Texting News

Expert Interview Series: Laurie McCabe of SMB Group on Technology for Small Businesses

In her role as cofounder and partner at SMB Group, Laurie McCabe has earned widespread recognition for her thought leadership, experience and insights in the SMB technology market.

Here she discusses the technology challenges facing small businesses today and the must-have tools to overcome them. Read on:

What is the mission behind SMB Group? How did you become passionate about helping small businesses?

Both myself and my business partner, Sanjeev Aggarwal, had been industry analyst focused on the small and medium business market for many years. We felt there was a gap in coverage - most IT analyst firms concentrate on technology as it relates to large companies. So we created SMB Group to focus exclusively on how SMBs use technology in their businesses.

What are some of the technology challenges facing small businesses today?

Our research shows that small business goals remain consistent over the years. How do I grow revenues, attract customers and operate more profitabily are always at the top of the list.

But these challenges loom larger today because digital, social and mobile technologies are changing how businesses and customers interact in a fundamental way. Technology shifts power to buyers.

For instance:
 

    • The internet makes it easy for buyers to do more research on their own before connecting with vendors.

 

    • Social media gives buyers access to ratings and reviews from thousands of other people that have tried a product or services. to .

 

    • Mobile devices put the internet it peoples' pockets for anytime, anywhere access to information.

So small businesses need to have a strategy to evolve and tools to help them meet these rising expectations.

From where you sit, what are some must-have tools for SMBs today?

Of course, every business needs to keep track of money going in and out of the business, so an accounting or bookkeeping solution is often the first type of business software that many small businesses buy.

Today, small businesses also need tools to attract, engage and transact with customers, which are usually called customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. There are lots of solutions out there for small businesses, but I recommend looking for a solution which integrates sales, marketing and service, and enables you to integrate social media interactions into these functions so you can easily bring the voice of the customer into every part of the customer life cycle.

What are the most useful tools for SMBs for mobile and social media marketing?

Most businesses need solutions that let them easily monitor, post and respond to what people are talking about across the different social networks that are relevant to their business, whether via your desktop or via a mobile device. But it doesn't stop there. A good digital marketing strategy connects your website, nurtures leads, includes online and mobile advertising and provides analytics so you can figure out what's working and what's not.

How should small businesses be incorporating mobile marketing into their marketing strategies?

First, they need to recognize that people are increasingly spending more time engaging and transacting on mobile devices than on desktops or laptops. So now is the time for small businesses to create a mobile marketing strategy.

The good news is there are lots of choices out there in terms of how to do this. The bad news is that it can be very challenging to figure out which one is the best fit for your business. So you have to start with an internal assessment. I think having a mobile-friendly website is table stakes for all businesses. From there, think about what you're trying to accomplish For instance, a small local services business, like a salon or dental office, will want something that helps people in their local community find them, book appointments, share reviews, earn loyalty points, etc. within a local geographic area. Meanwhile, for an online commerce merchant selling products all over the world, mobile payments and in-app messaging may be the must-have capabilities.

What SMBs do you think have been especially innovative with their mobile marketing? What can we learn from them? What are the most exciting technology innovations for small businesses you're following right now?

For small businesses, it all boils down to making complex technology solutions easy to use. If they're not drop dead easy, most small businesses won't use them. In the mobile marketing area, vendors are making mobile marketing tools easier and easier to use, while at the same time incorporating more capabilities, such as push notifications, in-app messaging and many more, to help you market your business. Making solutions very easy to use is a key because it enables small businesses - who may be hesitant to get involved with mobile because they are afraid it will be too hard to do or too time-consuming.

Looking for an easy-to-use mobile marketing solution? Try ClubTexting for free.

Expert Interview Series: Gil Shapira of TeleMessage About the Impact of Mass Text Messaging

Gil Shapira is the VP of Business Development at TeleMessage, a leading provider of business mobile messaging offering mass messaging and secure compliant mobile messaging solutions. Gil recently spoke with us about the growth and capabilities of mass text messaging and gave us a glimpse as to what the industry will look like in the future.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to co-found TeleMessage?

TeleMessage is an established company which has provided robust messaging services for the last 16 years. It all started when we were backpacking around the world. We were looking for low-cost ways to exchange messages between travelers and families back home, and the idea was to send messages to phones from a web portal.

What are some of the benefits of mass text messaging that aren't necessarily seen when relying solely on emails?

Nowadays, people are looking for a mobile-first solution, and I believe that the tremendous growth of text messaging speaks for itself. Mobile messaging is the fastest growing online trend and behavior (passing social networks). It passed three billion mobile messaging app users worldwide. If you take into account SMS messaging, you can actually reach seven billion mobile users worldwide - which is the single most ubiquitous communication channel in a fragmented chat apps world.

Mobile phones take up the most digital time and attention, and chat and messaging apps are amongst the most-used services on phones. Unlike email, text messages usually receive a response within 90 seconds. Moreover, in most chat apps, you know whether recipients have received and read the message.

Chat apps offer far more services and features than email. They are built for mobile devices because they are faster, instant, and more secure. Plus, they allow voice and text, group chat, file sharing, channels, stickers, media, and video messages. And they are clearly better-suited for a world that is concerned with security and privacy.

If someone were to say to you, "I don't need mass text messaging. I'll just communicate with my clients and customers through social media," how would you respond?

I would not rule out social media as a channel; but for the majority of companies as well as customers, mobile is clearly the preferred channel of communication. It's uncommon to find companies doing social engagement and not doing mobile engagement. Surprisingly, there are still a lot of companies that are not utilizing mobile texting at all. Some companies are still doing only voice or email, and they are missing out on big opportunities in both cost savings, proactive engagement, and improved efficiency and innovation.

In what situations are automated voice broadcasts more practical or effective than simple text messages or emails?

There are still many use cases where voice is a very important channel.

Let's take an example of emergency notifications with time-critical information. If you would send it only via email or text, people might not notice an email or hear a beep of an SMS arriving. But if the phone starts to ring and vibrate, they will surely notice it.

In our platform, we have the ability to track delivery confirmations or send chasing messages that will try to reach people across many channels, including IP push notifications to apps, SMS, MMS, voice calls, faxes, and emails.

Do you have any tips on how to craft a mass text message if time-sensitive responses are critical to the campaign?

Try to make it personal. Schedule the message to be sent at the best time to trigger a response. Don't send too many messages; people are already overloaded with messages and information.

Other things to consider:

    • Try to utilize templates and plan for two-way interaction.

 

    • If you can, try to automate the process by using APIs.

 

  • An email to SMS might be a good solution for some companies using Outlook as their main messaging tool.

When utilizing mass text messaging, what are some important metrics to keep an eye on?

This needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, since different companies and services have different goals and metrics.

For example, some are trying to decrease support calls into their call center and might measure how many hours they saved by sending proactive alerts. Others want the opposite and are trying to generate more responses and calls for ordering goods and services. What is truly important is to choose a messaging solution vendor that can provide tailored reports and statistics.

Tracking message delivery statistics is a must for everyone, since the quality of delivery is of great importance. Though companies are not aware of it, there are different routes and ways to send messages; and there are also regulations about when you can use long codes or short codes, as well as what information needs to be delivered to subscribers and the processes for opting in and out of a messaging service.

Tell us about the future of mass text messaging. Will another method of messaging render it obsolete, or will it remain a viable type of communication for the foreseeable future?

The future for messaging is very bright. It's the preferred communication channel for the younger generation, and social messaging still has a lot of room to grow.

