What Are Mobile Marketing Opt-ins and Why Are They Important?

social media toolsAre you considering mobile marketing? Wondering how mobile opt-ins differ from social opt-ins?

Keep reading to discover how mobile opt-in marketing is unique from social media marketing.

In a previous post discussing how to combine QR Codes with Facebook, I received a lot of questions about opt-ins. Given the importance consumers place on spam management across all media, and brands place on tracking digital marketing’s effectiveness, understanding social and mobile marketing opt-ins is imperative.

Opt-in Marketing Defined

Traditional opt-in marketing, often called “permission marketing,” requires marketers to get explicit permission from consumers before they can deliver marketing collateral to them. This approach contrasts with “interruption marketing” where consumers receive messaging from a brand without giving consent (which, when done badly, reminds us of a certain meat product).

email opt-in

Example email opt-in from the Social Media Examiner home page.

How Social Media Opt-ins Differ From Traditional Opt-ins

On social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, users give brands permission to submit communication to their digital identity by simply clicking a like, follow or plus button. You’ll never see a social media “double opt-in;” i.e., “Are you sure you want to like this page?”

brand communication

After liking (opting into) a brand's page on Facebook, passive brand communication appears alongside friend communication.

 

mobile

McDonald's offers a free McChicken sandwich to entice opt-ins to a mobile campaign.

How Mobile Opt-ins Differ From Traditional Opt-ins

Mobile opt-ins operate more similarly to traditional channels like direct mail and email than social media opt-ins. Brands request a point of contact from consumers, which, if given, effectively grants the brand permission to message consumers directly. This point of contact for mobile is, of course, a mobile phone number, which brands can use to send voice, text (SMS) or other mobile messages.

For mobile marketing channels like mobile web and mobile apps, opt-ins possess both social and mobile elements. On the mobile web, brands can direct consumers to a mobile landing page with clickable links, radio buttons and/or write-in fields.

With mobile apps, brands interact with consumers when they download an application by requesting push notifications or location-based information. In addition, apps may use a sign-up process to enable direct communication.

notification

Brands can request consumers enable push notifications after an app download.

Strategy Behind Opt-Ins

Opt-ins provide brands a huge benefit: privileged access to consumers.

With this access, brands can drive purchases and respond by drawing consumers with alternatives (“Try it our way!”), attacking (“Their way stinks!”) or compelling content (“Our way is better!”).

Incentives are how brands give back. Every opportunity to like, follow or sign up in exchange for discounts, points or rewards demonstrates a key emphasis for an opt-in strategy.

bravo

A mobile opt-in from the BravoTV.com homepage promises games, updates and more.

Once brands obtain consumers’ points of contact, they then have to provide relevant and interesting information to keep consumers engaged.

Enter the idea of database marketing, where brands target messaging to consumers according to certain characteristics (e.g., gender, age, purchasing history) in order to establish a more intimate brand-consumer connection.

Non-coincidentally, database marketing explains in large part the social and mobile explosion, as immense amounts of self-reported data are available to marketers using these channels.

Technology Behind Opt-ins and Compliance

Brands need technology to message consumers in order to sell more products. Consumers need technology that delivers communication only from those brands connected to them.

But the actual implementation of technology introduces a slippery slope of complexity. Consumers who don’t have sufficient technical acumen may struggle to opt in. Brands respond by automating the opt-in process after purchase. This causes consumers who strictly guard their privacy to complain, as they may not know that one purchase may constitute ongoing access to them.

So brands adjust and only message after two purchases. But then consumers miss out on a promotion after only purchasing once and demand more frequent updates… and so on.

Various social and mobile technology solutions exist to address these issues. One example is the “like-gate” for a Facebook page, which requires that a consumer like a page before viewing its content. In addition, social media privacy policies inform consumers about what goes on behind the scenes after an opt-in.

like gate

1-800-Flowers.com has "like-gated" their Facebook page.

