WSJ: Respond strategically to Web 2.0 or be left behind

If you haven’t already, read what the Wall Street Journal has to say about: The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World.

It’s short, well-written, and says again what we need to keep hearing about how companies need respond strategically to Web 2.0. It’s not just implementing promotional marketing programs there as if it were a new media channel to add to the mix.

Remember how companies were left behind in the nineties. It wasn’t because they didn’t develop a web site or an email list quickly enough, it was because they didn’t have a good response to the changing environment and competition. They needed to add offerings and/or change positioning to carve out a new niche in the new world. Mobile and social media are causing even bigger shifts.

Consumers are flocking to blogs, social-networking sites and virtual worlds. And they are leaving a lot of marketers behind.

  • A New Approach: Marketing these days is more about building a two-way relationship with consumers. Web 2.0 tools are a powerful way to do that.
  • The Pioneers: A growing number of companies are learning how to collaborate with consumers online on product development, service enhancement and promotion.
  • The Lessons: From these early efforts, a set of marketing principles have emerged. Among them: get consumers involved in all aspects of marketing, listen to and join the online conversation about your products outside your site, and give the consumers you work with plenty of leeway to express their opinions.

Salvation Army takes five dollars by text message instead of pocket change

Short on change as you walk by the red kettle and bell ringer?  The Salvation Army is testing mobile donations in Atlanta this year. Text “TSA” to 90999 to initiate a premium SMS charge of $5 (i.e., added to your phone bill).

“We are not the most progressive movement in the world, we change very slowly. With the regular use of debit and credit cards, many shoppers are short on loose change or cash in-hand. We want to afford anyone and everyone who desires to make a donation, a user friendly and convenient means to do so.” Says Major James Seiler, Metro Atlanta area commander of The Salvation Army, Atlanta, Georgia, in Mobile Marketer.

Mobile Marketer doesn’t mention the revenue share percentages for this particular program, but a dirty secret of the industry is that as much as 60% of premium SMS transactions are held back by mobile carriers and platform providers. Until recently, this was even for most text-to-give donations.

I checked with a friend at Mobile Accord, and now this drops to 5% rev share held back (min $.25), so the Salvation Army actually nets $4.75 per donation, minus the cost of setting up and running the program. They have a hundred NPOs signed up for text-to-give.

I don’t know about you, but the sound of those ringing bells is enough to keep me away from a mall. What do I have to text to turn down the volume?

Fatal flaw in study of consumer attitudes on mobile advertising

Just read another forward-looking study on consumer attitudes toward various evolving aspects of mobile and mobile advertising. My thoughts apply equally to any emerging and rapidly evolving field. Like many such reports, taken at face value it might be read as giving clear guidance to go down a certain path. That may help sell reports, but it would better serve its audience if the research weren’t written up that way.

Be careful listening to consumers answer hypothetical questions about what they might do with something they’ve never experienced.

‘Tis true, you’d be a fool not to ask.

You’d be a fool not to look for insight in their answers. Be open to new directions.

You’d also be a fool not to keep moving forward to try putting something in their hands and see the results. Then go back and ask (and listen) again.

In general, qualitative research seems more useful for forward looking hypotheticals. Something feels irresponsible about providing quantitative results here. But survey percentages are less expensive to produce and sound more authoritative, so we got plenty of them. Instead, let me hear what people are thinking, in their voices, unshaped by multiple-choice boxes.

Either way, take hypothetical studies as just that: something to prove wrong or right. Use them to look for possible insights, not for answers.

GigaOM's Mobilize more interesting than CTIA?

I’m looking forward to my fourth CTIA next week. I’ve made great friends and contacts there in years past. Hopefully there will also be some interesting launches and things to learn. Last year it was great to hear Steve Ballmer’s keynote and the launch of Facebook’s Blackberry app from the front rows.

I’m even more excited about GigaOM’s upcoming Mobilize conference two weeks from today (Sept 18). Well focused, with a concentration of fantastic speakers and topics distilled into a day of single-track panels, a format I really enjoy.

