Reaching Out to Mobile Users

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According to a new Pew survey , the use of non-voice data applications on cell phones has grown dramatically over the last year. Compared with a similar point in 2009, cell phone owners are now more likely to use their mobile phones to:

  • Take pictures—76% now do this, up from 66% in April 2009
  • Send or receive text messages—72% vs. 65%
  • Access the internet—38% vs. 25%
  • Play games—34% vs. 27%
  • Send or receive email—34% vs. 25%
  • Record a video—34% vs. 19%
  • Play music—33% vs. 21%
  • Send or receive instant messages—30% vs. 20%

But what’s most interesting about the study is that African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos continue to be among the most active users of the mobile web. Cell phone ownership is several percentage points higher among African-Americans and Latinos than among whites (87% vs. 80%) and minority cell phone owners use more mobile phone features than their white counterparts. In total, 64% of African-Americans access the internet from a laptop or mobile phone, a seven-point increase from the 57% who did so at a similar point in 2009.

But are minority outreach communications programs geared towards mobile web?

With 72% of mobile phone users sending or receiving text messages, texting seems like the best place to start. And yet few corporate or nonprofit communications programs regularly incorporate text messaging for customer or donor outreach. One of my nonprofit clients uses texts during its annual conference to notify attendees of program changes.  This is a good start. Since 9-11, many schools have gone to text notification of parents for emergencies. But what about corporations?  Couldn’t they text customers about urgent issues like product recalls? The recent water emergency in Washington, D.C. area was a great example. As a customer, I never heard one peep directly from WSSC, even though they could have texted me, or frankly even used the robo-phone technology so prevalent with our local schools and political campaigns.

And if you’re interested in reaching older adults, the Pew study has some interesting data for you. While young adults still dominate mobile data applications, cell phone owners 30-49 aren’t far behind, and were found to be much more likely to use their devices to send text messages, take photos, record video or access email, among other uses.

We are part of an increasingly mobile society. Good communications plans need to mobilize, too.

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