Yes, the mid-term elections in the USA are coming up in 2010. Plenty of Senators, Governors and all of Congress is up for elections, as are many state-wide offices. And this election cycle, the key to victory will be more determined by a single technology than ever before. Not social networks - those have been coming along and gradually taken an ever more important role. Not internet based fund raising. Not YouTube or Twitter. The one technology that will determine winners and losers in this one election cycle to an unprecedented degree, is mobile telecoms and its forgotten son, SMS text messaging.
Why mobile, why this election, why SMS? This is the political primer to mobile in the midterms of 2010 in the USA. Time to wake up and smell the cellphone. SMS has come and will decide more close races than would be considered even fair. Political analysts of the future will study this midterm election and be amazed. It is like 1960 the Kennedy vs Nixon presidential election, where TV first showed its power. As political historians know, Nixon was judged to have won the debate when broadcast on radio, but Kennedy came on better on the newer medium of TV and won the debate - and Kennedy went on to win one of the closest elections in US presidential history. In a very concerete sense, that TV appearance tipped the balance, and Kennedy's team, whether by accident or design, were able to capitalize on TV's power and make Kennedy look so presidential, while Nixon looked dishevilled. So much so, that when Nixon eventually became president in 1968, he refused all TV debates, he was so traumatized by being beaten by a technology.
Now, for this midterm election, and only now in the USA, there will be a similar factor, that will decide almost all close races, decisively. It is that the winners will be those who truly understood mobile (that is, 'cellphones') as being different from the 130 years of landline phones; and that while mobile itself is far more powerful than landline phones or any internet communciations (for election purposes), the true power of mobile is not voice calls, not the mobile internet or some iPhone apps. The real power of mobile is SMS text messaging. The evidence is all out there now. Why was President Obama's campaign singularly obsessed by collecting mobile phone numbers - and then converting those supporters to accept SMS communications? Obama even resorted to gimmicks like announcing his VP choice by SMS, and nearing the election recruited rock, pop, country and rap stars, from Bruce Springsteen on, to help get supporters to give their numbers for SMS. Obama did not do this by accident. He's a pretty sharp guy and his campaign was run by pretty sharp people. They did a systematic use of SMS.
As their victory was so overwhelming, the use of SMS ended up not mattering. That is why most of the election pundits and analysts missed this trick in analyzing the Obama campaign and its keys to victory. They lost a powerful lesson for this election cycle.
That brings it to you, our reader. I will reveal to you the full breadth and depth and power of mobile, and on why SMS will be the biggest key to victory this election season. And obviously as it will be so overpowering this election cycle, by 2012, all parties and all election campaigns from President to dog-catcher will be using mobile and SMS. Then it will be just like most other tools today, that everybody will know, and everybody will of course use in a media and communciation 'mix'.
But you were here first. Odds are, that if you read this in 2009, you were here before your political rivals had read this blog. And it gives you a tremendous headstart, to do things right. And then the longer it takes for the competition to wise up, the more you can secure your margin of victory. Obviously using a given technology cannot turn a dog of a candidate into a rose, but if your Candidate is reasonably competitive, and you foresee the campaign to be reasonably close - if one side uses mobile and SMS well, and the other does not understand it, the SMS side wins. Every time.
This is by necessity a long blog article. Very long. Go get a cup of coffee first, and you might be inclined to even take notes, if you really are in US politics. This is truly a primer and will be most useful for the next eleven months. I will show to you the inside secrets to why mobile and why SMS. Obama's campaign knew most of these trends which is why they were so fanatical about SMS.
Mobile phone ('cellphone') penetration rate in the USA has reached over 90% per capita. There are over 280 million mobile phone subscriptions in the USA for a population a bit over 300 million. Today there are more mobile phones than fixed landlines. There are more mobile phones than personal computers of any kind, including desktops, laptops, netbooks. There are more mobile phone users than internet users.
This fact alone, should convince any campaign manager. Oh, I didn't know that. Is it true? (quick fact check). Yes, thats interesting. "Hey, everybody. Total revision of strategy. Since mobile phones are now the most common electronic communication method in the country, we need to revise our communication plans - all has to start with mobile. We won't abandon other means, internet social networks and email, fixed landlines, direct mailings etc, but mobile is now center stage, numero uno."
Note this is a sudden change. Until very recently there were more landline phones than mobile phones, and still a little while ago more PCs and more internet users in the USA than mobile phones. The fact, that this is a change in the communication environment is VERY GOOD NEWS for you. It means, that YOU KNOW there has been a change, and very possibly, your rivals haven't caught on yet. They may well be still sleeping in a comfortable world of an artificial sense of security. Just like Nixon walking into that TV debate, confident that his radio voice was going to be the winner.
If in this blog I can show you, that there are actionable, concrete realistic uses that a political campaign in the USA can make out of this change in the reach of communiations, you can get powerful tools to guide your Candidate and Campaign into victory. So lets examine.
MOBILE IS PERSONAL
The mobile phone is the first truly personal communication medium. The home landline phone is shared by the family. The office phone system is used by the whole office. Even our home PC or office PC is only semi-personal and may be shared by family members (at home) or occasionally used by the IT department with various firewalls and malware software and yes, email monitoring systems (at work). But mobile is so personal, we don't even share our mobile phone with our spouce. Our teenager kids won't let us 'snoop' inside their phones. No channel ever was so personal. When you get a voter's mobile number, it is only that person who will ever answer that phone. This was never true before of any other electronic media and was only matched by snailmail and their sealed letters. Those went to the named person (in most cases). Mobile is that personal.
This is a giant change. If for example in a family, the husband is for one party and the wife is for the other party, you will always reach your supporter, and not antagonize the other spouce, if you call the mobile. Same for voting age adult children living still with the parents. They may well have opposite political views than their parents, but be very self-conscious about it when speaking at home on the family phone. But when you call them on their personal mobile phone, you only get your supporter. And better yet, that voter can always take a walk outside, for some privacy, while talking to you, when the call is on their mobile phone.
