriers will not cast a wide enough net. Those small regional carriers are important as customers look at that lack of ability to engage a brand as a function of your company, not the device or carrier they’ve chosen- connectivity is key.
- What is their message throughput? If they can’t deliver messaging in excess of 400 per second, your messages are likely to get severely delayed the larger your database becomes; since SMS is all about targeted timeliness, long delays is not a negotiable you can compromise on.
- What is the company’s guaranteed uptime? Anything short of 98.5% is wholly unacceptable with 99.5%+ being the basic benchmark. Small mobile marketing companies will probably be unable to share any reporting figures, while larger one could likely provide you with formal internal audits. If the platform is not operating, either is your mobile solution – meaning you’re not paying anything for a text as they aren’t being sent.
- Are they using an SMPP or SMTP solution? If they use an SMTP protocol, well, that’s not shortcode text messaging, its just email to a phone number and provides none of the benefits of a true SMS service- its like using an abacus for a calculus problem- hang up and call the next vendor on the list.
- How many local, regional and national clients does the company support? Many of the smaller companies will use national logos while it may just be a single franchisee in a small market for which they are providing solutions. Don’t be fooled by the marketing. If a company does not provide services to several companies on a national basis, they probably don’t have a solution that has been fully tested and is truly viable.
- Does the company have additional mobile technology assets it can help your business leverage? Indeed SMS is just one part of the mobile ecosystem, however, integrating mobile websites, applications and other nifty overlays to include MMS, coupon redemption, location based services and QR codes also play a role. Mobile marketing providers who do not have these capabilities are too one-dimensional and you’ll most certainly out grow them before your contract ends.
- For those businesses looking to use mobile coupons, does the mobile provider have the ability to integrate with Point-of-Sale (POS) systems? Few companies would consider ‘show-your-phone’ as an adequate way to track and redeem mobile coupons. But single-use, dynamically generated codes that can be entered and tracked in a POS system is a closed-loop solution vital to any organization. If the mobile provider can’t do this, they shouldn’t have your business.
- What kind of account support does the company provide? Mobile marketing has several unique components relative to compliance (with serious legal ramifications) and best practices to keep your users engaged- being provided a user name and password into an SMS software suite will not suffice, you need ongoing training, support and concepting to keep your business lawsuit free and make your mobile program a valuable part of the overall marketing mix.
So, as one can see, mobile marketing has a number of critical layers that go well beyond just the cost of a text message. Assigning the appropriate worth to each of these ten important components will help arm the mobile decision maker with the tools to choose the best value partner. Indeed, the path of least initial resistance is to take a commodity stance, but there isn’t an educated mobile marketing expert that would tell you this is the course you should choose for either a short-term program or a long-term solution. Of course, if you need assistance navigating the mobile marketing waters and helping determine what the best value proposition is for your business, please contact Cellit and we’ll gladly assist.