For mobile, carriers and the Mobile Marketing Association monitor and decide how technology should manage opt-ins. Texting a keyword to a short code (either manually or via QR code) and entering a phone number into a web form both qualify as legitimate opt-ins as long as consumers receive a compliant confirmation message in real time. Premium content (e.g., ringtones and services charged to a wireless bill) requires a double opt-in, where consumers have to reply again to the confirmation message.

mobile opt-in

After texting a keyword (DOLPHIN) to a short code (44144), mobile technology platforms have to deliver a compliant standard rate mobile opt-in.

Social vs. Mobile Opt-ins

Given this understanding of social and mobile opt-ins and their strategy and technology, which should marketers select? Let’s see if we can find the answer by comparing them.

With social media, consumers opt in by clicking a button online; brands communicate to consumers generally via status updates. Consumers benefit from one-click access to brands if they are signed in online, but miss out if not online or engaged via offline media like radio or signage. Brands benefit from social networking effects, but have to depend on a third party for their subscriber lists and data.

With mobile, consumers opt in by texting, scanning or submitting information to a mobile website or app; brands send direct communication to consumers via mobile messaging. Consumers benefit from immediate information, but may be hesitant to give out their mobile phone number. Brands benefit from a direct connection to consumers, but miss out on the immediate data social networking sites provide.

Hmm. I’d say inconclusive at best, as neither seems like a clear winner. But without selecting between social and mobile, how can you design an opt-in digital marketing strategy?

What It All Means

The answer is straightforward: with digital permission marketing, you can have your cake and eat it too. Just as consumers communicate with each other via social and mobile media, so should brands and consumers. Brands can integrate social and mobile, effectively reaping the benefits of both while sidestepping their drawbacks.

Consider a campaign with a QR code call to action offering a 25% off digital coupon code that sends a consumer to a like-gated Facebook page. Once liked, consumers have to enter their mobile phone number via a sign-up widget in order to receive the digital code. Marketers get both opt-ins and engagement across both channels and consumers spend less money. Now that’s powerful, cross-channel marketing.

Facebook interface

Example mobile opt-in within the Facebook interface.

Going forward, brands can maintain relationships with consumers across both channels. General loyalty club announcements should be posted to social media networks (“All video games on sale!”), whereas specific updates (“We have the video game you want in stock”) should be delivered via mobile. Brands don’t have to worry about losing track of consumers, and consumers can choose how and what type of communication they want to receive. Everyone wins.

What do you think? Do you have some other ideas about how to create effective brand campaigns that expertly use social and mobile opt-ins? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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About the Author, Kane Russell

Kane Russell is VP of marketing at Waterfall Mobile. Waterfall's mobile and social CRM platform, Msgme, provides businesses the means to build and monetize a mobile subscriber database. Other posts by »




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  • http://treasurycafe.blogspot.com/ david k waltz

    Kane,

    Thank you for the post – the explanation of the process was very understandable, even to a (fairly) newbie such as myself.

    One of the problems in the old days was people could still cold call us even if we were on the “do not call” list so long as we had a “business relationship” with them.

    By giving out the mobile numbers, is there a lot of direct phone marketing going on currently? Or potentially?

    Thanks again.

    david k waltz
    http://treasurycafe.blogspot.com

  • http://treasurycafe.blogspot.com/ david k waltz

    Kane,

    Thank you for the post – the explanation of the process was very understandable, even to a (fairly) newbie such as myself.

    One of the problems in the old days was people could still cold call us even if we were on the “do not call” list so long as we had a “business relationship” with them.

    By giving out the mobile numbers, is there a lot of direct phone marketing going on currently? Or potentially?

    Thanks again.

    david k waltz
    http://treasurycafe.blogspot.com

  • http://waterfall.com/blog Kane Russell

    David – thanks very much for your feedback and question. The short answer is yes, direct phone marketing is increasing today and looks to continue doing so in the future. 