This is a big change and not understood by the vast majority of analysts who dabble in mobile. The prevailing thinking by mainstream 'experts' in telecoms, is that a mobile phone is mostly the same usage pattern as a landline phone. That the cellphone is only an 'untethered' landline phone, but the usage is the same. That is definitely not true. So you have inside information, a secret weapon. But it gets better.
There is now clear evidence that we prefer to use the mobile as our primary form of communciation. It does not mean that we won't use Skype for calls or Twitter or Facebook or the Blackberry Instant Messenger. But overall, mobile is now the preferred tool. So much so, that 20% of American households have abandoned the fixed landline altogether. That is no accident, it is a global trend, first observed in Finland a decade ago (and first reported by me in my second book). But its a trend. If its 20% today, it will be 30% by election night next November.
That statistic has a remarkable impact to the elections, as so much is riding on the 'horse race' or the polls. The polling is still often done by sampling only households via their landline phones. That is now so inaccurate, that no kind of 'adjustments' or 'modelling' can account for the TYPE of voter who has first abandoned a landline phone. Who is last to abandon a landline phone? Its a retired couple living in a house they own. The first person to abandon the landline is someone who is young, has a mobile phone, lives in a rental apartment, and moves often, such as migrant workers, or college students or first-time job seekers who may move to another state to seek their first jobs. So unless your Candidate is running for office in one of the retirement community districts of Florida, you can't trust polling data where so much of the electorate is not even counted in the sample..
This is a big change. We saw evidence of it in the 2008 election but by then it was only around 10% who had abandoned the landline. Now its 20%. It will be around 30% next year. This is a big change, and many analysts don't understand the full impacts of it. You know it already now. And even for those still have both a landline and mobile phone in their homes, if your voter has a preference for a given type of phone, shouldn't you respect that preference? The evidence and understanding of this preference of using mobile is very new insights into US consumers, and you can capitalize on it in your Campaign. And yet, it gets better
AMERICANS NOW USE SMS
This is an even bigger change. Americans now use SMS text messaging. Two thirds of American mobile phone owners now send SMS text messages, and essentially all of the phone owners and their phones and the networks they use, can receive SMS. In a very concrete way, if you want to send an electronic, text-based communication to your electorate, you can reach the widest audience by sending SMS. Far more than if you use email, or Facebook or MySpace or any other electronic communication. And also, how many can reply. More are active users of SMS than are active users of any other text based communication including any instant messenger, and Facebook and email.
Do you want to do a simple 'newsletter' or newsflash or update of the next Campaign event where the supporters can meet the Candidate? The most wide-reaching medium is now SMS. This is a sea-change from just the last election cycle in 2008, when it was still email. But how many of your tech advisers were aware of this? This now elevates SMS to the top of the list as your first step of any written communciation. Just like Obama did with the announcement of VP pick Joe Biden. It does not mean that you abandon email or Facebook or Twitter or any other means. But it does mean, that SMS now is the first point, where you always start - and you the Campaign Manager, will have to insist, that any message be 'shrunk' into that 'sound bite' sized message, that fits the 160 characters of SMS text messaging. Hey, at least its longer than Twitter which only allows 140 characters..
This is a huge change. And if we find that SMS has any particular benefits to a campaign, then this change could be a key to dramatic gains in the election, for the side that better utilizes SMS. And you can't do SMS if you don't collect those mobile phone numbers. You can't send SMS to a landline phone..But it gets better.
Now, I've just finished telling you that US consumers prefer using a mobile phone rather than the landline phone. That is a big change in preference. Now get this, American consumers also prefer to send SMS text messaging rather than placing voice calls on their mobile phones (cellphones).
Yes, American consumers now prefer sending SMS text messages, to placing voice calls. You personally may not feel that way, but the US industry body, the CTIA, reported this as a fact a year ago. Americans now send far more SMS text messages from their mobile phones, than the number of voice calls they place. This is a sudden and dramatic change indeed.
This is a giant change and it is very poorly understood by most digital communication experts. But it is documented and is totally consistent with global trends that confirm the preference in countries ranging from Ireland to New Zealand. If your team on your Campaign contacts miscellaneous undecided voters, using not only the communication tool that they prefer, mobile, and the communication method they prefer, SMS, and your rival team tries to get them on a voice call via the landline, you have far more good will going your way. It won't win you the election, but by golly, this surely helps. And then it gets better.
WE LIKE SMS
SMS is still relatively new, and it has a lot of that new communication appeal. Like Flirtomatic CEO Mark Curtis says, "Everybody likes incoming." We love to hear that beep of the inbound SMS text message. Trust me, this gets old after some years when you receive a steady bombardment of 20 SMS every day, but still now, in the USA, and for this election cycle definitely, there is a lot of novelty to incoming SMS. Your constituents will enjoy receiving those messages. Far more so than receiving calls from volunteers in your Campaign, mind you, or any email spam in their inbox.
This is a big change. We can capitalize on this change. It helps in achieving the volume of messages delivered, and compared to for example email, very many times the emails go un-opened. But still today, almost all SMS are read. But hey, this is not all, it gets better.
RATHER SMS THAN EMAIL
As we're talking of email, the evidence is mounting that consumers prefer SMS to email. So we actually see heavy users of both email and SMS seeing a shift away from email, to SMS. And of those heavily addicted Blackberry users - a continuous shift away from email on the Blackberry to ever more SMS and Blackberry Instant Messenger use. email is like so last year..
Voter preferences? Is this not a change you want to be aware of? If you are in charge of the Campaign communications, then you have to know what your supporters preferences are, in terms of communications. And a dramatic shift is happening, away from landlines to mobiles, away from voice calls to SMS and away from email to SMS. Did I get your attention? SMS? But... it gets better.
