Creating Successful Calls to Action

If you’ve read my previous post, then hopefully your convinced that the most effective use of your mobile campaign is to add calls to action to media as a way to get viewers to engage with your brand. Now I’d like to talk about how to create successful calls to action that get people to take out their phone and text in.

What is a call to action (CTA)? A call to action is when you ask someone to take an action – usually happening in media. One example of a CTA is to say “visit our website at”. An example of a mobile call to action would ask someone to text a Keyword to a shortcode.

There are 3 important factors to creating successful calls to action.

Clarity is King The call to action should be simple and very easy for the viewer, listener or reader to understand.

“Text JOIN to 12345”

This seems straightforward, but there are a lot of ways to mess this up – most of them include getting too cute with the keyword or the short code. Keep it simple so that the person hearing the message is not confused what to do.

Make the CTA prominent Every type of media has it’s version of fine print. Don’t put the call to action in the fine print. If you’re driving people to sign up from the commercial or advertisement, make sure the ask is a major point of the commercial. The person doing graphics should understand how to make the call to action pop – it’s your job to make sure they do.



Repeat The standard rule for TV and radio is the CTA should be repeated 3 times. For video you should also have the call to action on a sidebar or bottom 3rd of the screen the entire commercial. In most print ads you cannot repeat in the same way, so prominence is more important.

Find a Reason Of course the most important aspect of the call to action is that the target needs a good reason to take action. In almost every case it’s better to be specific – “For more information text KEYWORD to 12345” doesn’t work well. People know how to find more information, it’s called google.

The best CTAs ask for something specific:
“To vote on American Idol, text the word VOTE to 12345”
“To find the closest location to get a flu shot, text SHOT to 12345”
“For a chance to win, text ENTER to 12345”

Check back for some examples of successful calls to action.

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The most important function of your mobile campaign

I rewrote this post several times, trying to articulate the point that I want to make. I’ve been thinking this for a long time and I still cannot distill this point into a concise title, so I guess it will take a little more typing.

Working in business development for a mobile company I hear a lot of good ideas for mobile campaigns (and a few bad ones), but there is one strategy that consistently produces the most value for the company looking to launch the mobile campaign. This strategy is where I recommend potential clients start. And the strategy is…

Use mobile to create engagement and opt in to future communication driven from your media.

This means to include mobile calls to action in TV, radio, print, press releases, outdoor and at live events. In all of these instances it’s a no-brainer to say your website, right? All of this media is actually much better suited for a mobile call to action rather than a web call to action (but do them both anyway).

I know the campaign will be successful when the potential client says, “We want to incorporate a mobile call to action into this media campaign… to get more people involved.”

Adding a mobile call to action to media works so well because a phone is a communication tool. Users can take that first step and “sign up” with their phone, and in doing so they are entering your database/digital universe. After they text in it’s very easy to ask for their name, email address, physical address or any profile information.

Over and over again I’ve seen clients  include mobile calls to action in media and be very happy with the results. In every case the client gets more subscribers to their follow up communications campaign. As a rule of thumb, a mobile CTA should bring in about 4 times as many opted in email addresses as a web call to action, but I’ve seen differences as large as 50 times more opted in emails from mobile CTAs.

Next I’m going to talk about how to create successful mobile calls to action in media, so stay tuned.

Posted in Mobile 2.0, Text Messaging | 1 Comment

Measuring a Mobile Campaign

When I discuss mobile campaigns I’m focusing on opt in text messaging. We already know how to measure mobile advertising, with click-throughs, and possibly actions, if you’re lucky. Opt in text messaging is a little different. It’s most similar to an email campaign, but with SMS there are usually more metrics available due to the mobile device on which the text is received.

I’ve helped design hundreds of campaigns for Mobile Commons clients and would like to share some of the most common metrics that help prove the success of mobile campaigns.

Opt Ins: These the number of subscribers on the SMS list currently. The number of opt ins all time (including people that have opted out of the list) is probably important as well. In almost every case, the number of opt ins is the most important stat in the campaign. In most cases, the number of opt ins determine if the campaign is a success or a failure. When many people are subscribed it’s possible to try a lot of different approaches and when no one is subscribed it really doesn’t matter what communications you try.

Unfortunately, the opt in stat is a bit of a trick – it’s not a mobile stat at all. The number of opt ins really measure the effectiveness of the media promoting the campaign (and that’s valuable too). If a TV commercial asks people to text in PEPSI, the number that text in are primarily a measure of the clarity of the commercial and perceived benefit of taking the action. If you compare the number of people that text in from the commercial and the number of people that visit a website or call a phone number that would give a better idea of the effect of mobile on a campaign.

Since opt ins are a good way to measure the effectiveness of a media campaign, it can also work to compare different media campaigns. It’s possible to set up different campaigns, or different opt in keywords to measure what channel, media or commercial cause the most people to pull out their phone and text in. At Mobile Commons we’ve tested this several times. We’ve tested the same TV commercial on different stations and we’ve tested the same message on Twitter, Facebook, radio and through QR codes. (In the latter test, radio CRUSHED twitter radio and QR).

Phone Calls: On unique aspect of a mobile campaign is that it takes place on a mobile phone. Generating phone calls is probably the second most common goal for mobile campaigns that I’ve worked on. Tracking the number of phone calls placed and calculating a conversion rate based on the number of text messages asking people to call in are both good measures of a mobile campaign.

Why would you want to drive and track phone calls? Different organizations drive phone calls for different reasons, but the most popular reasons are for advocacy, donations or purchases, to set up appointments or for customer service.

The number of calls made and the conversion rate are only the two most high level stats that are important to track. It’s important to track who is making the calls, how long they are staying on the phone, and whether or not their calls are being connected. It’s also important to pay attention to what promotions are driving calls, as calls can be generated from text message or the web in many cases.

