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5 ways inbound MMS works as an engagement tactic

By Henna Merchant and Omer Samiri

Enabling technologies such as inbound MMS feature give marketers the ability to execute a variety of new ways to engage audiences and customers. The impetus for audiences to send MMS is that it facilitates a more dynamic interaction than text alone.

Brands can maximize the opportunity for audience/customer interaction by using the user-generated content in a meaningful way such as mobile gamification.

Play the game well
Mobile marketing guru Michael Matthews mentioned a tactic in which Tony Hawk’s outdoor adventure game required participants to tweet their hide-and-seek clues to a specific hashtag, thereby helping to build a valuable and interested Twitter follower base for the campaign.

Inherently, those game participants must open the Twitter app on their mobile devices if they have not activated Twitter’s code to send and receive tweets, direct messages and mentions via text message.

While Twitter is a valuable communication channel to reach audiences, they must regularly use the app on their mobile devices to receive real-time messages.

Alternatively, the inbound MMS feature enables brands to build an opt-in database that may be cultivated and accessed as a reliable and mutually beneficial two-way communication channel.

A key success factor with Inbound MMS is how businesses will use the feature.

Winning brands will be the ones that reward audiences for sharing their multimedia, and they will take it a step further by amplifying the individual engagement effects to fans’ and consumers’ networks with a social media-based loyalty program.

Among the infinite ways in which a brand or organization may leverage MMS (multimedia messaging service, in lieu of SMS, which is text-only), these are a few reasons why this particular medium may generate substantial ROI and build a valuable opt-in database:

Success with pics-to-screen
Photos are a non-substitutable medium of sharing experiences, and offer an opportunity to audiences and fans to be a part of a sports event or show experience.

The popularity of Facebook shows that people like to visually share their experiences through videos and photos of things they find interesting or are passionate about.

Social networks and applications have made MMS usage ubiquitous in mobile communication, facilitating this desire to bond with others through multimedia.

Sending multimedia via MMS in a “Pics to Screen” tactic presents a powerful and easy real-time method by which live sports and entertainment brands may increase the emotional connection with their audiences and fans.

This is an enhanced tactic that goes beyond the tremendously effective text-to-screen, or text campaigns, by rewarding audiences for sharing their personally generated photos and videos with others. There is also documented success for this mobile engagement tactic.

Greater TV and print/mass-marketing ROI
Sending multimedia to a short code can be a fun way to integrate mobile into a cross-channel marketing strategy. It may even provide a solution to the increasing impression measurement challenges, which simultaneous multiple device usage poses.

This tactic offers audiences a short code to enter contests or enter customer loyalty/reward programs via MMS, by sending a picture of an ad in a print magazine, billboard, mass transit signage or even a product advertised on a TV commercial.

Optimized retail/in-store experience
MMS is ubiquitous and it is still much less complicated for most, in lieu of scanning a QR code. It is as easy as sending an SMS/text message, and as instant.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers may reward in-store customers for their patronage through a contest, by sending a picture from within the store; the customer may either be added to a VIP customer group, or join a community of brand loyalists.

An example of a tactic would be entering a contest in which customers would send MMS photos to a retailer’s short code, wearing an ensemble from the brand, for a chance to win a prize.

Through opt-in campaigns and contests, brands can target their audience with relevant content that inherently helps build brand loyalty.

Media outlets benefit from user-generated content
While social networks such as Facebook only provide a way to post content to the individuals’ own accounts, or require existing networks with which to share content, inbound MMS offers a way to share the same content with a mass audience, instantly.

The MMS short code tactic also provides online communities and publishers with an easy way to aggregate multimedia directly from its community members.

Publishers that rely upon user-generated content (UGC) have the potential to create viral effects with the multimedia.

One example would be the show E! Fashion Police requesting viewers to participate in, and possibly be rewarded for, the weekly show, which is based on photos taken on personal mobile phones. The program does not rely upon professional or licensed photos.

A successful example of how inbound MMS is being leveraged would be Vogue Italia, which aggregates photos from its readership for inclusion in its special online magazine Vogue Encyclo to crowd-source new high fashion trends.

Another example of how media outlets may use inbound MMS content is the popular media publisher – an aggregator of celebrity photos – to facilitate easy and real-time, instant collection of photos and video from its viewing audience.

Police or news media may also receive instant and anonymous news tips by photo or video. An example of this is NBC Channel 4 in New York, which requests viewers to send in their pictures to a short code #NBC4NY.

Political and cause-related campaign engagement
Political candidates may benefit tremendously from the power of inbound MMS by giving people a way to share what they are passionate about or a platform to advocate their beliefs.

Campaigns may collect video messages into a Web gallery accessible in a mobile app that can have a viral effect. Not only would the constituent feel that his or her “voice” is being heard by the candidate, but it also incentivizes that constituent to easily share the link with their respective networks.

Henna Merchant is CEO of Clicked PR LLC, Santa Monica, CA. Omer Samiri is CEO of iVision Mobile, Chatsworth, CA. Reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].