SMS FASTER THAN EMAIL
This is one of those eye-opening, 'light bulb goes off in head' moments. There is conclusive evidence that SMS is by far the fastest form of written communication on the planet. The average PC based user of email expects a reply within 24 hours. The average user of SMS expects a reply within 5 minutes. Think about this
The 'reply cycle' of any ping-pong of written communication is shrunk from 24 hours to 5 minutes. This is like going from a balloon ride to jet fighter in speed. What campaign is not stressed for time? Is this not a 'time machine' for you, if you can get all decisions shrunk from days to minutes? Now you understand, why British executives, the archetypical 'conservative businessmen' of Europe, were insisting that SMS was their most valuable time management tool, more important than electronic schedulers or online calendars or even their personal secretaries - a decade ago. Why Britain's previous Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted his Cabinet members used SMS while the meetings were going on to communicate across the table, privately without disturbing the meeting, and to use SMS to fetch info into the meeting from underlings who were not in the room. Blair knew the power of SMS in 2004.
SMS is like Blackberry wireless email, but turbocharged. Incidentially, university studies prove that SMS is addictive and as addictive as cigarette smoking. I'm not kidding when I say there is no going back. Your team will enter the 21st century in its communciation speed when it learns to prioritize SMS in all written communications.
Now lets be clear. If all of your team have Blackberries, then email use on the Blackberries will be just as fast as SMS can be. Same is true of Blackberry instant messenger. But it breaks down immediately beyond your team. What of the wife of the person, or the chauffeur you have for the limo tonight, or the son of the Candidate who is volunteering today, or the lady at the catering service for tonight, etc. Not everybody has a Blackberry, only 12% of Americans have one. So 88% of your possibile contacts will not be able to benefit from the Blackberry email speed gains, or the Blackberry Instant Messenger speeds. But every one of American voters with a mobile phone, can receive SMS, and two thirds of them are already comfortable with sending SMS. That number will be far greater by the time November 2010 rolls in and your election night is on.
So yes, I am not telling you 'not' to use email or Facebook or Twitter or Yahoo messenger or Blackberry instant messenger etc. Use all methods where appropriate. But the primary communciation tool has to be SMS, because only SMS reaches every voter and every volunteer of your campaign, and SMS has become the preferred way of communicating, on the communciation tool which itself has become the preferred tool. And SMS is incredibly fast. All these were changes since the last election and odds are your rivals are nowhere near these facts (yet). But it gets better.
SMS IS MOST PRIVATE
SMS text messaging is the most private (secret) form of electronic communication on the planet. There are many reasons for this, but consider this for evidence. Remember that airline hijacking this September in Mexico City? There was a lady who was in the plane as a hostage, and sent messages all during the hijacking. There was a moment, when she had one arm held by a hijacker and was frightened she'd be killed. Yet she continued to report live on what was going on. The hijacker did not know she was sending messages continuously even while the hijacker was holding her arm? Why? Because she was sending SMS text messages with her phone hidden in her pocket.
She was texting 'blind'. This is not magic, almost all teenagers are fully capable of doing this. But this was a normal middle-aged lady, just very much into her phone. And she had a Blackberry, so the phone could be easily operated in her pocket (a 'flip phone' like the Motorola Razr cannot easily be opened in the pocket). Obviously a cool touch screen phone like the iPhone cannot be operated blind. So you need a 'real keypad' for the phone to be able to do SMS without looking at the phone.
But consider the power of this? In your Campaign, there will be countless times, when you are in the immediate vicinity of a member of your rival's campaign team. So you can't call the Campaign HQ with your important news or observation. But if you can hide your phone in your pocket, and send a message, nobody will know. This is the power of SMS. Its why kids use their phones to cheat in exams at school. They know how to send texts, blind. I am not advocating cheating, but I am showing, many people are perfectly fine in knowing their phone so well, they can do this.
We have the most discrete form of communication ever. And its in every pocket. The sooner your team learns to use the full power of SMS, the sooner your team gains this enormous advantage. Share a cab with a nosy journalist but have that really sensitive story you have to tell the boss back at the office? Can't call, but can easily send secret messages on the phone. This is part of the enormous power of SMS. But yes, it gets better.
NOW BEHOLD MMS
So if SMS is a powerful tool, MMS is like SMS but on steroids. You probably think of MMS as a useless picture messaging platform that only an idiot would pay to send pictures on. Yeah, join the club. But that is not the point. MMS is not 'just' a picture messaging service, it is a 'multimedia' messaging system. Yes. Pictures yes. Text like SMS yes. But sounds also, yes. And video clips, yes. In fact, your multimedia newsletter, with picture of your Candidate shaking hands, and a clip of him on the TV show visit, can all be sent via MMS.
SMS is primarily an interpersonal communication tool which can be used as a media channel as well. It can be used for simulcasts and short message style 'headline news' etc. But MMS is multimedia communciations and far more useful as a media, than an interpersional communication tool. A picture tells the story of a thousand words, and motion pictures tell the story of a thousand still images. Sounds, video, pictures, all that on a standard, that is already available on ... wait for it... over 75% of all American mobile phones today (unfortunately, the Apple iPhone is one of the very few new phones that until very recently still did not do MMS but don't worry, just about all other modern cameraphones do MMS). You can't reach 100% of your voters this way, but you can reach three out of every four. And the best part of MMS - it is fully interactive, so you can get direct replies from MMS.
MMS is by no means perfect. It still has compatibility issues with older models of handsets, and across networks. But that is more of a problem in interpersonal picture messaging. For your purposes, as a Campaign, MMS is pure gold. It is everything that SMS can be, but with everything you ever wanted SMS to have. You can have longer texts, embed pictures, embed videos and sounds. All directly to the mobile phone, so you get full benefits of mobile, and it is fully interactive. What more can you wish for. Now, not all phones yet are MMS enabled, but 75% is very good for now. Today in 2009, the total population of MMS-enabled phones is almost as big as the total population of all personal computers in America. By the time the election comes around, there will be more MMS enabled phones. And how many Americans are comfortable sending MMS messages today? Try 40%. Wow. This came out of nowhere and is truly exploding.