    Some stats you might find useful: (1) a DMA study http://bit.ly/qCbVjV that shows decreased spending for traditional marketing channels and increased spending for digital in both US and Canada. (2) press release from Juniper Research http://bit.ly/nP3UAe stating that revenue from application-to-person SMS (any type of mobile messaging from a company to consumers through a short code) will exceed $70 billion by 2016. (2) Forrester projects http://bit.ly/ncySWA a 38% compound annual growth for rate mobile marketing in the US between now and 2016. 

    With regards to your cold call quandry: I think you make a great point. If people start getting spammed on their mobile phone as they do on their email accounts, mobile marketing won’t see as much growth. Mobile marketing interested parties/governing bodies (carriers and Mobile Marketing Association) realize this and are trying to take strides toward making mobile marketing a spam-free industry. That’s why the opt-ins are such a crucial part of a digital marketing strategy. 

    That said, there are always hacks (e.g. the email-to-SMS gateway and long codes) or providers not following guidelines correctly that will add spam to the industry. That’s why in my opinion the customer is what should be the main focus of a strategy, not so much the channel as consumer preferences for particular channels can change over time. 

  • http://waterfall.com/blog Kane Russell

    David – thanks very much for your feedback and question. The short answer is yes, direct phone marketing is increasing today and looks to continue doing so in the future. 

    Some stats you might find useful: (1) a DMA study http://bit.ly/qCbVjV that shows decreased spending for traditional marketing channels and increased spending for digital in both US and Canada. (2) press release from Juniper Research http://bit.ly/nP3UAe stating that revenue from application-to-person SMS (any type of mobile messaging from a company to consumers through a short code) will exceed $70 billion by 2016. (2) Forrester projects http://bit.ly/ncySWA a 38% compound annual growth for rate mobile marketing in the US between now and 2016. 

    With regards to your cold call quandry: I think you make a great point. If people start getting spammed on their mobile phone as they do on their email accounts, mobile marketing won’t see as much growth. Mobile marketing interested parties/governing bodies (carriers and Mobile Marketing Association) realize this and are trying to take strides toward making mobile marketing a spam-free industry. That’s why the opt-ins are such a crucial part of a digital marketing strategy. 

    That said, there are always hacks (e.g. the email-to-SMS gateway and long codes) or providers not following guidelines correctly that will add spam to the industry. That’s why in my opinion the customer is what should be the main focus of a strategy, not so much the channel as consumer preferences for particular channels can change over time. 

  • illoh ifeoma

    @KaneRussell:disqus Thank you kane, this is very enlightning. I like the part where you mentioned “database marketing” because I see a lot of goof, on the part of organisations who are already starting to usemobile marketing, especially the telecommunications industry.

    Isn’t there a lack of understanding as to what should be sent directly to consumers mobile presently. 

  • illoh ifeoma

    @KaneRussell:disqus Thank you kane, this is very enlightning. I like the part where you mentioned “database marketing” because I see a lot of goof, on the part of organisations who are already starting to usemobile marketing, especially the telecommunications industry.

    Isn’t there a lack of understanding as to what should be sent directly to consumers mobile presently. 

  • Stan Robinson, Jr.

    Kane – thanks for an informative article. I am in the process of learning about mobile marketing. Mobile appears to be a marketer’s dream in terms of being able to deliver personalized communications based on an individual’s location, time of day, preferences, etc. Like you, I am concerned about how effectively the mobile industry is able to police itself in order to limit the almost inevitable government regulation that will come if and when spam gets out of hand. On a lighter note, are there any training resources that you recommend?

  • Stan Robinson, Jr.

    Kane – thanks for an informative article. I am in the process of learning about mobile marketing. Mobile appears to be a marketer’s dream in terms of being able to deliver personalized communications based on an individual’s location, time of day, preferences, etc. Like you, I am concerned about how effectively the mobile industry is able to police itself in order to limit the almost inevitable government regulation that will come if and when spam gets out of hand. On a lighter note, are there any training resources that you recommend?

