5 ways to boost engagement with mobile messaging

The overwhelming majority of your employees and customers use smartphones and other mobile devices. Follow these protocols to keep your communications at their fingertips.

Is your organization optimizing mobile communication effectively for workforce and customer engagement?

Seems like old news, right? Mobile has been around for years: It’s no longer emerging—it’s here. Employees and customers expect mobile interaction with organizations and expect to have a consumer-grade experience when doing so.

Yet surprisingly few organizations are using mobile to drive engagement effectively. So say independent research, our own client interactions and those of other industry consultants.

Mobile is already in the hands of our target audiences—an almost constant presence. We know this, but consider the facts:

  • Ninety percent of American adults have a cell phone.
  • Eighty percent of Americans ages 18-49 have a smartphone (64 percent of all adults).
  • Ninety-seven percent of smartphone owners use text messaging—more than for calls.
  • Ninety percent of text messages are read within the first three minutes, as opposed to email, of which only 22 percent are read within the first three minutes.

As communicators or marketers, we ignore or underuse mobile communication at our peril.

Learn how to use mobile to drive internal communications success in this free download.

Still, despite advances in smartphone technology, we see organizations using mobile only in an emergency or for crisis notification: “School’s closed due to snow—go back to bed, kids.” This includes those with remote and hourly workers who aren’t tethered to a computer during the day and to whom mobile might be the only channel for real-time communication.

The problem with mobile-accessed intranets

Some organizations provide mobile access to the intranet or another company-secured website or portal through single sign-in, social media opt-in or other forms of authentication. Intranets and corporate portals keep proprietary and confidential information behind the firewall, which affects the range of content that can be communicated through mobile.

Communicators and marketers can link to the mobile-accessed intranet or secure company portal through emails and texts, which employees and customers might access exclusively on their smartphone. Sounds like a great solution for hourly and remote employees-until user experience is factored in.

When it comes to intranets and company portals, the desktop experience doesn’t usually translate to mobile. Too often, mobile intranets and portals are clunky information dumps that overwhelm users with a mélange of misplaced images and microscopic text.

Mobile-based apps and microsites

Mobile-based apps and microsites might offer a better alternative for workforce and customer mobile communication, says Joseph Loya, a former global portal and interactive technology leader at Mercer. He recently touched on the following five steps to bolster workforce and customer engagement through mobile communication:

1. Determine accessibility.

Digital/online communications are no longer limited to employees with desktop access to the organizational intranet. Most employees, including hourly employees and their family members, can receive communications through their smartphones. Most others can receive text messages on their cell phones. What’s the breakdown at your organization? Determine how many of your customers and employees have cell or smartphone access.

2. Consider firewall implications.

Does your organization offer mobile access to the organizational intranet? If so, was your intranet designed for mobile use? How user-friendly is the mobile intranet experience? How effectively are you leveraging this channel? Are employees engaged with it daily? How about hourly and remote employees?

Intranets keep proprietary and confidential information secure. You must determine which communications should remain behind the firewall and which should not-such as health and wellness insights, employee branding messages and employee value proposition communications, which build morale and increase productivity.

3. Employ it for more than crisis communication.

Real-time mobile notifications about emergency weather cancellations are useful, but what else could be accomplished with anytime/anywhere mobile access?

Think how you might boost employee engagement and productivity through targeted messages to on-the-go employees. Think about the brand experiences you’d like your customers to have, from content that builds brand awareness to messages that drive buying decisions.

What else might you accomplish through important messaging and notifications that could be picked up whether they were in the office, on a break, traveling, out sick or out at a meeting?

Loya shared the story of a remote factory worker who reluctantly agreed to participate in a health screening as part of his company’s wellness incentive campaign. Like many other employees, he didn’t pay much attention to the glossy benefits newsletters, but he did read the communications he received on his smartphone.

As a result of the screening, the worker learned that he had several life-threatening but treatable conditions. The resulting treatments probably saved his life.

4. Transcend text-based messaging.

You can increase employee or customer engagement through mobile by making the most of your established HR/benefits websites, vendor sites and print/electronic communications. Text messages can link to stand-alone digital brochures, engaging infographics, newsletters and videos. They can also increase traffic to specific online content.

5. Optimize mobile with an app or microsite.

Organizations can plan for long-term mobile engagement by setting up an opt-in campaign for employees or customers to receive communications on their cell phone or smartphone. This involves strategy development considerations, such as the appropriate audience, frequency, message, media and timing; the selection of an SMS provider and the setting up of an SMS account; and the execution of the initial opt-in campaign, using posters, monitor slides, videos, promotional events and online or in-person meetings.

This normally leads to the creation of an initial app or microsite, which can be optimized in one of the following ways:

  • Mobile wallet card. This gives employees and customers a simple app-like microsite, which functions as a convenient, on-the-go directory to websites, apps and phone numbers for key benefits and HR service providers-even digital ID cards, if available from vendors. The mobile wallet card is an easily customized and branded one-stop resource, with each service a single click away (password login is required for some apps and websites), including a content management feature enabling easy additions, deletions and updates.
  • Digital communications for education, promotions, and reference. Apps or microsites offer access to phone-friendly and interactive versions of company newsletters, guides, fact sheets, price lists and more, all of which are easily updated and always available.
  • Engaging videos and infographics. Apps and microsites offer improved engagement over handbooks, booklets, and PowerPoint, converting these materials into high-impact mobile-optimized experiences that employ video and infographics.
  • Updates and notifications. Apps and microsites enable communicators and marketers to send reminders and include links to digital brochures, articles, videos and more.

A version of this article originally ran on Dom Crincoli’s website.

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