MMS is an ideal pocket media channel. It will be your fave communcation tool, I promise you, because you can always show your Candidate in pictures and videos from the latest campaign stops. And because its personal - to your supporters - your rival campaign will not see nearly as quickly what you're up to, as you would on Facebook or on your normal internet based website.
MMS is an enormous change and is totally mis-analyzed by most pundits and experts, who dismiss MMS as 'only' picture messaging. You have a massive lead in this now, learn to use it well, before your rivals catch on. You will like SMS, but you will soon love MMS. But it still gets better
This year, when the total advertising industry was in severe economic crisis, and even internet advertising was flat, the mobile advertising revenues exploded. Most early analysts suggest mobile advertising doubled this year. Google went out and bought Admob. Suddenly, what was a very hidden corner of the advertising industry, mostly just curiosity about weird early mobile ad campaign stories out of Japan and Finland and India and Spain, now is suddenly a very hot story. This year, when all ad budgets were slashed, only mobile grew. And it grew big. That means that the big advertisers like Coca Cola and Ford and Unilever and McDonalds have all fallen in love with mobile advertising. What was technically and commerically possible for this whole decade, is just now, literally in year 2009, becoming 'mainstream'. Mobile advertising will be in very big growth next year.
Part of why, is that while on the internet, advertising campaigns gain response rates of 0.5% (one half of one percent), on mobile ad campaigns the average response rates range from about 3% to 5% for equivalent campaigns ie Banner Ads and SMS advertising, which forms the vast majoirty of mobile ad campaigns today. With that kind of performance advantage - literally nearing 10X better response rates, obviously every advertiser wants more mobile. Now, do bear in mind, mobile is the tiny newcomer to the ad space. Globally mobile advertising is worth just one percent of all advertising dollars spent on the planet. But, in measurement after measurement after measurement, mobile ad campaigns deliver better results than any other media. So that is why mobile ad is growing so fast even when the global ad market is in freefall.
Now your Campaign is 'selling' your Candidate and trying to convince voters to show up and vote for the Candidate. You will need to advertise on all media channels that are relevant to your campaign. Next year, out of your ad budget in 2010, certainly some part will be going to mobile advertising. But the good part, you KNEW this and were able to learn about mobile ads. You can find out that there are levels of effectiveness in mobile ads, and the 'mainstream' typical campaigns on banner ads and SMS are very poor, compared to better more engaging campaigns using viral and 'engagement marketing' methods. And your advertising team will have had plenty of time to study the real global award-winning mobile ads campaigns, to find how to adapt those to your Campaign. Because you were here at this blog early, and learned that mobile is not only a communciation method, but it has emerged as a mass media channel as well. But it gets better.
MOBILE ADVERTISING MISUNDERSTOOD
There are many books out there by now, about mobile advertising. Most are utter rubbish. The Mobile Marketing Association and its predecessor the Wireless Advertising Association have been around for this whole decade, educating the industry. If a 'real' expert follow the advice of these industry bodies and studies the blogs and books of the real pioneers and thought-leaders, then there are several totally debunked myths about mobile ads. The most persistent myth is that of the location-based advertisement. I won't need to bore you with why this is a myth and where the evidence is, but the point for you is, that you won't ever need 'location-based advertising' anyway - because LBS ads are inherently limiting. Limiting the ad to a location. And you don't ever want to limit contacts to only part of your constituents. You want to communicate with all of your supporters.
No matter what your voting district or state or whatever electoral definition, you will always have some of your constituents, who are currently beyond those 'boundaries'. Ie you have a voting age college student, whose college dorm is beyond your voting district. But his or her official residence is still at home, in your district. So you'd be an idiot PAY EXTRA to use location-based 'targeting' to exclude that communication to YOUR voter, just because that voter happens to spend currently time just beyond your district. Could be visiting family there, or perhaps a young couple living together but still officially registered in your district - and willing to come and vote in it, etc. There is a far simpler, and totally free, solution, that is relevant to elections-related mobile ads. Get that voter's mobile phone number and permission to send messages to the voter. Doesn't matter if the voter is now physically present, in your district or happens to be in the next state or in Canada or Mexico, you reach him or her. Location Based is totally un-usable in election related mobile advertising (also for many other reasons, but this should suffice)
But this is very good news for you. Because that means, that many of the mobile advertising 'experts' working in the mobile ad space in the USA are now in a futile quest for that imaginary pot of gold called location-based advertising. That is good for you. Because you know, it is not the only type of mobile advertising, and you know better than that, that for elections related mobile ads, LBS is pointless. So your campaign will not spend any valuable time considering and experimenting with this lost cause. But your rivals. Next year at some point, they will have an Heureka moment, and they will start to go mobile in their ads. And when they hire their ad agency, odds are they will hear lots of silly ideas about LBS ads and other useless but expensive ventures, such as "oh, mobile advertising, you need an iPhone App". Now you know better. Your mobile ads will outperform theirs, all through the election cycle. But would you know it, this gets better.
The better stage in mobile is interactive advertising, and an area particularly useful for you is viral marketing. This means that those who receive your mobile ads, are encouraged - and often rewarded - for forwarding the ad. This is great for your Campaign for recruiting more volunteers, for getting more support among Voters and of course, to drive donations to your Campaign. If you action your ad agency, to right from the start, abandon the silly LBS, preroll video ads, iPhone Apps etc ideas, and rather focus on the power of mobile and do powerful, compelling viral campaigns, you get monster results.
Viral marketing can be enormously successful, but can also be hideously badly implemented. Here you force your ad agency to earn their money and do a good job at it. You understand mobile well enough to demand it, and with some of the resources I give you, you will have plenty of benchmarks to use to see if the proposed idea is good or bad. But for now, you know, mobile advertising will be far bigger next year than now. And while your rivals work on dumb ideas of very modest performance, you have high powered mobile campaigns. But it does get better.
