What does 17K supporters for Darfur have to do with a technology tool discussion? It has to do with technology when 3500 of those people use their cell phones to send an SMS text message to show their support for a petition for the White House calling on President Bush to save Darfur. Welcome to cause marketing.
In January of 2006, Jed Alpert and his consultants were doing work on using mobile technology for the entertainment industry. Jed had been one of the founders of sonicnet (which had been acquired by MTV) and had built up a large base of contacts in the music industry. In a project he was doing for Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, he and his staff developed a simple platform for engaging enthusiastic fans via the budding SMS text interface. Quite serendipitously, he happened to be taking with a friend in the American Way about his efforts, and was asked if he could do the same for the American Way. After a few tweaks and some process modifications, Jed found out that his response rates were 10 to 20 times what he was getting on the entertainment space. Thus was borne the Rights Group and their platform, PoliTxt.
PoliTxt makes SMS marketing easy
To hear it explained by Jed, it almost sounds like a bulk-email system that goes directly to your cell phone. The Politxt system is absurdly simple - create a campaign that inspires people to enter a message to a "shortcode" (a five digit number that acts like a URL for mobile services) which will trigger a response message to further engage the user. The result: a stream of self-selected supporters who have given their names, emails address and mobile numbers for further communications by the group that can be integrated into any constituent management solution (e.g. getActive, NGP, Convio, Kintera, etcera) or just left as simple CSV files to be read into Excel.
Is it that simple? In some ways, yes. Consider Jed's case study on his website regarding the Internations Fund for Animal Wildlife.
(click to see the advert)
In that one month, equipped with only "adverts" such as the one shown here, with a simple request to text a message to a specific shortcode, the IFAW found some startling results:
- Their print ads had over ½% response rate (as a function of circulation)
- Total number of people who sent in the text message: approx 50,000
- Response when opt-in group was asked to send in name: 92%
- Response when asked to send in e-mail: 68%
- Response when asked to organizations web-site for information: 13%
What does this mean?
In the email marketing world, response rates are everything - normally open rates range from 1-3% (from a rented list) to 10-30% (from an organic list). Actions requested and acted upon are often between 5-15% of the opens. In the quick and immediate exchange of text messaging, the IFAW was able to exceed any other medium that collected information at the budget of setting up the service and the campaign collateral.
Does this mean that SMS and PoliTxt is right for you? Not sure. The New York State Democratic Party is trying it out - making sure that if you are in a particular zipcode and can help a campaign in that zipcode, you are notified of a chance to help via an SMS message.
But, in this case, there are some constraints that campaigns should be aware of.
We both agree that SMS/texting is great for calls to action ("sign the petition", "go to this location"), but not as useful for major communications messages or frequent interruptions from a central organizing body. Users are only now growing into SMS (it still surprises me when my aunt react when her cell phone suddenly gets a message) and are beginning to use it for personal needs. All too frequently, campaigns/advocacy groups often think that any technology service can do anything and everything they can imagine - and it can be used willy-nilly to generate revenue, get-out-the-vote, etcera. But it is important to understand that SMS is just one of many channels in the arsenal for marketing and communications, and not the end-all-be-all solution to targeting supporters. Users treat SMS very differently than emails or phone calls - and that response/affinity needs to be taken into consideration.
Would I recommend Rights Group? Yes.
There are a number of players out there offering "mobile marketing" solutions - I have been pitched by some, and only now learning of some new ones calling themselves "cause marketeers". But IMHO, Rights Group is one of the first with a string of successes and a strong consultative attitude toward building effective "cause marketing" solutions in conjunction in a number of situations. And for the price, it is an effective tool in the arsenal for acquiring and building relationships with your supporters.