  • http://waterfall.com/blog Kane Russell

    Wiredinn – thanks very much for your comments and insight. I definitely agree that there is a lack of understanding (but getting to be less so). I think this is because mobile is still emerging as a marketing medium in the US. As more and more companies find success and share their experiences/case studies, I think that you will find more guidance as to what to send to consumers via mobile. 

  • http://waterfall.com/blog Kane Russell

    Wiredinn – thanks very much for your comments and insight. I definitely agree that there is a lack of understanding (but getting to be less so). I think this is because mobile is still emerging as a marketing medium in the US. As more and more companies find success and share their experiences/case studies, I think that you will find more guidance as to what to send to consumers via mobile. 

  • http://waterfall.com/blog Kane Russell

    Stan – agreed. It’s going to be very interesting to say the least to see how the mobile marketing industry evolves. As for training resources, I encourage you to take a look at a Knowledge Base I wrote. It contains a complete overview of the mobile industry and advanced concepts like mobile marketing CRM. You can find it @ http://bit.ly/pRTjvz.

  • http://ilocalsearch.net Sadie-Michaela Harris

    Great share Kim! Thanks…

    I in tern have shared it all over the place! :o ) Sadie

  • http://ilocalsearch.net Sadie-Michaela Harris

    Great share Kim! Thanks…

    I in tern have shared it all over the place! :o ) Sadie

  • Adrian

    What a beautiful way to explain a new concept like mobile marketing and its importance to novice like me! Forget about me! This is an important blog even for those who are taking active part in mobile marketing and experts in this field! Fantastic effort and the content is amazing! Looking forward to get see more of these blogs! 

  • Adrian

    What a beautiful way to explain a new concept like mobile marketing and its importance to novice like me! Forget about me! This is an important blog even for those who are taking active part in mobile marketing and experts in this field! Fantastic effort and the content is amazing! Looking forward to get see more of these blogs! 

  • Ravikant Karra

    Kane – this is a great article, extremely relevant. One thought that came to mind was the opt-out part. In mobile marketing/email marketing, we have do-not-call or equivalents. How does that work in the social world, does one need to unlike? Or if the opt-out is done through a different channel, say through a call centre, does this translate to an ‘unlike’? How do you see this happening?

  • Ravikant Karra

    Kane – this is a great article, extremely relevant. One thought that came to mind was the opt-out part. In mobile marketing/email marketing, we have do-not-call or equivalents. How does that work in the social world, does one need to unlike? Or if the opt-out is done through a different channel, say through a call centre, does this translate to an ‘unlike’? How do you see this happening?

  • http://waterfall.com/blog Kane Russell

    Ravikant – very interesting point (and probably a topic for a whole article). Off the top of my head you can unlike/unfollow/un-plus1 a social media brand as you mentioned. There are also options to hide posts from a particular entity, as well as block a particular entity. There may be room for an opt out through a call centre- but I couldn’t find one on Facebook/Twitter today, and it seems that call centers aren’t a main focus for these websites. 

    Two things strike me about this topic: (1) I think that it’s fairly difficult to track who is ‘opting out’ of social media, which is one of the shortcomings of a social opt-ins in my opinion. This is going to increasingly become important as brands try to compute social media ROI. (2) I think that the social media site (e.g. Facebook/Twitter) is ultimately in charge of these opt-outs. The examples that come to mind are those Farmville updates that overran people’s news feeds for a while and social media bullying. Ultimately Facebook/Twitter – not the brands – has to police these things (which they did/do for Farmville/bullying), which again is something brands should keep in mind as they consider a social media strategy. 

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  • Nora

    A clearly written, easy to understand article for a non-techie, but I still wonder why anyone would choose to receive ads on their cell phone. 