Then there is the ultimate in mobile advertising and marketing, called engagement marketing. This is so new and different, most will totally misunderstand it. But let me give you just a taster. Over 2,000 separate mobile ad campaigns, run by 200 brands who are the who's who of global brands, Mastercard, Coca Cola, L'Oreal, Ford etc - over a 2 year period, resulted in an average response rate of.... 25%. That is 50X better than a highly successful campaign online. That is nearly 10X better than dumb basic mobile ad campaigns.
This is not the 'novelty' of a new format. After 2,000 campaigns, that is solid numbers. And if Coca Cola and Mastercard and Ford etc run on average 10 such campaigns in a 2 year period, you betcha they really REALLY loved mobile. The secret? These were not interruptive propaganda passive campaigns. These were way beyond 'just' interactive or even 'viral' campaigns. These were all designed using 'engagement marketing' methods. There is no point in me trying to teach you today what is engagement marketing, that is mostly for the ad industry to know. But suffice it to say, that my co-author of my fourth book - Communities Dominate Brands the signature book for this blog, and co-blogger here with me, Alan Moore, is the man who coined the term Engagement Marketing. This stuff is so far beyond Admob and LBS ads and Google Adwords, its not even funny. You don't need to know now today, what it is or how its done. All you need to know, that such superpower ability resides in the advertising that we can deliver to the pocket of every one of your voters. And there is ample competence to do this properly. And I will give you resources you can follow to get to do this.
The main point. I promise you, your rival campaign is not hearing about Engagement Marketing in the first meeting with any ad agency in the USA today, even if the topic is only mobile advertising. You can get it, when you demand it. But they will walk into any client's first meeting with their standard pitches of banner ads, preroll video, SMS spam, LBS ads, and iPhone apps. Now what is the optimal channel to use for Engagement Marketing?.MMS messaging! And the second best form currently to do Engagement Marketing is... SMS ! There you go, you are way way way ahead of the game with these insights. And as this is so rare new bleeding edge info, and the invention comes from Britain (Alan lives in Cambridge), there are precious few currently in the States, who will offer this sparce knowhow voluntarily. But you ask for it, and you'll get it. And you'll have resources here, including several books, that discuss it. But you know what? It still gets better.
REAL INTERNET ON MOBILE
You can do the real internet on the mobile phone. This is best illustrated by the iPhone, obviously, the world's best internet-oriented mobile phone today. So all your internet related campaign components such as your Candidate's website and blog, and all related activites on Facebook and MySpace and Flickr and Second Life and YouTube can be also had on mobile phones. Essentially all 'smartphones' can do the real internet in your pocket. These count for approx 24% of all phones in America today - and remember, more than half of the smartphones in the USA are Blackberries.
So about a quarter of your voters can theoretically access the internet on a high-power smartphone today, like a Blackberry, an iPhone or a wide range of other smartphones. But there are more phones that can do the 'real internet' than just smartphones. Over half of all phones in the USA today have some type of xTML browser, ie a modern, 'internet compatible' browser. Now, not nearly all of these will be on data pricing plans that make mobile phone based web surfing easy for the users, but you need to know, your 'real internet' user base on mobile is actually potentially twice the size of smartphones.
The internet has been on phones for a long time but in very tiny numbers. This ability is a very recent change. Many of the analysts aren't aware of this. You have an advantage in knowing this. But it gets better
BUT ALSO A MOBILE INTERNET
Now we need to get techncial for a moment. There is the 'real internet' as you and I know it. But there is another entity, entirely different, called a 'mobile internet'. This involves a simpler internet, on a standard called WAP. It is NOT the real internet. WAP is designed to work with the 'deficiencies' of a tiny phone and tiny keypad with no mouse, and a tiny screen, and still be able to deliver somewhat an internet-like experience.
Now, WAP is for all 'serious' internet developers a really 'crappy' and 'crippled' version. They hate it. WAP has almost nothing of the newer really cool things you could do - on the real internet. But, remember, WAP was designed, with mobile phones in mind. So in reality, for any type of basic interactive 'internet-like' service you might want to 'quickly develop' for your Candidate now, as a mobile website, WAP is truly far better. Because it has so many of those very basic parts that we really appreciate on mobile. Now, obviously, there are tons of bad WAP sites and tons and tons of bad WAP experiences worldwide. It is not a happy family story. But most of those were poorly designed and poorly deployed ideas.
A modern, well designed WAP based 'mobile internet' service can be wonderful. Consider Flirtomatic from the UK, which has spread from Germany to Australia to the USA with millions of users and making oodles of cash (who makes money in social networks? and who just have become profitable!!!!). They work on WAP and yes, they win awards just about every month somewhere around the globe. So on the technical issues, WAP design is mostly about competence. It can be truly wonderful if the designers know what they are doing - and keep it simple. Even then, WAP is always a hassle and has considerable fragmentation issues, etc and is by no means as easy to develop to, than say creating an iPhone App. But not being easy, means not everybody has it, and yet, it is not rocket science, it can be done today. Keeping it simple, a very good guideline on mobile, will help with WAP sites.
But, WAP, the 'mobile interent' - ie the not real internet in your pocket is far far better than the real internet on any smarpthones, and even better than the real internet on real personal computers, why? Because this 'modest' WAP based mobile internet reaches... every pocket in America. Well, almost. Nearly all phones in America today, have a WAP compatible browser - or better browser. So if you design for WAP, you reach literally just about every phone user. Thats 20% more total device population than all personal computers in use in the USA today, and almost twice the reach of doing the 'real internet' for smartphones and better browser-phones. Almost every pocket. Still unsure about WAP?
This is very important on so many levels. First, you understand instinctively, why your Candidate's internet web site, is a more complete voter experience, than just sending your voter some emails. On the website you can create sections of different info, such as the agenda where your Candidate will be. Highlights of speeches and policy papers. Contact info and email and comment areas, etc etc etc. Plus pictures, biographies, etc. A true comprehensive website. Now, you can do all of that on WAP.