On the enterprise front, since consumer chat apps are overtaking enterprise communication, we foresee companies embracing similar enterprise messaging apps for internal communication. Enterprise apps have far more requirements that encompass the administration of users, compliance and regulatory requirements, greater security and reliability demands, and IT integration needs.

Another concern for companies is the fact that their employees are chatting with customers over these consumer channels even though there is no record of this communication and interaction in the enterprise. Solutions which solve this need driven by compliance and regulation will clearly emerge, and we are already offering text archiving solutions.

On the messaging apps front, Asian messaging apps are far more advanced, and we can assume that the Western chat apps will follow many of the trends that are successful in China. This means far more power will shift towards companies like Facebook (which owns FB Messenger and WhatsApp), as well as far more e-commerce, brand engagement, and paid services done via chat services.

As for chat bots, they will clearly change the way we communicate. Our vision of the new hype is the following:

Today:

  • Smarter bots evolving; bots combined with human engagement
  • Messaging bots will overtake vertical apps; companies and appliances will utilize bots instead of apps
  • Far greater power for companies running these chat services
  • More bots with personality

In ~5 years:

  • Singularity point: natural language processing + AI + semantic search + image and voice recognition + location + connected IoT
  • A blur between messaging bots and intelligent agents - you won't know if you're talking to a human or a machine

In ~10 years:

  • Sensor maturity, advanced machine learning
  • AI systems make automatic recommendations
  • Bots will be the new APIs

To summarize - these are the main trends we see in messaging:
* Messaging chat apps becoming a major channel for customer interactions and communication
* Messaging chat apps becoming a major source for e-commerce transactions and payments
* Chat apps and messaging being used by brands for acquisition and retention phases
* Enterprises embracing chat apps as a main communication channel
* Chat bots with artificial intelligence and personality

Want to see if mass text messaging can help your organization? Contact us today!

Expert Interview Series: Niraj Ranjan of Hiver About Using Email to Improve Business Collaboration

Niraj Ranjan Rout is the founder of Hiver, an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool. We recently spoke with Niraj about the prevalence of business collaboration and the current and future of email in the business setting.

What exactly does Hiver do for its customers?

Hiver is built primarily for collaboration around communication in general. It helps you and your team manage shared email accounts like support@mycompany.com, assign emails to each other, and see who is doing what.

To give you a simple illustration of how this might be of use, think about the publications you're pitching to on their email IDs, like tips@techcrunch.com. They would be receiving tons of pitches there, and they'd have a team to pick up articles and work on those. Hiver would help this team manage the tip@ email account efficiently and delegate tasks without confusion - without anything "falling through the cracks."

Is a tool like Hiver effective not just for companies, but also for clubs, civic organizations, and volunteer groups as well?

Yes indeed. Hiver is used by a lot of non-profits, educational institutions, and citizen bodies. In fact, two of the non-profits using Hiver are Pets for Patriots and Amani Children's Home. It fits right in wherever you have a group of people that you are collaborating with over email.

What are some of the main challenges that your customers are trying to grapple with?

Everyone loves to use email (though they do complain about it, sometimes), but using email in a group scenario can be very inefficient and tedious because you end up siloing tasks and information in individual inboxes.

For instance, it's extremely convenient to forward an email from a customer to someone in your team if you need help responding to the customer, but then it's extremely messy to keep track of all your forwards and awaited replies. That's where Hiver comes in. We make it extremely efficient to carry out collaboration and task management over email.

Why did you choose the Gmail platform as the centerpiece of your service offerings?

When we started out, Gmail/Google Apps was the most prominent cloud email offering. Also, most Gmail users use Gmail's web interface, and we as programmers loved the idea of modifying the Gmail interface with a browser extension to add more efficiency to how people use email.

We're now expanding beyond Gmail. Hiver for Exchange/Office-365 is releasing soon, and we're sure it'll do very well.

Has the rise of a virtual world and a telecommuting workforce led to an increase in demand for virtual collaboration tools like Hiver?

Absolutely! We have customers where the team does not see each other in person for weeks, and yet, they continue to work efficiently. This trend is on a strong rise; with communication tools improving so much, everyone is now questioning why they must spend hours daily driving or on a train.

Is Hiver a good tool to use to help manage or complement text message marketing, digital marketing, and/or social media marketing campaigns?

Hiver is great for managing your outreach, as well as handing off or delegating responses that you receive.

Some Internet observers think that email will gradually become obsolete in the future. Do you agree or disagree with that viewpoint?

There are two kinds of email in a business scenario: internal email within a company, and external email that comes in from people outside the company (like customers, vendors, sales leads, etc.). While internal email is under serious threat from tools like Slack, external email is definitely going to be around. Hiver is completely targeted on external email - that is, helping teams manage their customer and sales communication.

So to sum up, Email's personal use and use for internal communication in organizations are already seeing a decline, but email is going to stay strong in inter-organization scenarios - and that is what we're building on.

Need a convenient way to communicate with members of your club, group, or organization? Try ClubTexting for free today!

Expert Interview Series: Nilesh Patel of LeadSquared

Nilesh Patel is CEO of customer acquisition platform LeadSquared, who brings a decade of experience in sales and marketing to the team.

Here, Nilesh shares his insight on where companies struggle with lead generation and how they can improve their sales efforts. Read on:

Tell us about LeadSquared. What services do you offer?

LeadSquared is used by marketing and sales teams to capture, manage and nurture leads, and enhance sales for their businesses. It is a complete customer acquisition platform with lead capture automation, lead management, marketing automation, sales CRM and analytics to help businesses close more deals in less time. The software is being put to use by varied businesses like marketing agencies, IT businesses, real estate, education, financial services, tours and travel, health and wellness and more.

With LeadSquared, customers can find facts like selling velocity of the business, revenue performance by lead sources, products or sales person, view marketing and sales funnel and a lot more analytics, to fine tune and increase ROI from their marketing and sales efforts.

Businesses are using LeadSquared for:
 

    • Lead Capture Automation: Seamlessly capture leads from all sources - inbound email, online campaigns, phone calls, website, chat, lead generation websites and more.

 

    • Lead Distribution: Distribute leads based on city, product or any other rules to cut down the response time.

 

    • Marketing Automation: Engage and nurture leads using email and SMS campaigns, and trigger-based emails to make them sales ready, and create future opportunities.

 

    • Sales Acceleration: Focus on leads with the highest potential for conversion with automated lead engagement scoring technology.

 

    • Marketing and Sales Analytics: Access detailed marketing insights about the campaigns and sources driving qualified leads and revenue.

 

  • Mobile App: Manage leads on the go.

What's one of your favorite client success stories?

I would have to say, the Byju's Classes success story would be among my favorites.

"Byju's Classes" is a leader in test preparation segment, and they are completely changing learning in India. They also recently got funded by Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. They have been using LeadSquared to manage their marketing and sales for over two years now.

They generate hundreds of thousands of leads across online, chat, mobile app, phone and offline channels. LeadSquared has organized lead capture across all the channels. As a result, they achieved zero lead leakage and completely got rid of Excel sheets filled with leads lying on each desktop.

With a huge lead volume, it is a challenge for any business to respond quickly to every inquiry. LeadSquared's rule-based lead distribution engine helped Byju's automatically assign the leads to the relevant sales person, thereby, cutting down the response time drastically and improving the chances of winning.

Lead intelligence helped the sales people prioritize leads that are likely to close. The benefit is clear - the sales bandwidth is applied to maximize the revenue potential.