  • http://waterfall.com/blog Kane Russell

    Nora this is a good question. Two points I think are interesting: (A) we don’t really have a choice whether or not we get ads on our cell phone, as the mobile internet and mobile applications are packed with them. Chances are if you are using one of these, you are almost guaranteed to see an ad. (B) If you are speaking specifically of SMS ads, I think that (1): companies need to develop a communication strategy where people can choose the type of messaging that they want to receive, including when/where/format/etc. Customization of brand communication is where digital marketing is headed in my opinion. (2) What’s your incentive breaking point (if you even have one)? Would you receive SMS ads in exchange for $100 coupon at your favorite store? What about a $500 coupon? I imagine that almost every consumer has a opt-in point, and it’s up to brands to find that sweet spot where the investment they make in the incentive (e.g. coupons at a store) earns sufficient return (e.g. from driving store traffic and purchases) from the people beneath that threshold. 

  • Ravikant Karra

    Hi Kane,
    Agree on the call center part – probably easier for someone to unlike rather than call a toll free #. And say what “remove my like from page x of brand y? :)
    I didn’t fully understood you on the 2 points that you mentioned:(1) shouldnt an ‘unlike’ be considered the opposite of ‘like’ – that’s an explicit opt-out, isnt it? Why did you mention it to be difficult? (2) While the social sites may police themselves, the brands should use opt-outs the same way as opt-ins – why should policing come in during opt-outs only?

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  • http://waterfall.com/blog Kane Russell

    Hi Ravikant – (1) opting out of social media from a consumer standpoint is not difficult for the majority of users (ie finding a page and clicking a button). Tracking those opt outs from a brand perspective is what I think is. Facebook/Twitter doesn’t make it entirely easy to pull data about your subscribers and track exactly when/why someone decided to unlike/unfollow/etc. (2) Policing comes into play in my mind for a few scenarios: a person unlikes/unfollows but the brand continues to direct message the consumer. A department store sets up a Facebook page, somebody opts-in to receive updates about jewelry, and gets annoyed when shoe announcements start getting posted. A brand sets up a Facebook page and consumers start posting in too much volume. Brand’s send too much information from their Facebook/Twitter page but consumers can’t figure out the un-like/follow button. Bottom line, when it comes to opt-in vs. opt-out brand/consumer communication you are going to run into issues, as I describe above in my slipper slope argument. Facebook/Twitter has to be a sufficient enough third party to police/regulate/provide functionality (and already has) for these issues as they come up.

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  • http://www.i95dev.com/ecommerce-magento Henry Louis

    Hi Russel! I came to know some valuable information regarding Mobile Marketing Opt-ins by reading this post. Thanks for sharing this post.

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  • http://www.expertmagentodevelopers.com Magento SEO

    Mobile marketing is really important as many people access internet via their mobile phones.

  • http://www.sisatel.com Tania Sarkar

    clear, transparent and concise article…

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  • Victoria Brooks

    I think that people will hold a higher expectation of SMS ads, than they do of email ads or ads within apps on their phone, because it is more intrusive.  I carry my Iphone with me wherever i go.  If I get an ad that doesn’t require immediate involvement or is immediately beneficial or relevant to my location, I may get annoyed and unsubscribe (if that is even a possibility).  That doesn’t necessarily extend to causes. I think people overall have a higher tolerance threshold, in those cases, because of the greater good that the organization does. 

    If I am in downtown San Antonio at the Riverwalk for Christmas and there seems to be an hour wait for every restaurant and there is a website that I go to click on that I can make reservations for a few of the many of the restaurants there and get notified via SMS (with a confirmation text back of “Y” to hold my spot for 10 mins, while I walk back there), I would be highly interested (and grateful) for that.  The shorter wait time and ability to sightsee in the interim would be incentive enough to sign up. (Based on a true story.)

    The SXSW festival is another avenue where I could imagine that SMS would be highly regarded since most attendees are from out of town and it can be difficult to keep up with all of the events going on.  Events can be promoted and reminders sent, with promotions that are related to the receiver’s geographical location.

    In cases like these, I see SMS marketing as providing a huge value-add to the receiver and welcomed as long as the receiver has given prior permission. 







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