Suddenly, the 'dream' of having a real internet in your pocket, is delivered, as an illusion of the real internet. The WAP based simpler mobile internet website is not 'the real internet' and is a compromise. But for the average visitor and voter, it makes totally no difference.
The main point is, to follow the guidelines of Dot Mobi and such professional entities who assist in the design of good consumer websites optimimized for mobile. You do that, and you have something that is just as good as 90% of all content on current websites of politicians, but is also optimized for the small screen. You have a win-win. Now, WAP development is not easy, the competence is hard to find, but is out there. There is tons of competence to do standard internet, that is why they all are so passionate to do the 'real internet' rather than learn the mobile internet. But the real internet on a phone cannot get you more than half of your total voters (and only a quarter of them on smarpthones). WAP can get you essentially all of your voters. Get some competent WAP support signed with your Campaign before your rivals think of it. You again have the advantage, and somewhere along the line, your rivals will observe that hey, did you notice that the other side's mobile internet pages also work on non-smartphones? How come is that? How can we do that... But it gets better.
SOCIAL NETWORKING AND MOBILE
The big buzz about how to win campaigns currently is 'social networks' ie Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube etc. And they are very important. But this is a defensive move in this election cycle. Everybody knows it, everybody has a specialist on it, and each campaign watches what the other does in the space. You can't win anymore by being the first politician on Facebook, that election went already.
But you probably have also noticed that essentially all social networking services have recently made major moves into mobile. Facebook going to mobile, MySpace going mobile, Flickr going mobile, YouTube going mobile, Wikipedia going mobile etc etc etc. So this insight alone is again worth bearing in mind considering the value of mobile to your campaign.
But there is a younger 'variant' to social networks, and that is mobile-optimized or mobile-only social networks. Qik the mobile 'video blogging' and instant broadcasting utility is one such innovation. I mentioned Flirtomatic before, thats another. Twitter was designed from the start to be comfortable on mobile. If you are in a major campaign with real staff and budget, perhaps a Senatorial or Governor race, you may want to consider building your own social network - and obviously in this day and age, you do that on mobile, not on the web. I do not mean, that you can't have a Facebook friends club, of course you do. But if you feel ambitious, and want to create your own social network - then observe that hundreds of mobile-only social networks have millions of users and are far more successful commercially, they do make money. So when you deploy a social network on mobile, you can get very satisfied members. I'm pretty sure many campaigns will toy with ideas, lets make a virtual world or lets set up a multiplayer wargame or a chat club or fan club or whatever. That idea should definitely be considered on mobile. And yes, again, NOT as an iPhone App. But as a WAP solution (or perhaps, MMS solution)
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said earlier this year that social networks and user-generated content are the 'defining aspect of humanity for the next 10 years' (very similar statement in 2009, as we said with Alan Moore in our book four years earlier, haha). And in the same interview, he added that mobile phones are the most important technology of them all, and that within a few years, the majority of internet use will be on mobile phones. This from the CEO of the world's biggest internet company.
So while your rivals will work hard to do social networks 'the old-fashioned way' just for the web, you now know there is also a mobile direction to all social networks. Whether that can be a big or small addition to your arsenal of insights to mobile, this is an area you can also use. And one more time, it still gets better. And this is the kicker
SMS DELIVERS ELECTION VICTORIES
This is my last argument. But I left the best for last. The reason the Obama campaign was so obsessed with mobile numbers, and then activating their supporter base to use SMS, is the irrefutable evidence, that SMS can deliver more votes. So what do I mean by that. I mean, that after your Campaign is totally done. You groomed your Candidate and have had all the stump speeches and TV debates and kissing the babies and celebrity endorsements. You've had all your fundraising and TV ads and negative ads and the robocalls, and volunteers knocking on doors and the get-out-the-vote effort. All of the campaign is done. That yields some number of total voters voting for your Candidate.
Now, for the first time ever, totally irrespective of WHAT was said in the campaign, you can get bonus votes, based on which method of communication you used on election day. If your voters were sent a voting day reminder by mobile phone, using SMS of course, then the total turnout will be 4.2% bigger. This is not my invention, this is the result of a broad university study by Princeton University and the University of Michigan, yes in the USA, yes on US elections. If its a close election, that the difference of winning and losing, easily.
In every election, there are voters who intended to vote, had made up their minds, and then do not show up to vote, for a wide range of reasons. Now, for the first time, because mobile is personal, because it is permanently carried, and it is always on, it is the only instrument that can deliver actual added voters to the polling booths on election day.
This is why. After all is done in your Campaign. You gave it your all. Your team gave it their all. Your Candidate did everything needed. Then they start to count votes. If you campaign had sent SMS text message reminders, you get bonus 4.2% of votes.
If your rival didn't do the same, your actual voter turnout, will then be 4.2% better than what was predicted by the very latest poll the night before, while your rival gets the same turnout they were predicted. This is like magic. Like cheating. The actual count gets you 4.2% more than the very last polls predicted you 'should get' while your rival gets exactly what your poll predicted. Why wouldn't every campaign every time do this?
Every candidate who does this with their voters, get more votes. Period. Soon every campaign will do this. But now it is still a 'black science' not widely known. And understand, this is night-and-day with all other communication methods. You can't get this benefit from landlines, and not on any internet based communcitions. Only on mobile and yes, using SMS.
This is why Obama was so obsessed with SMS, he announced Biden via SMS. It was yet another gimmick to get mobile phone numbers from Obama supporters, and to turn more of Obama's supporters into being familiar with SMS. Late in the campaign he even had rockers, rappers and country and pop stars doing free concerts - and to get in, you had to give your mobile number (duh) and yes, the ticket was sent.. by SMS. Obama was brilliant in capturing SMS numbers. You can do better.
