Impressions on the Social Age

We’ve Got Your Number: Mobile Campaign Strategy

Posted in Reading Response by Trace on May 26, 2010

These days, everyone has a shortcode and some type of bandwagon-style promotion, (Text PORK to 234O2 and get a free HAM!) But the question isn’t availability, it’s viability. Why should your company or your campaign go through the trouble of a mobile campaign? The short answer, because there are 4.6 billion mobile phones worldwide which means a potential for 4.6 billion impressions, donations or contacts.

Reading MobileActive.org’s Guide to Using Mobile Phones for Civic Engagement you can learn, through relatively simplistic terms, the basics of mobile advocacy. The first major success when using mobile phones for advocacy in the United States (according to MobileActive) was during the 2004 Republican National Convention (RNC). The protests during the RNC were highly publicized and the police in New York City were well prepared. To counteract this, the local organizers set up a hub to focus their efforts. The hub was the command center and from here the protests could be controlled, news is sent to groups on where police actions were weakest and information could be provided to relevant persons; all done via mobile phones and text messaging.

This is a huge accomplishment. As a young teenager I worked at an annual festival on the Grand River in Lansing, Michigan. There was a carnival midway, games, a craft/art show, and blocks of activities. My best friend’s father was on the board of directors, so we both volunteered. My best friend got a walkie-talkie. I was jealous. I relished an opportunity to use the walkie-talkie to distribute information to other volunteers, listen for feedback and communicate through this special back-channel just for the organizers. Essentially, the protests at the 2004 RNC did the same, but simpler and quicker.

People were sorted into groups, lawyers to protect civil rights, medical staff for injuries, photographers/videographers for visuals, et cetera. These specializations’ mobile numbers were then (probably) added to a database. Voila! No longer did they need to have radios (like Riverfest) for each group. With a few clicks and a keyboard the protest organizers could disseminate information and direct protesters quickly and easily.

Technology like this is still in use today, Haiti, the Tsunami, Katrina; all coordinated and managed using massive amounts of donations, volunteers, and information using mobile phones. Mobile phones and the Internet are similar to the printing presses of the 1500s. Instead of creating flyers, handouts, newspapers and books; we’re creating little digital messages and networks of information.

Humans now disseminate information easier, cheaper, and quicker. We can now create advocacy groups across the globe to attack or defend other groups and coordinate our information through text messaging and mobile social networking. Even a drunks can participate! On the popular website Texts from Last Night, one user posted, “(219): Rather than putting your name in guys phones, you just texted 90999 to donate $10 to Haiti and then gave it back to them.”

Before getting too excited, only send out text messages when you have a specific, actionable item that can engage, inform and motivate all at the same time. Otherwise you can destroy your network. A stray typo, a wrong hit of the send button and you could end up like another Text From Last Night: “(440): I did my dad and i had to keep going back there to pick up coffee” Punctuation would have made this sentence much clearer.

Another tip? NEVER send multiple text messages in series. If you can’t get your copy a 140 character text, don’t serialize it. Firstly, you can’t forward on multiple texts as easily as a single text. Secondly, people will ignore it. They will simply get bored!

Now, get out there and use your mobile phone to spread some good!

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