This method has been in play for a long time with companies like Adult Moda and BuzzCity. They specialize in injecting subtle ads into popular websites, while paying people on a per-click or a per-thousand-view basis. Over the years they've built up large social media networks that started very early in the mobile Internet arena. They took those social media networks and monetized them through advertisers. They basically said to the advertisers, "Hey, we have a bunch of people on our site and they're present on a daily basis. Why don't you advertise with us? Here are the dimensions for the banners on the websites, and the statistics." Advertisers have bought into this for years on a CPC or a CPM basis, and this arrangement shows no signs of slowing down. This type of marketing has come to be called "in-app advertising" and it is very effective when used in social media networks like myGamma, a spinoff from BuzzCity. They do a lot of advertising, and with all the advertising-laced applications that are emerging this year for the G-Phone and i-Phone — people are creating new ones every day — the potential for advertising in this way is growing tremendously.
In adult, advertising on social media networks will be particularly effective. A recent study by Magna Global predicts that mobile media will be among the fastest growing areas of all the emerging media channels. They estimate a growth rate of 43 percent, which translates to more than 300 million new users in 2009. I'm not surprised by this sizable number and it confirms how important it is for advertisers to jump on the mobile bandwagon.
There are other mobile marketing applications that show great promise. One of them is the establishment of loyalty programs. This involves sending a text message to a member of your site who has cancelled his subscription for some reason. You offer them the opportunity to renew their membership at a discounted rate. Staying within carrier guidelines is tough, but we've found a way to do it and our customers have been happy with the results. Customers are ready for loyalty programs to be mobilized because it allows them to consolidate into one convergent device, namely their cell phones. There are one-to-one methods of communicating with customers without breaking carrier guidelines in the U.S. You just need to be a little creative when sending text messages to customers, alerting them that their monthly membership is about to expire. It's a great way to reel that customer back in: he's already bought from you once and the second sale is always easier
Another interesting development that is likely to grow in 2009 is the "adult entertainment while you wait" concept. This allows customers to watch previews on their cell phones before they buy on the Internet. Websites actually post trailers that mobile users can access. This will attract customers, even if your primary base is PC, because you're offering a teaser that will get them to sign up on your site. Basically it's just another way for you to reach potential customers, using a system that is already working. People are viewing the trailers in bathrooms, on trains and even in their cars during gridlock. It allows potential customers to see clips during their lunch break, in the rest room, or anytime they have a few minutes to spare, so they're revved up to join a site when they get home.
Since chargebacks are a potential problem, we've learned that setting up a system in which cell phones can interact with customer service is very effective. Any person who has a question about their bill can text message your customer service department for a quick response. This is a one-to-one method that is noninvasive, so the customer doesn't have to deal with the embarrassment of communicating by phone. Text messaging customer service is a new strategy that we're experimenting with right now at BustBox and so far we're very pleased with the results.
Finally, for those who don't know where to begin with their mobile marketing strategy this year, here is some sound advice. I spoke with Bryan Cotton, who owns the sites 3GP Porn Vids and NaughtyPod.com, and he said you should begin by learning how much money you're losing by failing to identify mobile customers who are visiting your site. Cotton installed a script on his sites to detect each visitor's browser, and then coded content specifically written for the hand-held devices. Armed with this solution, he teamed up with BustBox to offer a site called 404mobile.com. This site offers an easy and convenient way for webmasters to embed about 40 lines of code into any existing website. That code detects mobile browsers that visit the site and redirects them to a mobile page where they can choose from a number of mobile-compliant WAB sites. This does several things. It provides the user with a positive experience by redirecting them to a page that's set up specifically for mobile phones. It also allows them to choose from a variety of different genres and content. But most importantly, it allows you to track that mobile surfer. At the end of the day it lets you know how many mobile surfers visit your site and thus whether you should start building out your mobile site. It also allows you to monetize that traffic: every time somebody joins one of the sites via the 404mobile platform, every click is paid to the webmaster. This allows the webmaster to take advantage of the mobile applications without having to build one of their own.
In my opinion, the best way for webmasters with limited experience in mobile marketing to get started is through 404mobile.
Harvey Kaplan is Executive Vice President of Wireless Development for BustBox Media.