It is undeniable, that this election cycle, there will be campaigns that understand the power of SMS, and campaigns who don't. The ones who don't will put equal effort into capturing names into email databases or phone numbers. They will place landline and mobile numbers at equal importance. They will think engaging with voters on Facebook or Twitter is as important as SMS. You know better. Only mobile, and optimally SMS, will deliver ADDITIONAL VOTES. So big a bonus windfall landslide extra votes, that a near contest of losing, becomes a comfortable win margin. I am not telling you this, two big US universities told you this last year. I am only reminding you now.
Like all other points in this long essay, this is a change. It is very easy to miss by your rivals. It takes systematic long-term effort to convert as many of your supporters to be 'compatible' with your election day reminder communciations. You have to get their name and permisssion. They may not want to give their mobile number, so you have to get very creative to get the mobile numbers. And then get your constituents to start to use SMS to be comfortable with it come November. But if you do, the payoff will be sweet. Your rival cannot suddenly achieve that in one month, if they suddenly get 'into SMS' sometime in October of 2010. This is a long game, a marathon.
SMS delivers elections. SMS is the single most important tool in your Campaign this year. You have to tailor all of your communication methods to start with SMS. And all of your Campaign staff and Volunteers have to be totally fluent in SMS.
So, what do do next. First, you notice in this long blog, I have not given you any convenient links to any of the sources I mention. I tell you now only this. I lecture at Oxford University on mobile telecoms (easy to Google and verify) and I have written six hardcover books on mobile (easy to check on Amazon to verify). I am legit. But I may still be crazy. So if you are involved in a Campaign, you need to next get someone to go hunt those facts for you, and verify for yourself. If I gave the links to you, your team would be still suspicious. But if you (or one of your assistants or volunteers) digs up the facts, your team can believe them.
Then if even half of my facts turn out to be true, then this is such a big weapon in your arsenal, that you have to have a moment with your Candidate and revise the whole strategy. Mobile has to go center stage, and SMS be the goal. Your whole campaign-long mission will be to get as many of your voters 'SMS-activatable' on election day. Because this one election cycle, the biggest single factor in determining winners and losers will be this one technical issue. After this election the cat will be out of the bag and everybody will be doing it. But if you get mobile and SMS wrong, and the race is close and your rival stumbled upon this website of ours, your tight race turns into your loss.
You will need a mobile strategy. Then you will need a 'mobile czar' for your campaign. That czar has primarily the following main missions in the mobile task (may have more duties too, depending on how small your campaign staff is) - educate the Campaign and Candidate on mobile. Remind all Campaign staff and Volunteers regularly that SMS will win the election. Monitor the mobile industry and the rival campaign and other campaigns in the election cycle, looking for ideas to adapt to your Campaign. Join all advertising and commnuncation meetings to ensure enough attention on mobile. And to regularly propose mobile ideas to the Campaign, probably through various projects and brainstorming with volunteers. The mobile czar will be measured for how well all supporter data is upgraded to include mobile numbers, and how many of the supporters have sent SMS to the Campaign or Candidate.
Then the total staff needs to be upgraded to full SMS texting-blind capacity. Probably this is too much to ask for of the Candidate but the full staff, yes. No matter how much they love their iPhones, you will test them that they all are able to send SMS with their phone hidden in their pocket, without looking at the phone. You will need this ability so frequently, it will be nearly daily come October of 2010. Train your staff now. And if that staff member is attached to the iPhone, then they need a second phone that does blind texting. If your Campaign has the budget, get all staff Blackberries. If you don't have that much money, at least cover all staff with unlimited SMS packages but for most you don't need unlimited calls,. Teach them right from the start to use SMS, its far more powerful than voice calls.
As to your supporters and the constituency. You cannot assume that all will enjoy voice calls or text messages on their personal mobile phones. You need to be very sensitive and careful about this. Ask for communication preferences and respect those. Some will say, send me email, then do that. Some will say, send me snailmail, then do that. For others voice calls on the landline or Skype, others want instant messaging or Facebook. It doesn't matter. You respect their wishes.
It is your Campaign's mission to convert them to want to give you their mobile phone number and accept SMS (and MMS). So just create reasons why they want to do that. Little stunts like Obama did. But you will never get all to accept. That is fine, try to get as many as you can. Every one you can get, adds to your total, to approach the 4.2% bonus in the end.
You will need to have a total mobile day with your communication team (obviously send them first to do homework, by reading this long blog) and another total mobile day with your advertising agency.
Oh, of the ad agency or your digital gurus or advisors. Don't let them dupe you into funding any 'iPhone App' project. iPhone apps are cool and sexy and very hot and desirable. They can seem magical even and can have enormous publicity value and everybody in mobile wants to do iPhone Apps. Your response is 'We won't win if we convince only 5% of the voters." That is the END of the discussion. If anyone else is dumb enough to suggest again at some point 'hey, I have an idea, we could do an iPhone App' you reply 'We won't win if we convinnce only 5% of the voters'.
While iPhone Apps are the runaway tech success story of today, the truth is, that AT&T reported this June, that they had passed 10 million active iPhone users in their network. They are the only provider having the iPhone. 10 million iPhones out of 280 million total mobile phones subscribers in the USA, is 3.5%. Even if you toss in the iPod Touch devices (which look the same, and have the same operating system, but are not mobile phones, are sort of intelligent WiFi enabled media players) which Apple reports are about 50% more than total iPhones, you get 15 million iPhones and iPod Touches in total. Thats 5.3% of the total US population. You cannot win, if you focus your creative effort on trying to win this 5.3%. While your team wastes valuable resources, time, money and creative effort on the iPhone App, I will go to your rival, design a simple SMS campaign that reaches the total electorate. Even if your iPhone App is 'perfect' and reaches 'perfect success' and all 5.3% of iPhone owners in your district will vote for you, I had less effort, less money and better success, and defeat you with a 20 to 1 landslide victory. In no place in America, can you win if your strategy is built on an iPhone App. Not even if you run for Mayor of Cupertino.
Don't let them swindle you into approving an iPhone App. You say, 'we won't win if we convince only 5% of the voters." Then you say, "before considering any apps, our mobile strategy has to deploy a successful SMS campaign, a successful MMS campaign, and a functional WAP mobile internet website, conforming to dot mobi guidelines. Deliver those first, they all reach a minimum of 75% of our voters. After that we can consider some apps."
