As if you didn’t already have enough channels for connecting with health consumers – Web, email, patient portal, and a seemingly endless flow of social media platforms – there’s another one to add to the list: mobile communications.
Many of you may be hesitant to add another vehicle to an already hard-to-manage communications arsenal, but this is a market and a tool you simply can’t ignore.
With roughly 91 percent of US adults carrying a mobile phone (some 285 million mobile phones in use in the U.S.), cell phones have reached near ubiquitous market penetration. And unlike computers, these devices are generally always close at hand and turned on, making them ideal for time-sensitive communications.
Mobile phones also reach an audience that may not be accessible through other online channels – this includes minority and economically disadvantaged groups. Although the digital divide exists for these groups when looking at personal computer usage; they often lead the way when it comes to mobile use .
As Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse says in a popular commercial, “There aren’t many of us who use cell phones just to make phone calls.” Likewise, there are many ways you can use mobile technology to connect with your audience.
- Text messaging (outbound): With 72 percent of adults using their phones to send or receive text messages, text messaging has become a big piece of the mobile communications landscape. Text messages have an immediacy that’s perfect for time-sensitive information, such as class or appointment reminders.
- Text for more information: Organizations are adding text phrases as calls to action on TV ads, signs and billboards. Texting a particular phrase to the number gets you on the list to receive more information. Think of it as a real-world banner ad click.
- Text to donate: Micro-donations using text messages is now mainstream. It gained steam during the presidential election and played a significant role in fundraising in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti.
- Mobile Web: Approximately 40 percent of American adults have accessed the Internet through a mobile device, up from 32 percent in 2009. As more devices and service plans support accessing information via the Web, we’ll see these numbers continue to grow. While many devices do a serviceable job of showing the content on websites, designing a site specifically for mobile technology makes the experience smoother and more effective for visitors.
- Apps: “There’s an app for that.” Smartphone usage has exploded. Providing an app that runs on iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Windows Mobile creates an opportunity for a slick, interactive experience.
- Geolocation services: Tools, such as Foursquare, are creating new interaction opportunities that combine mobile, GPS and interactive services.
The mobile world provides a host of opportunities for communication and connection.