I saw this article in the New York Times this morning about a program being run by Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina and based in Durham. A similar program exists in California.
Great strategy for communicating with teenagers. Here's why:
– Cell phones are personal devices, and the majority of teens have them. They are also "private" devices in that teens can send and receive messages without anyone knowing what they are doing.
– The majority of teens are on their parents' cell phone plan. They don't necessarily have a data plan for browsing the Internet – only a minority do, and any purchase of a downloadable application would likely show up as a line item on their parents' bill. They send HUNDREDS of text messages each month. Who would notice one or two to an agency asking questions about sex.
– More than 99% of cell phone are capable of SMS and the majority of teens use SMS so the agency achieves maximum reach.
– Many teens are on "all you cat eat" SMS plans – or should be. In any case, a single SMS does not tend to be expensive. So there is little if any incremental cost to the end user.
– SMS is carrier-independent. The service (information provided) doesn't need to be tested on various carrier networks for phones – it simlpy works on all phones.
– Someone covers the cost of the short code as well as driving awareness of the service, but in the grand scheme of things, it is not that expensive.
Overall, a well thought through mobile strategy. The article didn't go into much detail as to whether they were tracking usage or questions, but there could be some learnings in the questions teens are asking. There could be an opportunity to mine this information and improve the FAQ on the website or identify new opportunities for services.