Oh, and when you do any apps. iPhones and iPod Touches reach 5% of your voters. Blackberry reaches about 12% of your voters. You are not in the 'lets make pretty apps' business. You are in the 'lets get elected' business. You need reach. So even if you were to do an app, you start with Blackberry. Half of all smartphones in America are Blackberries. Then consider porting it to lesser platforms like iPhone, Google Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian etc. But all along that application idea, try to adapt it to WAP, and you'll suddenly have your concept in all pockets.
This has been an epic blog, sorry about the length. Thanks for staying with me. I promised some resources for you.
Books. The book that will be your 'bible' (I apologize for any who are very religious, but sorry its the best term I can think of) which covers all the points in this blog, but in far more detail, with stats, examples, user behavior studies etc, is my sixth hardcover book, Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media. See it here in the margin of this blog, and pick it up at Amazon. But then don't go buying my other books, they won't do you any good. Start with 7th Mass Media, but then go to other authors.
You will need to do mobile advertising. I told you there are tons of utter rubbish books that will bore you to death, give you outdated information you can't use, and worst of all, will actually steer you wrong, so you waste valuable resources in futile projects. The one book that is far above all others on mobile advertising, is Chetan Sharma's Mobile Advertising. This book is brilliant, and universally hailed as a masterpiece by those who really know this industry, worldwide. You need it.
Then mobile communication with your constituents is more than mere advertising. It is more broadly 'mobile marketing' and this area has far less literature, but one book is clearly the standard for excellence and that is Kim Dushinski's Mobile Marketing Handbook. A most useful hands-on how-to book you can deploy ideas immediately. A must into your bookshelf.
Then there is our Alan Moore's second book, which is also Ajit Jaokar's fourth book, Social Media Marketing (see it here on the margin). This book is deep but often quite theoretical. However, it deals in the areas of social media, of influencers and of social context of consumption. It is one of those you may want one of your creative brainiacs to read and then develop a massive superstar idea. The book covers areas far beyond just mobile, so this is very much Facebook, MySpace etc, but - very importantly - it is perhaps the only book on social media out there, that has a completely modern understanding of mobile, as two of the authors are full mobilists (Ajit and Jouko Ahvenainen). I believe that any other social media book you may find, will pay lip service to mobile, and reflect the misunderstandings like some I mention in this blog. This book however, is totally solid on mobile. Oh, and don't buy the other book of the same name. Check the authors.
In the area of social networks, you do need to know about mobile, as I reminded you, all current intenet based social networks are already headed to mobile. So which social networking and user-generated content book to read? That would be the only other book of mine to consider, the signature book for this blog, and the first to say social networks go mobile. Communities Dominate Brands (see it on the top left of this blog) is considered a must-read by marketing professors worldwide and my fourth is obviously Alan's first book.
When you deal with mobile and your voter information, you will frequently bump into privacy issues and concerns. This area is new, but the global guru digital identies, footprints and privacy, is Tony Fish and his third book was just released, and is called My Digital Footprint, and the book is brilliant. Get it into your library and make sure one of your communication team, and your legal councel will read it cover to cover.
And finally, while both of Alan's books and also my 7th Mass Media do touch on engagement marketing methods, currently by far the best book on that topic, and the kind of turbo-charged voter engagement through mobile, is Jonathan MacDonald's book Every Single One of Us / The Communciation Ideal. Another book really worth adding to your library.
Obviously thats a lot of books on mobile. You need help and advice on grooming your Candidate and debate prep and press relationship management and fundraising etc etc etc. The point is, that as mobile telecoms happened to be a bit laggard in America for a number of reasons, and especially SMS messaging and engagement marketing are very early in trying to catch up with some of the world's most advanced markets, these are areas you won't find tons of local experts in the USA. You will find lots of debate coaches, speech writers, press advisors and web designers. You won't need so many books on those. But for mobile, to start with, it makes sense to get these books and be fluent in the current best thinking of the industry. Then you can start to do compelling and successful projects to turn your voters into an 'army of fanatics' to borrow Jonathan MacDonald's phrase, and to do that via mobile and SMS.
Finally, I've been very harsh on my American colleagues and peers in this blog. And that is honestly, a commentary from my side of the 'facts' of the level of expertise, not a personal indictment. But I want to mention that there are numerous truly brilliant, very deeply knowledgable mobilists also in America. I cannot possibly hope to mention all of them, but let me mention a few that you can go and read and gain good insights that are totally US focused and still totally accurate and relevant. These are in total random order, please do not read anything in the order.
C. Enrique Ortiz
Peggy Ann Salz
And there are good collaboration blogs/news sites focusing on mobile in USA
Mobile Marketing Watch
I should really list several more, but for me its hard to keep straight who is from where, I try to read a lot of bloggers in the industry and just now as I was compiling this list, found several I thought were kind of US focused, were actually British etc. And there are more, I am very sorry to friends I've now left out, I'll need to come back and add to this list. But I'm very tried after writing all night and want to get this posted today for you.
There, the primer of mobile for the US elections 2010. Enjoy. And two last plugs - remember me when you do something pretty cool with mobile with your Candidate. I'll be happy to blog about it so let me know what you did with this insight and did something cool or clever with mobile in the Campaign. And if you want to have a short 2 page summary about the ins and outs of SMS Text Messaging, I have written a 'Thought Piece' on SMS, if you send me an email asking for it, I will send you the free pdf file by return email.
Now if you really really just can't get enough of this unbelievably verbose guy, and want a bit more of your daily Ahonen fix, to read about the truths about SMS, here is my big blog article on SMS
And if you want to see my analysis of the final count of how effective Obama and McCain were in the 2008 elections, in contacting their supporters and what effect if any, did this have on the final results, please check out the early part of this blog on 2008 results and building evangelists.