SMS and its role in viral marketing
Viral marketing traditionally began when people started using email to share content with their friends. In the mobile world, despite the increasing popularity of smartphones, viral marketing still rides on SMS. Yet, the implications of depending on texting when exploiting viral marketing in the mobile arena are significant. By Nisheeth Mohan, product manager for mobile solutions and technology at Keynote Systems.
By Nisheeth Mohan
Texting has clearly crossed the line from nice-to-have to must-have functionality. For example a recent study from NPD Group showed that beyond voice telephony, text messaging is the second most requested option that mobile phone users look for after a camera phone.
Mobile consumers use texting in much the same way as they use email on their laptop or desktop computer – for mass communication, forwarding content and sharing pictures. For example, instead of simply taking a photo and physically showing it to friends at a later date, mobile device users now wants to take pictures while travelling, immediately upload them to a social networking site such as Facebook, and then share the link with friends across a broader geography.
Similarly, a user may be reading an online article from New Media Knowledge that she likes and wants to send to a friend in a different city immediately.
Overall, both mobile users and marketers are now accustomed to regular content sharing, so when it comes to successful viral communication, it’s essential to provide the same ease of use.
From the user’s standpoint, the entire process – identifying material, sharing it and receiving it – feels like a single transaction. Failure of the mobile infrastructure at any point will reflect back on the content provider involved, as well as the operator.
This should be a strong incentive for content providers to provide their own linking capabilities and to give themselves more control over the process, in order to guarantee a positive end-user experience rather than rely on external factors outside of their control.
The challenge stems from the fact that the increasing rate of content-sharing is putting significant strain on the SMS backbone, which lacks the robustness of the Internet. For content companies or those employing content-sharing, this means learning how to deal with SMS delays and delivery failures, networks and handoffs. Yet while dependence on SMS has risks, not participating in the growing use of viral communications over mobile is not an option as content providers vie for position.
The answer is to rigorously test applications that are part of SMS-based strategies before they are released, and to then constantly monitor performance from the end-user perspective – this will enable providers to identify and rectify any problems as they occur.
As part of this process, it is important to be able to track a transaction from the time the user or content provider requests a link be sent, all the way through to validation that the text message was received and that the proper content was downloaded and correctly displayed on the receiver’s mobile device.
As transactions continue to grow in complexity, the need for test and monitoring tools that are capable of providing feedback for the entire process will also increase.
Ultimately, success in mobile viral communications is all about taking advantage of SMS capabilities, while understanding the importance of a positive end-user experience. In order to do this, content providers must recognise the limits of SMS and take safeguards to ensure optimal performance and optimal results.