Using marketing automation, they engaged and nurtured leads to retain mindshare and convert some of them into sales opportunities and up-sell to existing customers. This resulted in increasing the ROI on marketing investments.

Finally, with analytics, it was seamless to monitor and measure sales and marketing performance.

What are the most common challenges small businesses face in generating leads?

In a nutshell, these are some of the most common challenges I think small business face in generating leads:

    • Not knowing where to invest when they begin because the marketing budgets are lean. It also is a result of not knowing where your audience is - whether it's online or offline or which specific online platforms are they present in.

 

    • Not getting the right talent with the knowhow of a lot of things. Small businesses cannot afford to hire big teams so they need really efficient individuals.

 

    • Randomness in collecting data from current channels, which doesn't give them the right picture for future investment.

What are the biggest mistakes you see businesses making when it comes to lead generation?

Firstly, not measuring their returns or results properly,

Secondly, concentrating too much on vanity metrics, instead of actually trying to understand whether they are contributing to the ROI goal.

Thirdly, investing in platforms or tools without actually knowing if it will help. Of course, you need to test and experiment to actually know whether something is working for you. But even then, you need to have some research or statistics in place, to take that forward.

How should small businesses approach lead generation today?

You need to find out where your audience is and then go after them. Investing in the rights tools and channels would really help.

Measure and analyze everything you do. If a specific channel or source hasn't worked for you repeatedly, it's time you moved on to something different. Small businesses don't have a huge budget, so they need to be wise about it.

What types of analytics are the most helpful/beneficial to study to improve lead generation and nurturing?

When it comes to analytics, lead source to lead conversion analytics is what I would look at. If leads are constantly coming in from a particular source but they haven't been converting to customers, then you know it's not working for you. Map the entire journey, from lead generation to lead conversion and see what all channels or mediums are working for you.

As far as lead nurturing goes, email analytics are very important. You are constantly sharing content, but do the subscribers find value in it, or are they even reading this content? If you are getting too many unsubscribes, then your emails are not working. Here's what you need to look at
 

    • If no one is opening your mails, there is a problem with the email subject line.

 

    • If people are opening your mails but not taking any action - there is a problem with the email content. Maybe they aren't compelling enough for people to take an action, or maybe the copy is weak. There could be multiple reasons for this.

You should also analyze the days of the week and specific timings when your emails have performed better than other days (and times).

What are the benefits of SMS marketing?

I think the key benefits are that SMSs are more accessible, personal, two-way and almost 100 percent deliverable. It's certainly a must-have for B2C businesses I would say.

In fact, nowadays, businesses are opting for WhatsApp and other such messaging platforms as well. The idea in both is to keep the message short and straightforward.

What are best practices for small businesses in using SMS marketing?

Segment your audience, as you would while sending emails. Automate SMSs based on user actions, instead of spamming everyone with every offer possible.

I'd suggest you keep it targeted. For starters, target based on demographics, gender and age. Something that is relevant to a 50 year old may not be relevant to someone in their 20s. So be wise about it and target accordingly.

What are the most exciting trends or innovations you're following in small business marketing today?

Hundreds of new businesses are getting registered in India every day. All of these are SMEs or micro businesses. Even before the business is formally launched, the Gen-Y SMEs are thinking marketing-first and are pro digital. Most of them will have a website from day one, communicate with customers on WhatsApp, and perhaps, spend on marketing to get discovered on the Internet.

Older SMEs had a certain way of doing business, but they are now gradually embracing the new reality and are willing to adapt systems and technologies to improve their business performance.

What's one piece of advice you find yourself repeating to clients over and over?

    • Reach the stage of product market fit as soon as possible.

 

    • Founders should always be selling - make it a regular routine to reach out to potential customers through email, phone, face to face or any other relevant forum.

 

    • Startups should raise money if they can. Cash is the lifeline of the business; use it wisely.

 

    • Do not focus on selling through partners; if you cannot sell partners can't sell either.

Contact ClubTexting today to see how SMS can help you reach your customers.

Thought Leader Series: How Successful Nightlife Promoters Use Text Messaging Marketing


Lucas Sellyn is a UX specialist with a background in digital agency project and account management. To learn more about him, visit him online at LSellyn.WordPress.com.


A text message marketing campaign can expand the reach of your nightclub promotions.

Are you a club owner or nightlife promoter who wants to maximize the reach of your event marketing? Are you tired of distributing expensive, inefficient flyers that simply get tossed on the ground? Are you looking to take advantage of the technological innovations that are revolutionizing event marketing in 2016? If so, you should probably be using text message or SMS marketing.

Text message marketing is rapidly establishing itself as one of the most effective ways to achieve massive reach and publicity for your club or nightlife venue, while minimizing associated expenses. SMS open rates are a staggering 98% compared to only 22% for email; this is a clear indication of text messaging's potential to improve event awareness.

Text message marketing works by building subscription lists you can then target with SMS messages using keywords. By sending information about contests and promotions, you can build event buzz and cultivate a devoted community of guests and followers. Let's take a look at some of the key strategies and benefits for marketing your nightlife establishment via SMS:


Build community around your events by engaging your subscription list with SMS polls and contests.

Subscriptions Lists

Subscription lists are the heart of any successful text message marketing campaign. By developing a large list of phone numbers and messaging accounts, you can quickly disseminate communications to a massive audience. A good text message marketing service will give you the tools you need to grow and maintain an unlimited list of subscribers. The ability to segment groups and features that prevent duplicate messaging make the investment in a good SMS marketing service even more worthwhile.

Keyword Short Codes

In building a strong subscriber list, you'll want to take advantage of mobile keywords. These are unique terms that can be sent to short code numbers to communicate with you. In most cases, customers that send your designated keyword to an assigned short code will be added to your subscription list automatically.

Polling and Voting Campaigns

While you're developing a list of subscribers, you'll want to start engaging them with communications, contests, and promotions. Text-2-vote and mobile polling are amazing ways to involve your audience. This strategy also benefits you by providing valuable data and demographic information about consumer preferences. A good text message marketing service will magnify this benefit by providing you with analytics and visualizations that help you develop insight for greater success.

Mobile Coupons

One of the most popular features for nightlife promoters who rely on SMS marketing software is the ability to create mobile coupons. Mobile coupons can be offered via text to your subscriber lists. Consumers can show this coupon at the club or venue for a special discount. By adding tracking codes to these coupons, you can monitor their effectiveness, justify ROI, and better plan campaigns.

There's no doubt that text message marketing is an effective tool for nightlife establishments or club promoters to expand the reach of their marketing efforts and boost business. Text messages are read, on average, within five seconds of receipt. These high open rates mean more buzz, more consumers, and more money for your nightlife venue or business.

Interested in using text message marketing to promote your nightclub business? Try ClubTexting for free!

Expert Interview Series: Atim Ukoh on the Power of Mobile Solutions to Empower Consumers

Atim Ukoh is the Social Media Specialist at global brand protection firm Sproxil, where she manages digital communications for the company globally.

Sproxil was created as a response to the increasing death rate of individuals in emerging markets as a result of counterfeit products. Founder Ashifi Gogo had experienced the prevalence of counterfeit drugs growing up in Ghana and decided to create a solution to target this problem.

Atim recently checked in with us to share her insight on how consumers can protect themselves from counterfeit goods using mobile technology. Here's what she had to say:

How common are counterfeit goods today?