Clicks: Link shortening services can make it easy to track how many opted in subscribers are clicking on links included in text messages. If you are trying to drive subscribers to mobile web pages, it’s important to understand mobile web browsing habits.

It’s best practice to direct links to pages on your site that have content. Sending a visitor to your home page on a mobile phone is not that valuable – mobile visitors won’t surf your site on a phone, as much as they would do on a desktop or laptop. Obviously it’s advisable to have web analytic software to track mobile web visitors and measure the value of each click.

One surprise that we found is that you can find your biggest influencers/evangelists by tracking web clicks. At Mobile Commons we not only track how many clicks each link gets, but we track who clicks on the link, and how many times they click. When looking through the data, we discovered that certain subscribers were clicking a link 50 or even 100 times – and always from different phones and browsers. It quickly became apparent that a single subscriber wasn’t clicking 50 times, they had Twittered the link, or posted to Facebook, and their followers had clicked 50 times.

Text Responses: Sometimes measuring success is as simple as keeping track of how many people respond. Since their is no “open rate” with text messaging, response can be the most basic action that subscribers are asked to take. Believe me, people will reply to text messages – as if they were texting the CEO of the company!

Asking people to respond is fairly straightforward, depending on the campaign. It’s important to follow up with people appropriately and offer increased engagement for people that are looking for that.

Forwards: Forwarding a message, or telling a friend can be tricky with text message. There are basically 2 ways that subscribers can forward to a friend, and they each have different tracking mechanisms.

The first way subscribers can forward your message is simply by forwarding the message on their phone. In this case the message should be written to ask users to forward the message, and ask the recipient of the forward to take some action. For example the message could read “Forward this message to a friend, and ask them to text JOIN to 12345.” In this case the keyword JOIN should be unique to the forward, and the best measurement is to track how many forward recipients take action by texting in.

Some texting platforms offer a Forward to a Friend feature. In this case a subscriber can send a message to their friends through the messaging system and the system should be able to track how many messages were sent to friends, and also how many friends took action. Tracking is much better with this method, but the user experience suffers. With the second method, the original subscriber must tell the messaging system their friend’s number either by text or the web.

Generally tell a friend is a recommended promotion for messaging. When the recipient is asked to forward on their number, we’ve seen as high as a 15% opt in rate from friends. This has been lower when subscribers use the system’s mechanism to opt friends in to the campaign. The Tell a Friend feature works much better from the web especially on a redirect page after a click to call.

This post has been longer than expected. Hope it helped. Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions or leave comments.

Posted in Text Messaging, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What is a shortcode?

A short code is a 5 or 6 digit number that is used for text message marketing. When you see a call to action that says “Text VOTE to 12345,” VOTE is the keyword and 12345 is the shortcode. For most organizations, they will use one short code, but may use many keywords on that short code in order to designate different campaigns.

Why do we use short codes?

The carriers want organizations, both non profit and commercial, to use short codes for SMS marketing and communications. There is a layer of businesses called aggregators that connect directly with the carriers and are able to deliver text messages over short codes at higher rates and they’re able to verify delivery. Aggregators only send messages over short codes. In almost all cases, if you send messages over a regular 10 digit number, delivery verification cannot be confirmed, and throughput is very slow.

How much do short codes cost?

In the United States there is only one place to obtain a short code and it’s rather straightforward to lease a short code. If you want to choose the short code number, the cost is $1,000 per month. If the number is not important, you can lease a random short code for $500 per month. Similar to a website, you’ll need to host the short code (with an aggregator). Generally, the hosting price is $500+ per month. Hosting and delivery is important so you don’t necessarily want to go with the cheapest option.

Many vendors (including my employer) offer the use of a shared short. A shared short code is owned by the vendor and multiple clients can use the short code – hence the word shared. The setup is comparable to using gmail or yahoo for email, you are sharing a domain. All of the basic rules apply to shared short codes, except the cost structure will be different. If you are looking to get started with mobile communications starting with a shared short code is cheaper, faster and easier to get up and running.

How long does it take to get a shared short code?

This is definitely the most complicated question to answer. A good estimate is that it will take 6-8 weeks to be up and running with a new short code. Leasing the actual short code is easy, just go to choose your short code and pay.* The next step is to aggregate the short code with the carriers. This means that the aggregator hooks up the short code with each respective carrier. Each phone carrier has their own schedule and process so this process can be a little confusing and it’s hard to forecast exactly when the short code will be live. Just hang in there and stay in contact with the aggregator.

*You can reserve a short code for up to 60 days without paying.

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Do keywords matter?

If you’re launching a mobile marketing campaign where users text in a keyword to interact with your brand, does that keyword matter? The answer is… it matters a little bit, but a lot of the time, the team focuses too much on the word.

Most people that interact with your campaign, whether it’s voting, entering a contest or signing up for emails will be texting in while they are viewing the call to action. The keyword does not have to be memorable, like 1-800-COLLECT. The most important aspect of the keyword is that it’s clear and hard to screw up. Examples of good keywords are VOTE, JOIN, JUSTICE, GREEN. Keywords that are not as good are GIVE4CHANGE, VOTEGWB, JOINX7.

Basically, you want to avoid the question from the texter, “What am I supposed to text in?”

At the point in the process where teams are choosing keywords, they should really be building the media plan to promote the keyword. The success of a campaign where people text in is 99% about a clear call to action, good media placement and customer engagement and only %1 about the keyword.

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Dog running in his sleep video – very funny

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What is Twitter?

A few weeks back I was joking that 2% of my 2009 has been spent explaining to people what Twitter is. After a recent trip home, that is probably closer to 4%. Thank God for Common Craft and their video explaining Twitter.

Friends and family, see below.

Twitter in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

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