The Rise of Mobile in the Advocacy Sphere

In this week’s readings, Harbart and Stein, Michael & Katrin Verclas discuss the importance of using mobile for advocacy purposes. Each author has a different take on what is important and how the rise of mobile usage is one all campaigns should consider.

Stein, Michael and Katrin Verclas focus more on SMS text messaging than mobile applications. In their article, they highlight four main ideas on how to harness this technology:

1. SMS – an organization can send 160 characters activating its membership to be engaged in the political process and take action on a particular cause. These messages can include updates on an event, links to alerts where advocates and can sign a petition, or just motivating messaging to keep them in the loop.

2. Ringtones – You can offer up ringtones for advocates to use, which keeps them mentally in the game.

3. Short Codes – Using a six-digit mobile short code, advocates can text it to receive valuable information about that campaign. You can buy these short codes from various sites online and then incorporate them into your print and direct mail pieces, such as flyers, posters or postcards.

4. Fundraising – Through mobile campaigns, one can receive a link that would send them to an online donation form. That, or they can simply donate through the campaign itself and then that donation is tacked onto that advocate’s cell phone bill.

With this said, there are multiple things to keep in mind when trying to create a successful mobile campaign. For one, it is important to understand your audience and whether or not they would be wanting to provide their cell phone numbers for alerts and donations in the first place. Best way to figure this out would be to begin offering the option on your campaign’s website and see how quickly the list grows. If this does not work, try setting up a survey on your campaign website instead and see what the reaction is. Secondly, make sure you have a clear and concise call to action and a purpose for having the mobile campaign. Don’t waste your advocates time and valuable texts. Third, make sure to incorporate your text messaging into all of your deliverables so that it’s always accessible. And fourth, make sure to test your messages and see what works and what does not. Do not simply rest on one type of messaging to always create action amongst your advocates.

Text messaging isn’t the only type of mobile strategy there is. Harbarth makes a strong claim that, “people need to stop thinking about mobile just in terms of text messaging and expand that view to include all mobile browsing and various apps.” Typically when we think of mobile campaigns, we are drawn to the conclusion that this only involves the use of SMS or text messaging but the reality is, is that many here in the US are moving to smartphones and is loving the concept of a new and technology savvy app. But there are a couple issues to keep in mind when moving onto this tactic:

1. You cannot create an app with only one ask and then expect users to continously use it. Simply just having an app for donations won’t do. It must incorporate action alerts, news, events, video and images to keep the users attention. Not only this, but it must be kept up to date and refreshed with new content.

2. The cost of apps is not cheap. If you are an organization that has limited budget, consider how important it is to have an app in the first place before you decide to spend the money. Consider putting a survey up on your site asking if people would be interested would be one way to discern if this would be a good idea.

3. Make sure the app offers something that other apps do not. With the sea of applications being as large as it is, there must be something about it that will draw others to want to download it. Test images, messages, and concepts beforehand.

Another issue that was brought up in class was the topic of optimizing one’s website for mobile web versus spending the money on a mobile app. To be honest, this is an excellent way to save money and achieve the same results. The only issue here is making sure to incorporate this into your overall campaign’s strategy. Make sure your website is visible everywhere and sent via text.

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About digipolitics

Just your average Johns Hopkins University grad student learning how to leverage the online arena to engage potential advocates for issue advocacy campaigns.
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