The penetration of counterfeit goods in both emerging and developing markets has increased significantly over the years. In some countries, counterfeit goods are present in open markets in higher volumes than the original products.

What do you think would surprise both business owners and consumers alike about the counterfeit market today?

The counterfeit market has become more sophisticated with time. The counterfeiters are getting clever about how they reproduce these products. Some replicate these goods so well to the point that even employees at the company that produce the original products have a hard time differentiating genuine from fake.

What's the impact of the proliferation of counterfeit goods? What are the risks to consumers of purchasing counterfeit items?

Over 700,000 people die every year from taking counterfeit medicines. That's equivalent to four fully packed jumbo jets crashing every day! Consumers are likely to develop short- and long-term health issues from consumption of these products. They lose money from the purchase of these items.

How can mobile technology be used by consumers to combat counterfeiting?

Mobile technology empowers the consumer to combat counterfeiting by providing an easy verification method to ensure they are purchasing genuine products. The Sproxil solution enables the consumer to text a unique pin provided on the product they are purchasing to a short code and they receive a response verifying that their product is genuine.

What are some ways consumers can use their phones/tablets to protect themselves when shopping?

Consumers should use their phones to verify that their products are genuine by engaging with the code provided to verify their product. They can also download the Sproxil App and use this to verify if their product is genuine.

What should businesses be doing to protect consumers using mobile technology?

Businesses need to understand that for the consumer to engage and enable them combat counterfeiting, they need to also take the right steps to make the process easier. Businesses need to implement the right mobile technology in their current supply chain that would eliminate counterfeit infiltration. Once they install the labels or pins on their products, they can also track when their products leave their factory until it gets into their consumers hands. This helps improve the engagement they have with consumers as the consumers are now sure that they are consuming protected products and the brand cares about them.

What's one of your favorite success stories for how mobile technology has been used to protect consumers?

There are many interesting stories of how the Sproxil Solution has saved lives. Our favorite is with one of our clients who produces anti-malarial drugs. Using the Sproxil solution, we were able to intercept stolen goods in their supply chain before they got to the retailers. We traced the goods to the counterfeiter's location and were able to engage law enforcement to handle the matter appropriately. This saved thousands of lives that would have consumed those products that they were about to alter and replicate.

Reach more customers with our mobile solutions. Try ClubTexting for free.

Expert Interview Series: Roger Wu of Cooperatize on Best Practices for Using Sponsored Content

Roger Wu is a co-founder of Cooperatize, the leading platform for brands to buy sponsored content. We recently checked in with Roger to learn more about best practices for using sponsored content. Here's what he had to say:

What is sponsored content? What sets it apart from other marketing/web content?

Sponsored content is an article or story written by the publisher in their voice, while integrating your product or brand into it. The publisher guarantees a certain amount of traffic to the story at a higher rate than banner advertisements, which covers not only their content production but also their distribution costs.

Sponsored content is different from traditional content in a variety of ways.

  • First, the publisher guarantees a minimum number of impressions, whereby the story acts like an advertisement. If the story exceeds this minimum, it acts as "PR" or earned media.

 

  • Secondly, it should not impact your search engine optimization since the anchor tags are flagged as "no follow."

 

  • Third, it is clearly marked as sponsored or advertisement per the rules of the FTC.

Why are brands turning to sponsored content to build an audience?

There are a variety of reasons why brands are turning to sponsored content:

  • Influencer and social media marketing are hot; people trust local celebrities or "influencers." Brands see influencer marketing as a more cost effective way to reach their target audiences since influencers are not as expensive as celebrities and have a more targeted audience set. Sponsored content gives influencers the ability to create longer form content to showcase their thoughts.

 

  • We now live in the world of infinite content. Everyone is a publisher. Everyone is creating content. If something is not promoted, most likely it will not be seen. The ROI on an organic mention is more likely to be worse off than ever. Sponsored content, with its guaranteed distribution, helps brands to cut through the noise and ensure that prospects now know their story.

 

  • Ad block has rendered display advertising as futile. With the rise of social networks and content marketing, sponsored content plays into these new trends.

What brands do you think are using sponsored content most effectively? What can we learn from them?

The obvious simple answer is Netflix. They've run sponsored content effectively with The Atlantic about strong first ladies in conjunction with "House of Cards" to reach their politically savvy audience. Sponsored content for "Orange is the New Black" ran in the more liberal minded New York Times about how the experience of women incarcerated differs from that of men. Finally, an article about the economics of Pablo Escobar and the drug trade ran in the Wall Street Journal in conjunction with "Narcos."

Each of these articles tell a story and while Netflix is in the business of brokering stories to your home, they created a story that was relevant to the given audience.

Furthermore, none of these stories asked for the business. There was never a "Subscribe to Netflix" button or some other call to action about a subscription. If there were, the campaigns most likely would have failed. We now know that these great shows are only available on Netflix and even if we didn't, a quick Google search would yield that information.

Brands need to understand that the value of a good story is not a click thru, but rather mindshare; in our new on demand economy we can get anything we want, the key is to have enough mindshare when the time is right to buy that product. Click-thrus are a false short-term metric that is being measured at the expense of the more valuable long-term metric of story recall and brand building.

What are some best practices for creating a marketing strategy using sponsored content?

  • Create publisher guidelines that fit your marketing goals but also give the publisher some creativity. You want them to tap into their creative juices, but if they feel too constrained they'll end up writing another "5 great things ... " article.

 

  • Make sure you enforce the impression count and ask what constitutes an impression. Some provide basic metrics, like a publisher's Twitter followers and monthly unique visitors. While big numbers might look impressive, we need to remember that a tweet is on average seen by 1 to 2 percent of followers and about 1 to 2 percent of those followers engage; monthly unique visitors which many get confused with a magazine's circulation, is an aggregate metric from ALL stories, and more likely than not, 95 percent of a publishers online traffic comes from 5 percent of their articles. As a marketer you don't necessarily care about this, you want their audience to see the article that was written and created about you.

 

  • Use data to make better content. While publishers will get you the requisite number of views, you need to look at what stories are resonating with your audience. Look at the engagement on each story: if people are not responding to it in terms of reading it all the way, maybe it's the wrong message. Content marketing is not as easy to tweak as AdWords, but you can still use data to figure out the most effective stories.

 

  • Tying content into the rest of your marketing is highly effective. We've found that content marketing and sponsored content in conjunction with retargeting display advertising leads to better brand recall and conversion.

What about dos and don'ts for writing sponsored content? How can we keep readers engaged?

  • Do adjust for factual accuracy. If your product doesn't do X, Y, and Z and the publisher says that it does, let the publisher know that it doesn't.

 

  • Do provide guidelines for what you are looking for. It's hard for a publisher to guess what you want.

 

  • Do allow for some leeway in creating content. Just because you paid for it, you shouldn't want to force your hand. The publisher knows their audience best and is the storyteller.

 

  • Don't try and adjust for editorial. For example, if a writer says "I liked that product" don't ask them to say "I really liked that product."

 

  • Don't ask for an advertorial. There's a reason why those didn't work. Audiences don't want to read about why your product is the best; rather they want to know how it integrates into the rest of their lives.

What are the biggest mistakes you see brands making when it comes to sponsored content? How can we avoid making them?

In addition to some of the don'ts listed above, a lot of brands try to work directly with influencers. I wouldn't suggest that, as there's a reason why platforms like Cooperatize exist. By going direct, it's similar to buying a car off Craigslist, versus buying a car on eBay, which ensures reputation.

