Mobilize Those Mobile Eyes

Confession time: not more than ten years ago I was one of those people who said I would never have a cell phone. I simply did not want to be that accessible, I would say.

But one recent weekend morning, when I found myself walking around the house with an iPhone in the pocket of my bathrobe, I knew the assimilation was complete.

I am one of the nearly half of all Americans who now own not just a cell phone, but a smartphone, according to the latest Pew research. That’s a lot of eyeballs.

If your organization is thinking about starting or deepening mobile engagement with your constituents who, like me, are rarely out of arms-reach of their mobile device, then allow me to summarize my takeaways from the Nonprofit Mobile Day event I recently attended, presented by the Direct Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Federation (DMANF).

And if your organization isn’t thinking about these things, it might just be time to wake up, put on the ol’ bathrobe, and smell the coffee.

Know the Possibilities

“Mobile” isn’t just one thing, it is many. Today, the term “mobile” covers four primary types of engagement:

  • Mobile messaging: sending text messages to your constituents
  • Text-to-give: enabling your constituents to text a $5 or $10 donation to your organization, paid via their mobile bill
  • Mobile Web: presenting content and engagement opportunities in a way that is optimized for mobile device browsers, including things like donation forms and advocacy action forms
  • Mobile Apps: taking your place beside Angry Birds and Flixster with packaged content or functionality

Beyond these four primary uses of the mobile channel, there are other possibilities:

  • Mobile advertising: placing your ads on other people’s mobile Web sites or in their apps
  • QR codes: enabling constituents to use the camera on their mobile device to snap a picture of a special bar code that then directs them to a mobile landing page or phone number
  • Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS): sending multimedia via text, such as photos or video
  • Augmented reality: taking advantage of the mobile device’s camera, compass, and GPS to overlay content or features on what the user “sees”. Think of apps like Pocket Universe that let you point your camera at the night sky and see an overlay of constellations and planets drawn on the screen.
  • Responsive design: new capabilities made possible through HTML5 and CSS3 that blur the line between mobile Web sites and apps. For an example, browse to the Financial Times site on your mobile device.
  • Phone calls: and, oh yeah, a lot of these mobile devices also have this thing called a telephone on them. This can also be great way to communicate with your constituents.

These are the different facets of the mobile channel to consider as you think about engaging with your constituents via mobile. In part 2, I’ll cover who the players are you can to bring to the table to help you harness these capabilities, and talk about creating a mobile plan.

Guest post by Watt Hamlett, Lead Solutions Engineer with Convio. He loves working with nonprofit organizations to help them access the strategies, software, and services they need to achieve their goals.