They all look interesting enough to keep me glued to my seat for the day, but perhaps this is the one I’m most looking forward to:

Money and Friends: The Promise of Social Networks on Mobiles

Social networks work on the pc web. The 100 Million users that Facebook are about to reach is testament to that. Many in Silicon Valley are rubbing their hands at the prospects of riches being mined from mobility meeting the social graph. But the real question is will it work? Will people want it? Many transitions from the web to mobile have landed with a wet thud. We ask the people at the frontline of making social networking work on mobile what obstacles and oases they see on the road ahead

Sebastian Rupley, PCMagCast John Faith, MySpace Mobile
Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook
Noelia Amoedo, Hi 5
Evan Tana, Loopt

I’ve been asked to talk to several startups in the mobile social space. Despite being a mobile advocate, I often walk away scratching my head about why I’d use them at all, much less how they’d integrate with my existing networks and the experience on my laptop, or how they really take advantage of anything mobile. John Faith and the rest of this panel are absolute tops in the field who will have fascinating thoughts to share. Can’t wait to hear them.

Location-Based Services Coming Soon (says a long-time naysayer)

For years, I’ve heard that location-based services are just around the corner. “Later this year.”

For years, I’ve told clients, “Not for years.”

Especially when they want to do marketing by taking advantage of LBS.

Emphasis needs to be on “services” first, providing something the user wants. That has to be in place before there is an opportunity to market through LBS, and even then, privacy and other considerations will dictate the the marketing message delivers real value. The best marketing isn’t a message you want consumers to hear, it’s value you provide in some service, entertainment or education that they want.

Even if it becomes technically possible, I’m never going to want a coupon for a latte to pop up as an ad on my mobile just because I’ve walked by a Starbucks. That’s the kind of thinking that drove carriers to charge per-lookup fees for location, hoping to get revenue streams from both the end-user and from brands.

I might be interested in location giving additional contextual relevance to my search results. There are lots of really cool things I might do with location that no one has thought of yet.

Anyway, Mashable is right to suggest that iPhone 3g is game-changing in LBS.

The new pricing model for the iPhone 3g with GPS along with the forthcoming App Store make for a perfect storm coming. Developers have a great platform and now are freed from old constraints to think first and foremost of what services users will want.

No longer will they be constrained by rather than thinking of how be ad-supported (or how to cut deals with handset manufacturers or carriers).

For the first time in the history of mobile, a significant base of users will have everything needed and developers can take advantage of this to offer new applications and to incorporate location seamlessly. This will open many new possibilities, not all of which we can predict now.

Most of these, we won’t think of as location apps. They’ll just be apps that also take advantage of location.

In the same way, I hope we’ll see innovative LBS marketing that consumers won’t think of as marketing or advertising. Those will be the stand out successes.

SMS/Mobile Web promotion for In Plain Sight

Today’s Mobile Marketer has a long article about promotion for the a new USA Network series:

“This [In Plain Sight] program relied a lot less on our technical ability and more on our creative and strategic ability,” Ms. Lawrence said. “So, from conception to execution, the content of the [mobile] campaign was created by the Hyperfactory with collaboration with the USA Network.”

I’d love it if they had shared more of the thinking behind the strategy and the creative. The article also doesn’t detail the working of the program, but I like to try as many of these as I can.

Turns out, It doesn’t work on my iPhone, and it doesn’t seem to be well-promoted.

Still, it’s an interesting project, the problems are fixable, or at least worth learning from.

I haven’t seen TV spots for this promotion, but I hope they include them during the show and throughout the week. Mobile programs only work as well as the promotion for them.

You start by browsing to a website (online or mobile) where they ask for your phone number. They send you a text message.

Why not let me start by sending in a text message? Isn’t that faster to explain in a TV ad anyway?

Plus, that would save me a step.

It’s still difficult on the majority of handsets to browse to a specific URL. It takes even longer to go get on a laptop and find where to sign up for this mobile promotion on the USA Network website. Plus, I have to know what WAP is, since that’s the name they use in a list of games.

Why not speak in the user’s language and call it “mobile” or “cell phone” instead of “WAP Witness Challenge”?

Once I found the site online, I pick one of four characters to play, then entered my cell number. In a few mintues, I got a text message to my iPhone, replied, then got another:

49737: IPS: Welcome to WITSEC! To confirm your witness, please reply Y to this message.
me: Y
49737: IPS: Ur all set.U’ll reeive 1 msg/wk.Text STOP to end msgs. Follow the link to help Terry in his 1st situation.