Furthermore, we are fully compliant and up to date with Google and the FTC. Platforms ensure that brands are compliant, as it's not recommended to try and cheat the Google algorithm or skirt around the U.S. government's rules.

From a pricing perspective, brands need to move off the CPM anchor of display advertising. Sponsored content not only encompasses content creation but also distribution. To put this into perspective, tools like Outbrain and Taboola charge up to $2 per click to content (that is already created) as opposed to display advertising charging $2 per thousand impressions.

What are your favorite tools for promoting sponsored content? What doesn't seem to work as well?

Facebook and Twitter are still the kings when it comes to paid distribution. The targeting is very specific, which will allow you to get quality views at a lower price. Publishers that have a sponsored content carousel on their home page is also a great tool. StumbleUpon is a nice way to get organic visitors to your content. Lastly, we sometimes use Outbrain and Taboola, although we've noticed that the reader quality is not as high.

What is the future for sponsored content?

We truly believe that sponsored content is the future of monetization for publishers. As long as publishers provide real metrics and continue to promote and make their content high quality, we see this as overtaking the economics of display advertising in the coming years.

Connect with Roger on Twitter.

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Thought Leader Series: 4 Fundraiser Promotions Using Mass Texting


Lorena Brockman is a blogger for JennsBlahBlahBlog.com and has notable know-how in blogging, marketing and sales, and has been deemed "Greatest Auntie Ever" by many. To learn more about Lorena, visit her company's blog at JennsBlahBlahBlog.com.

Entertainment venues such as yours are turning to mass text messaging to stay connected. They use text messages to promote special deals and events as well as day-to-day happenings.

Another way businesses get more customers through the door is by hosting fundraisers. Following are four fundraising ideas to promote using mass text messaging.

1. Ladies' Night

Everyone has been to a ladies' night somewhere: half-price drinks, no cover, and other specials for females only. Younger people are the target audience for these events, and mass text messaging is the more effective option, as younger crowds are more likely to check their phones than any other kind of media.

With this fundraiser, an organization like the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. would benefit from the event. The nightclub could auction off dates with different fellas that ladies (or men) can bid on. Those proceeds would go to the selected organization. Promoting your ladies' night specials and the cause that will benefit from the evening with mass text messaging will bring people from all walks of life to raise money for a great cause.

2. Puppy Party

Halloween is only once a year, but people can dress up any time. At a Puppy Party, everyone arrives dressed as a puppy (or kitty), or with painted faces. If customers are wearing the proper attire, they can bypass the line and join the party, free of charge. On the other hand, you could require a can of dog food or a kitten toy as an entrance fee. Specialty drinks and a contest for the cutest puppy costume are great ways to raise money for local animal shelters or larger organizations such as the ASPCA. Use SMS marketing to promote the event and spread word about the good it will do.

3. Karoakids

Almost everyone loves karaoke. Why not use it to help kids battling a childhood disease? Host a fundraiser by holding a karaoke contest. Participation would require admission fees, which would be donated. Through a sing-off, the winner is decided by the crowd. Promoting this type of event with mass text messaging will reach tons of people, some of whom will forward the info on to their buddies. Want bonus points? Announce that the winner of the Karoakids contest will perform live for the children at the hospital!

4. Hungry for Fun

Homeless and hungry families are a big problem in the U.S. In 2010, 16.4 million children - that's one in four kids - didn't know when their next meal would come. Host your own food drive to bring some relief. Invite customers via text message to a special night of drinks and music. Attendees can receive free admission if they bring a non-perishable food item or a personal care item. Advertise drinks specials, live entertainment, and the fundraiser via SMS marketing, and emphasize that the proceeds and donated items will be given to a local shelter.

Mass text messaging is a great way to promote a nightclub or bar. It's especially effective when the message is about a fundraiser and a cause. Fundraisers such as the above are a great springboard to get people in the door, and text message marketing is sure to bring prospective and loyal customers alike together to support a cause.

Ready to get started with your own SMS marketing campaign? Try ClubTexting for free!

The State of SMS Marketing in 2016

With the start of the New Year, it is time to check into the state of SMS marketing for 2016. The past few years, many companies have found implementing text message marketing campaigns brought them additional business. The effectiveness of this marketing channel is in no way diminishing, as the following statistics demonstrate.

More Inclusive Medium


Not everyone has a smartphone, but most people have SMS-enabled phones.

SMS marketing can be used to target a wide range of people, including those who do not have smartphones. Globally, there are 3.6 billion unique mobile subscribers, which means that one-half of the world's population now has a mobile phone, compared to one in five people just a decade ago. Mobile adoption is expected to continue to grow -- an estimated three-fifths of the population will have a mobile subscription by 2020. Although smartphone adoption continues to increase, a significant number of mobile phone users simply have an SMS enabled mobile.

People Still Want to Receive SMS from Businesses

Consumers still appreciate receiving marketing messages via text. Over half of consumers believe that businesses could -- and should -- text more often. The majority of subscribers choose to opt-in to a campaign for coupons or deals, although almost half also enjoy receiving personal alerts or simply remaining aware of what is happening with a business. Three-quarters of consumers leave with a better feeling about a company after interacting with them through text message. Only a very small percentage of those feel as though SMS messages from companies are disruptive or intrusive.

Mobile Phones Remain Valuable

One reason that SMS marketing is successful is that people have their phones close to hand at all times. This remains true, especially for Millennials. About 87 percent of Millennials never let their phones leave their side, and about 80 percent reach for it first thing in the morning. They continue to want more ways to utilize their smartphones for connecting with businesses, and they believe it is important that a business incorporates mobile-friendly marketing and websites.

Millennials have a reputation for having a strong relationship with their phones, but older generations also are becoming more and more dependent on mobile phones. Compared to the 97 percent of Americans aged 18-29 who text message, 75 percent of 50-64-year-olds also do so. Although there is a drop in text messaging, it remains a significant number.

Gain Insight Into Your Customers


Your text message program can help you to learn more about your customers.

SMS marketing has provided an effective way for businesses to interact with customers and gain insight into their wants and needs. Many companies have successfully jumped on board, such as Macy's and Starbucks. In 2016, it remains a versatile medium: users have the ability to send out transactional messages, provide customer service, promote new or existing services or products, share deals and discounts, and find out customer opinions through surveys and/or polls.

SMS marketing remains a strong force in 2016, yet only about a quarter of marketers utilize it. If you have been hesitating to begin a campaign, then there's no better time than now to get started.

Ready to see how SMS marketing can help you? Try ClubTexting for free today!

Expert Interview Series: Natascha Thomson About Mass Text Messaging Dos and Don'ts

Are you trying to market your brand to a mass audience?

What strategies have you tried? Did you know that you can send targeted messages via text - custom tailored for the person you're trying to reach?

Natascha Thomson is the CEO of MarketingXLerator, a marketing consultancy with a focus on social media. She consults with small and large clients including SAP, Polycom, SLAP Company, LookingGlass and HR Strategies.

She recently caught up with us to share her insight on the dos and don'ts of mass texting. Read on:

Define mass texting.

Mass texting simply means that a text message is sent by one entity to a group comprised of multiple individuals. The word "mass" in commercial use generally implies at least hundreds if not thousands of recipients. It also often carries a negative connotation as it conjures up the image of spam.

But spam messages are not defined by the size of the list of recipients but by a lack of targeting of the message to the individual recipient. Herein lies the challenge of mass anything: the message either has to be equally relevant to all recipients (homogenous audience) or individually customizable. Both are possible.

