The power of SMS is now being used to research the tastes and opinions of people who are usually unreachable through other communications channels. Developing countries, for instance, with no optic fiber or landlines, no web access or even telephones, still have mobile phone capabilities. Mobile marketing companies and charity organizations alike are trying to use SMS to reach those outliers on the global grid.
Denver-based Mobile Accord has launched a new venture called GeoPoll, which performs surveys on behalf of non-profits, international organizations like the U.N. and the mobile marketing strategies of big business. Participants are compensated with airtime credits which, in many countries, can be used as a currency. GeoPoll plans to extend its current reach of 50 million to 500 million by the end of 2014.
GeoPoll doesn’t require an app or internet connection – everything can be done via SMS. In areas with low literacy, it can conduct surveys orally with a voice prompt. But how is this project being used to help people?
Well, a poll might be conducted on the quality of infrastructure in remote villages, and that data used to influence aid organizations attentions. GeoPoll was used with great success in the DRC. It surveyed 4 million people to learn the effect a warzone can have on people.
Private enterprise is benefitting, too. A lot of companies have started using SMS marketing to recreate services that would ordinarily be available via their app. Safaricom and Vodacom have both built vast financial networks in Africa using M-Pesa, a tool that uses SMS to process peer-to-peer transactions and confirm payments in real currency.
Mobile marketing services are well aware that, though smartphones may have saturated the mobile device market in the west, it’s a very different story around the world.
SMS marketing can be used to augment mobile marketing strategies that are primarily online-based. But it remains a powerful tool on its own, a fact which is all too easily forgotten in an age of constant smartphone upgrades, and ever flashier web-enabled devices. Increasingly, charities, commerce and individuals are catching on.