I wanted to know where the shortcode was hosted, so before I went on with the game, I also sent the ‘help’ command that carriers require:

me: help
49737: Nintendo T&C’s: Max of 5 SMS/month. To stop, txt STOP. Std rates apply.

Hmm. Looks like this still needs to be updated and the shortcode is being re-used from a prior promotion, whoever is hosting it.

I went back to the earlier message and clicked the link in the text message. My iPhone browser loaded

This rendered a blank screen!

I reloaded and got the same blank screen again.

I copied it into a browser window on my laptop and was able to see the web page I couldn’t see on my iPhone.

It explained a simple scenario and offered me three choices.

The text seemed like it could be tighter, and I don’t understand why this refers to my witness, Terry, as “them” and “they.” Why pick a witness character at all if the following text would be generic?

I tried each of the three choices, each leading to a screen explaining the complications resulting from my actions.

My life as a Witness Protection agent sounds difficult.

All three screens end with the text:

Thanks for playing the IPS Protect Your Witness Game! Continue to secure the safety of your witness by making the best decisions to keep them alive to see another week. Good luck!

So I can look forward to another text message next week, hopefully this time it will render correctly on my iPhone.

Presumably they might also want to send me messaging reminding me of the air time for the next episode.

I like the idea of having a simple game to play along with a series. Getting a weekly text message along with the weekly show makes sense, especially if it serves as a reminder of the airdate.

To ensure the game stays interesting, all witness situations are rotated to make sure that no two witnesses receive the same question each week.

Also, the witness status is completely customized to a particular witness and the answer that the players chose. In essence, there are more than 290 different witness statuses that the players can uncover.

This part of the program doesn’t make sense to me and makes it sound like the program is more complicated than it needs to be to meet the strategic goals or to be creatively compelling.

It doesn’t look like the complexity actually enhances gameplay.

What is the strategic or creative imporance behind having players choose from between several witnesses anyway? Is the suggestion that someone might play this game with more than one witness (or more than once)? Isn’t the whole point to create a mobile subscription list and provide short, compelling content once a week to provide a airdate reminder and that little engagement extra?

I don’t see why this game wouldn’t be good to implement with a text-only option, dropping WAP altogether. The descriptions are text, the choices are text and the result is text. The only picture is of my character.

Sure, it’d take some fancy editing to cut down text to 160 characters, but it looks to me like that might result in an improvement. Mobile thinking requires focus that gets across the most important points and drops the rest.

We like mobile for it’s forced brevity: make things clear and respect our time.

As well, few mobile users in the US consistently browse the mobile web (latest public M:Metrics numbers: less than 15% access it in a given month), so that would have a major impact on potential reach of this promotion. Did they have a strategic reason to accept limiting the demographics targeted to mostly to those with smartphones and the few other regular mobile web users?

Taking that with the quote from the beginning of the article, it sounds like Hyperfactory avoided complex custom programming for SMS in favor of building all the complexity into WAP, and got a little carried away with the creative beyond what would enhance the actual user’s experience.

A different set of compromises could have stayed on strategy, increased reach, maintained creative integrity and been implementable on a budget with many mobile platforms without custom programming.

Web 2.0 Your Cell Voice Records

I often think that the most interesting mobile applications aren’t on the mobile web (or available as downloadable apps).

Voice, text and photo usage on cell phones far exceeds mobile web usage. I suggest that it always will.

That alone would be reason enough to keep coming back to them. But integrated thinking across modes also leads to more interesting applications. Technical limitations and carrier issues also lead to solutions with attractive novelty.

If I’m going to do anything with social networking and my phone, I’d really like it to account for the fact that my phone gets used for voice.

Tim O’Reilly brought to my attention a TechCrunch article:

Skydeck… marries your address book to your cell phone bill so you can see your real social network based on who you call the most. [They’re also] opening up APIs so that other Web developers can tap into this new source of social data.

This sounds like a smart way to unlock the information my cell phone carrier has until the carriers get decide to free it themselves. Opens nifty possibilities to enhance the way we do lots of little things.

UPDATE 4-JUN-08: TechCrucnch reports on Yahoo opening it’s address book today. Google and MSN released APIs to theirs earlier this year.