What are some dos for mass texting?

1. Know your audience. Messages need to be relevant and sent at the appropriate time(s) and frequency. Otherwise it's just spam.

2. Earn and nurture your audience's trust. Especially on mobile devices, consumers feel that you are making a very personal "connection" with them in their "real" ad hoc lives. Irrelevant messages make you seem like an intruder and recipients will quickly opt out.

3. ALWAYS have a Call-To-Action (CTA). Your text message has to make it crystal clear what's in it for the recipient. A typical CTA is to ask the recipient to send a keyword to opt in to your contact list. For in-store offers, the CTA could be "show this text for a discount."

4. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). This is the best strategy. In the brevity of 160 characters, use crisp, clear and unambiguous language and a simple CTA.

5. Measure and fine-tune. Define metrics that allow you to track your progress and fine-tune your texting and integrated marketing campaigns. Think big picture.

What are the "don'ts" for mass texting?

1. Be relevant. NEVER, and I mean NEVER, send a text message to somebody who is not clearly in your target audience for the message. Just because they opted in does not entitle you to send them irrelevant information.

2. Don't break the law. FCC rules protect consumers under the TCP and CAN-SPAM Acts. Commercial text messages can only be sent to a mobile device if the user has opted in, IN WRITING.

3. Never send anonymous messages. Make it clear in the message signature who you are and how to opt out.

4. Avoid abbreviations or lingo if you are not 100 percent sure your audience is familiar with them. Otherwise you might create confusion and frustration.

5. Don't be careless with your list. Protecting your clients' data and privacy needs to be your key concern. In the age of cyber crimes, hackers will exploit any security weakness, which can cost you customers, your reputation and revenue.

How can businesses use mass texts to their benefit?

Text messaging is just one avenue to reach a target audience, don't let it be your only one. Text messaging should be part of an integrated marketing strategy that also includes traditional online and offline channels like email and events, as well as social media.

Which integrated marketing strategy is right for you is strongly dependent on your objectives, your target audience, and your resources. Know your target audience intimately, including where and when they like to receive information and in what formats. The more relevant you can make your message, the bigger your chances for conversion and subsequent ROI.

Follow Natascha Thomson on Twitter.

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Expert Interview Series: Matt Sicotte About Creating a Mobile Website for Your Group, Club, or Organization

It's more critical than ever these days to have a mobile-friendly site as a majority of the population uses mobile devices to browse the internet rather than desktops or laptops, says Matt Sicotte, CEO of SimpleMobileSites.com.

We recently checked in with Matt to learn how organizations can make their sites more mobile friendly. Here's what he had to say:

What are the major differences between mobile and traditional websites?

The major differences are that a mobile website utilizes the functionality of the mobile device, such as "tap to call," "tap to text," "tap to map," as well as easier ways to make purchases with payment processing integration for certain banks and credit card companies.

How can organizations make their sites mobile friendly? What are some best practices?

There are many tools (software platforms) that will take an existing traditional website and create a mobile-friendly version that will redirect a mobile user, too, when viewed on a mobile device.

Make sure that when creating a mobile-friendly version of your website, you check to see that it works on most major mobile devices, as well as that it integrates seamlessly with the functionality of those devices, such as maps, SMS, messaging, payments and calling.

What are the most common mistakes or oversights you observe on supposedly mobile-friendly sites?

1. Font sizing (difficult to read on a small screen)

2. The content from the traditional website is removed from the mobile version (lack of continuity between websites)

3. Functionality with the mobile device

4. Placement of crucial info, such as contact, location(s), hours of operation near the top of the mobile-friendly website on all pages

What are some of your biggest pet peeves when visiting a website via a mobile device?

That the most important information for a mobile user is NOT easily available, such as contact info, location(s), hours of operation. I suggest this info be near the top of the mobile-friendly version and available on all the pages of the website.

What are some of your favorite tools for making a site be more mobile-friendly?

DudaMobile has some really cools tools to help make an existing website mobile.

What brands or groups have been especially innovative on their mobile sites? What can we learn from them?

  • Panago.com has one of the most innovative and easiest ways to order food to be delivered to your door via your mobile device.

 

  • Monoprice.com and Vadara.ca utilize the power of easily being able to find contact info on their mobile-friendly website

 

  • Groupon.com makes it easy to browse and purchase via their mobile-friendly website.

Connect with SimpleMobileSites on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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SMS is Helping Tanzanian Mothers Access Vital Health Information

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According to the World Health Organization, babies who are partially breastfed—or not breastfed at all—are vulnerable to serious illness if not death from diarrhea and other infections. Exclusive breastfeeding is subsequently recommended for the first six months of life, as it lowers the mortality rate among malnourished children in addition to shielding them from infection.

The Tanzanian government hoped to improve the health of newborn babies and their mothers by implementing a text messaging campaign some three years ago. Entitled Wazazi Nipendeni, which means ‘Parents Love Me’ in Swahili, the campaign provides subscribers with health information, doctor’s appointment reminders, and more through their mobile devices. Over 125,000 women have registered for the service, which has sent more than 5 million text messages so far. 

Mobile phone technology has become an invaluable tool for connecting with citizens in Tanzania and other African countries, no matter how remote their locations. According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory, the country has the highest text message rate per month in East Africa. 

While the country has made progress in preventing deaths from childbirth-related complications, it did not reach its Millennium Development Goal of “reducing maternal deaths to 193 per 100,000 live births from 454 per 100,000 by the end of 2015.” Tanzanian government officials cite HIV/AIDS, a lack of skilled health workers and proper clinics, little to no funding, and insufficient awareness regarding women’s reproductive health issues for this failure.

 

Next Steps

"We have realized that engaging women alone is not enough. We need to involve all members of the society to make the campaign more effective," Pamela Kweka, an official from the Tanzania Communication and Development Center, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

The campaign originally focused on pregnant women, but now includes men, nurses, and midwives. The idea is to educate all societal members, not just expecting mothers.

Subscriber Adelika Kessy nearly died during childbirth three years ago after developing anemia a few weeks prior. She did not receive routine check-ups simply because she was uninformed.

"I was feeling tired and weak. It happened so suddenly and I didn't know what do," Kessy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "I was too weak to give birth naturally, even after undergoing several blood transfusions. In the end, the doctors decided to carry out a Caesarean section."

Kessy, a 36-year-old housewife, is currently pregnant with her third child, and counts on the SMS service to alert her about clinic appointments.

Will Apps Give Way to More Text Marketing


Entertainment apps are among the most popular downloads among consumers.

It's no secret that the mobile app market has exploded in recent years. In 2013, Apple announced that there were over a million applications available for download in iTunes. Many of these apps are paid apps and the market is expected to tip the scales at $77 billion by 2017. That's a lot of downloads.

Though many businesses have been developing branded mobile apps in recent years, data suggests that most consumers aren't particularly interested in downloading enterprise applications. The bulk of downloads are for entertainment. This piece of data has important implications for businesses interested in reaching new customers through mobile. Instead of relying solely on a branded application for potential customers to download, a better strategy may be to focus on an integrated approach or scrap the app idea altogether. Here's why many businesses are choosing text marketing after experimenting with mobile apps.

Entertainment Apps Reign Supreme
Recent data suggests that the most popular mobile apps are games. Nearly 22 percent of overall app downloads last year fell under this particular category. Business related mobile apps represented just 9.9 percent of total downloads. While mobile owners are using their devices to engage with businesses, they aren't necessarily doing it through branded mobile apps. Channels like social media and text messaging are popular among consumers interested in connecting with their favorite brands.

Personalized Marketing via Text

One of the reasons why many companies prefer to use text message marketing to reach their audience is because of the personalization factor. Instead of giving users a standard experience such as what they'd get from a mobile app, businesses can craft a text marketing campaign that allows users to opt-in for specific information. Companies have the option of customizing campaigns via geographic location, or tapping into data about subscribers' previous purchases to deliver highly relevant and customized offers. Businesses are realizing that in order to get their message heard above the noise, they need to focus on personalization with their mobile marketing efforts.

Text Messaging Costs Less

Developing a mobile application can be costly for businesses, and the return on the investment may not be worth the money the app costs to create. Many companies are choosing to use text marketing instead of app development because it costs less overall. Text messages are also a reliable means of reaching a large, global audience, whether you're interested in connecting with current clients, potential customers, or your employees.


There are over a million apps available for download today.

In 2015, text messaging as a means of communication will continue to grow in popularity. Companies looking for the best return on their marketing efforts should consider adding text marketing to their advertising toolkit. Campaigns can be personalized easily and texting is an inexpensive and reliable way to reach potential customers. If you are interested in exploring how you can use mobile for your business, shift your focus away from mobile apps and towards text marketing. It's a tried and true approach that works. Get started with your own campaign and try ClubTexting for free today.

10 Amazing Stats That Prove You Need a Mass Texting Service

As more people carry their smartphones and tablets with them everywhere they go, mobile marketing continues to grow. Text messages provide marketers with the perfect medium to reach and engage with customers using devices they always have on hand. Not convinced? Here are 10 amazing stats that prove you need to go mobile with your messages.


Using a mass texting service to send SMS messages is the best way to reach your customers on the go.

1. Tick-tock: 90 percent of text messages are read within three minutes of receiving them. Can you say the same for your email marketing messages or direct mail advertisements? (Source: MobileSQUARED)

2. Worried your text message will go unopened? Not likely. 98 percent of all SMS messages are opened, while 84 percent of Facebook updates, 71 percent of tweets and 88 percent of emails are ignored. Mobile users place great importance on text messages and aren't likely to ignore them. (Sources: Techipedia and Mashable)

3. Mobile ad spending increased by 100 percent in 2013 and is expected to increase another 62 percent in 2014. (Source: Mobile Marketing Watch)

4. Mobile users want to hear from you! 70 percent of users say they'd like to receive offers on their phones. (Source: 60-Second Marketer)

5. People check their phones 150 times a day, including 23 times a day for messages, 18 times to check the time, and 22 times for phone calls. At other times, they're likely taking or sharing photos, using social media or playing games. (Source: ABC News)

6. When mobile messages are part of a marketing effort that's spread across other channels, 43 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase. (Source: Responsys)

7. On average, each person receives only 178 text messages per month compared to 1,216 emails per month. Do you see how much easier it is to get noticed through SMS marketing? (Source: Oxygen 8)

8. Offers, including coupons, discounts, special offers and loyalty program participation, are redeemed 8 times more frequently via SMS than email. (Source: Venture Beat)

9. The average person responds to email messages in 90 minutes, but you only need to wait a mere 90 seconds for a response to a text message. (Source: Branding Networks)

10. URL click through rate is significantly higher for mobile messages: 19 percent for SMS messages compared to only 4.2 percent in emails. (Source: Oxygen 8)


Want to reach your customers anytime, anywhere? Send a text message!

The time to jump on the mobile marketing bandwagon is now. App development can be challenging, and mobile websites can be expensive to build. SMS marketing using a mass texting service provides businesses and nonprofits with an affordable way to reach mobile users quickly. More importantly, it helps you reach users in a way that's proven to convert.

Scottish Healthcare Gets a Boost from SMS

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Glasgow's Western Infirmary

Healthcare providers across the world are using SMS to stay engaged with consumers. Blood banks in India are increasing donor numbers. Discharge times in U.S. hospitals are being reduced by up to an hour. And in Scotland – where healthcare is managed largely under the auspices of the public sector – investment in SMS systems is helping patients stay on top of appointments, and even encouraging them to quit smoking.

The latest development in the Scottish Government’s fledgling relationship with SMS technology has seen mobile marketing company Incentivated develop a ‘Find My Nearest’ service specifically aimed at helping women get to breast screening centers. A public advertising campaign is currently promoting the service. By texting their postcode along with the keyword SCREEN to 61611, Scottish women will receive a reply giving details of their nearest screening center, and ask that they call for a screening appointment if they have not had one in the last three years.

Headed by the Scottish Breast Screening Programme, the scheme divides the country into six regions. Postcodes sent into the service are cross-checked against the government’s database of mobile users. The reply message differs according to region, and is sent as soon as the person’s location has been determined.

Gail Lyall, Senior Marketing Manager for the government, says:

"Creating awareness of the importance of the role of breast screening is hugely important to ensure we keep increasing the numbers of women that detect breast cancer at the earliest stage. The audience we are targeting are hard to engage, so when we have their attention to act, it is imperative we make things as easy as possible for them. SMS allows us to provide a quicker customer journey from call to action to making that important appointment."

It’s no surprise that Holyrood has opted to use Incentivated. The tech firm has a well-established relationship with the government, and already provides a wide range of SMS services, including a program for the Scottish Children’s Panel that allows citizens to text in for information on taking part in public hearings designed to improve child safety in the home. The service was an enormous success, prompting 1700 SMS requests in the first week alone.

Scotland also provides a text service for people trying to give up smoking. Users text in the date they would like to quit, and a daily reply helps them count down to the big day, as well as sending tips on staying off the cigarettes for good.

Taco Bell Text Message Lawsuit Dismissed

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A federal appellate court has ruled in favor of Taco Bell after a lawsuit accused the restaurant chain of violating commercial text message legislation.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2012 ruling that said Taco Bell was not responsible for SMS messages sent to consumers by a marketing agency in 2005.

The promotion at the center of the legal drama allegedly saw twelve franchisees in the Chicago area send text messages to local residents asking them to vote on two varieties of the Nacho Bell Grande item. Ad agency ESW outsourced the mobile strand of the campaign to a company called Ipsh (now the Marketing Arm).

A woman from Georgia sued Taco Bell in the wake of the campaign, claiming she had received two unsolicited text messages – a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which prohibits companies from using automated dialing systems to send cell phone communications without the recipients' consent. After the judge dismissed her case, the plaintiff decried the ruling as a “blueprint for retailers to evade liability for transmitting spam text messages en masse to the public.”

During the case, Taco Bell denied involvement in the text message campaign, which was put together by a group of local franchise owners and Ipsh, without the knowledge or consent of the parent company. According to court papers, Taco Bell successfully argued that it played “no role in the decision to distribute the message by way of a blast text or that it ever reviewed any proposed text message, or even knew about the outgoing text message component of the local promotion.”

The TCPA was recently updated to reflect the shift towards mobile. Historically, advertisers could depend on pre-existing business relationships (such as a prior purchase). Now, mobile marketing campaigns must obtain express written consent in order to contact consumers.

The court’s decision has probably made it harder for consumers to sue advertisers for campaigns that potentially violate the law. It could prove to be a landmark ruling. It’s certainly dealt a blow to opponents of aggressive marketing strategies. Whether or not it sets a precedent remains to be seen. 

New Mexico Joins the Growing Clampdown on Distracted Driving

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The rate at which states are banning texting while driving is one of the most dramatic displays of legislation shifting with popular public opinion in recent memory. Forty-four states have now added their name to the list of jurisdictions in which all drivers are banned from texting.

The drive to reduce road deaths has been remarkably free from distractions – and few could oppose such well-intentioned laws (those few being, so far, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma). The latest state to say ‘no’ to distracted driving is New Mexico, where a ban on all texting and driving took effect last Tuesday.

Under the legislation, drivers are prohibited from sending or reading texts and emails – even if they are at a stop light or stuck in traffic. New Mexico motorists are also banned from searching the web on smartphones or other mobile devices, but the law does allow them to pull over to the side of the road to send or receive SMS messages. Anyone in breach of the text messaging law faces a $25 fine for a first offence, and a $50 fine for subsequent violations.

According to the bill’s main champion, Santa Fe democrat Senator Peter Wirth, the law will “save lives and make roads safer.” "New Mexicans need to understand that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving," Wirth continued. "If you have to look at your phone, pull off the road."

Before the Legislature updated their distracted driving laws, New Mexico’s strictures on texting and driving extended only to teenage drivers with a provisional or learner’s license. Expanding that to encompass all drivers means New Mexico joins 43 other US states and a growing number of other North and Central American jurisdictions to have banned all texting and driving incidents.

Similar laws are being passed all over the world. The legal response to such deadly behavior has been swift, and reflects a wider societal intolerance of activity that puts irresponsible drivers and other road users at enormous risk.

There are some caveats. New Mexico will allow a text to be sent from behind the wheel in an emergency situation, provided the message is being sent to a medical team or emergency service unit. Nevertheless, this new legislation is a resounding victory for the majority of drivers who recognize that the only text message important enough to endanger lives is one that intends to save them.

World Cup: Yo App Sends Text Alerts When Goals Are Scored

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Every four years, the World Cup serves up a thrilling taste of the best footballing talent on the planet, but for developers, the month-long extravaganza is an opportunity to capitalize on soccer fever. And although there was no shortage of apps released during the 2010 tournament, smartphone ownership was leagues below where it’s at now. Mobile-powered football fandom has finally come of age.

The app everyone is talking about this time is “Yo”. It helps subscribers keep track of all the goals scored during the competition by sending text message alerts to users who add the user name “World Cup” to their account.

Unlike other sports news apps, no further information is sent. Yo doesn’t send the name of the scorer, or even which team they’re on. Users receive the titular two-letter greeting as a kind of ‘heads up’ to look out for coverage of the goals. It may sound rather limited, but it’s all part of Yo’s attempt to carve out a ‘contextualized messaging’ niche in a crowded text app marketplace.

Sure, it’s a little gimmicky – but gimmicks have their place, especially if they can claim to shave even a second or two off any of the manifold tasks we perform each day. With contextualized text messages, users can see at a glance that something they are interested in has undergone some sort of development and they should investigate further. There’s no need to even open the message. When it comes to brevity – one of the golden rules of text message marketing – ‘yo’ is as fiendishly efficient as it gets.

The app has already surpassed one million users, despite only being launched earlier this month. And while it’s riding the wave of the world’s most watched sporting event, Yo’s founders hope to carry on finding uses for contextualized SMS.

Company CEO Or Arbel believes major brands like Starbucks could use the ‘Yo’ alert to let customers know their orders are ready. So he’s certainly thinking big. Whether or not such a major brand will favor a start up’s product over their own well-established app remains to be seen, but with millions of “yo” text messages now zipping between smartphones, and an app market more exciting and unpredictable than the World Cup itself, you’d be a fool to dismiss the idea with a red card just yet…

Will the Cellphone Sweater Really Take Wearable Tech to the Next Level?

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“Smartphone” has passed well and truly into the lexicon, and some would have us believe that “smartclothes” are next. At least, that’s the message from a group of NYU students who have come up with a prototype for a hooded sweatshirt capable of sending preset text messages.

During a demonstration, the designers showed off the smart hoodie’s three triggers: touching the hood, touching the sleeve and rolling up the sleeve. Each action results in a different, pre-programmed SMS message being sent to a pre-determined recipient. 

If you’re still scratching your head wondering how many applications there could be for such limited capabilities, join the club. Many industry analysts have questioned how users will forsee the type messages they need to send at short notice – and so surreptitiously.

There are a number of other obvious limitations. Like how do you wash an item of clothing with built in electronics? And how sensitive is the technology? Is there a risk of accidentally sending a text message?

The designers say the main objective of the smart hoodie is to help people in emergency situations. With 911 texting now being adopted by law enforcers across the continent, you can imagine how a preset message might help someone in trouble. You find yourself embroiled in a bank robbery, or an outbreak of public violence, and the smart hoodie could alert authorities with the villains being none the wiser. But are there enough hyper-cautious folk out there who would actually pre-program such paranoid messages and then wear the same item of clothing every day, just in case? Without washing it in between?! Plus, 911 texting programs require users to text their location in order for the authorities to find them. How would this help if you’re out in a random public place?

Even worse, couldn’t texting police about an ongoing bank robbery make you look rather suspicious? How, they might ask as they shine a light in your face in some dingy interrogation room, did you know to preset the message? It sounds like more trouble than it’s worth?

We haven’t even mentioned airport security – that’s a whole other can of worms right there. Compared to that, the benefits of wearing a secret texting device pale. And there are a few minor advantages we can think of. Tapping your sleeve is, to date, still perfectly legal whilst driving; perhaps the system could help in the fight against distracted driving by giving motorists a way to let their family know they’re getting close to home. 

If you have a busy work day ahead of you before picking a friend up for dinner, the smart hoodie could be a convenient way of letting them know you’re going to be late, without interrupting that overrunning conference call.

These applications seem pretty trivial next to the pitfalls of owning such an item. It seems unlikely that the wearable text message device – at least in this prototype form – will catch on, but it’s an interesting new direction for SMS technology, and we await the next innovation with interest.

 

 

 

911 Texting Now Available to the Deaf

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Not only did Manitoba recently become the first Canadian province to provide it’s citizens with a 911 texting service, it has also made the platform available to the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired.

The new wireless text messaging program is the first of its kind in Canada. Unveiled last week by Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS), the system requires hearing or speech impaired people to first register their wireless devices. 

Text-to-911 software has proven popular with law enforcement services all over North America. In May, the four major wireless carriers in the United States have been emergency SMS capabilities as an alternative to voice calls. It’s important to note, however, that the FCC says Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T only support text-to-911 in areas where dispatchers are already equipped to receive SMS.

For those areas, using the technology is very simple. Users simply type 911into the number field, and state their location and the nature of the emergency in the body of the text.

The National Emergency Number Association states that call centers equipped to receive emergency text messages can field SMS in a variety of ways. Centers without the latest SMS technology can simply upgrade their systems.

It’s hoped that more communities will adopt the technology over the coming year, and it could take several years before implementation is nationally adopted.

According to the FCC, anyone who sends a text to 911 via Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or AT&T in an area where the program is not yet supported will immediately receive a "bounce back" text informing them that their text could not be delivered. If you find yourself in this situation, you would then need to make a voice call to emergency services.

The advantages of text-to-911 are clear. In certain criminal situations, it’s not always possible – or advisable – to bring attention to yourself by talking on the telephone. Emergency text messages could save lives in such situations. Nevertheless, the FCC and law enforcers stress that when contacting 911, the first choice should always be to place a call, with SMS suggested only when a phone call is impossible or dangerous.

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