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April 25, 2006

Do you have a CELL PHONE strategy?

Evidence is suggesting the future of your communication with your constituents is via Cell Phone

A decade ago, when I formed IAC to provide Internet technology and online communities to the educational and non profit community, I had no idea that these communities would be delivered to their constituents’ cell phones. 

While I had grown up on Buck Rodgers and Dick Tracy images of people communicating to each other via their “watches” it didn’t dawn on me that the cell phone industry would disintermediate the computer and land line phone industry.  And, do it so rapidly. 

Think about what you can do on a cell phone now:

  • Download and listen to music (goodbye iPod)
  • Watch news, movies, sport and TV programs
  • Access & participate at most commercial websites
  • Send text message, (goodbye IM) and receive messages

With kids today receiving “as a right of passage” a cell phone by the time they hit their teens, it’s no wonder they are viewing email as “the older generations communication tool”.

Your constituent communication behavior is changing RAPIDLY!

In a recent posting to his blog, Communities Dominate Brands, Thomi Ahonen makes a strong point for organizations and marketers to begin looking at the rapidly changing behaviors of consumers’ use of cell phone technology that may make their Internet strategies obsolete IF they don’t include a mobile phone component to their strategy.

Research by IPSOS Research is showing that 588 million cell phone users access the web via their cell phone. Compare that to 1 billion PC based users accessing the web.  Experts predict MORE people will be accessing the web via their cell phones than PC’s by 2008.

Thomi provides the following points:

  • After 12 years of surging growth, the number of people worldwide accessing the Internet via their PC is dramatically slowing down
  • Mobile phone based Internet access is only 6 years old and showing remarkable growth

If you are in charge of “looking around the corner” to find out how to engage and involve your prospective students, students, alumni and contributors, Thomi provides 4 compelling reasons why the behavior of your target audience will be migrating their daily Internet access away from their PC’s and to their computers:

First of all, a mobile phone based internet is totally personalized. Our PC is often shared - such as a university campus computer, or a family computer, or the PC owned by the employer with its limitations and at times access by the IT department etc. But our mobile phone is totally personal.

Secondly the mobile phone is always on. It means that any alerts, urgent news etc can be delivered. With laptops we need to find our access, connect to a WiFi etc network, but mobile phones are always connected and can for example be reached via SMS text messaging for alerts at any time.

Thirdly the mobile phone is always within hand's reach of its users. No other technology is so close to us physically at all times. We don't take our computers to bed with us (well, most don't do that), but over 60% of all mobile phone users take their cellphone physically to bed with them at night. We notice we've lost our wallet in 26 hours. But we notice we're missing our mobile phone in 68 minutes.

Finally - and most importantly - the mobile phone offers a built-in payment mechanism. The PC based internet does not have that. On the traditional internet we need to set up a payment system like Paypal, or we need to submit credit card info etc. But on the mobile phone we can (if our carrier/operator has enabled it) handle any payments at the click of a button

It doesn’t matter if you are in the admissions, orientation, student affairs, communications, alumni or development office - not only do you need a comprehensive Internet strategy, but NOW -  you also have to adopt a cell phone strategy.   


Thomi reminds his blog readers:

  • There at 3 times as many cell phones as PC’s
  • Cell phones are subsidized by monthly and download fees are turned in every 21 months, computers cost on ave. $1,000 and are replaced on average every 3 years
  • Cell phones can provide the same Internet services as most PC’s

Consumers tend to adopt cheaper, more flexible and robust technology that is easier to use.  The cell phone industry has done a remarkable job in creating cell phones that already are delivering the same Internet capabilities as PC’s.

Follow the behavior, not what your peer institutions are doing! 

In my 1998 book, “Create a NET Centered College Campus”  I reminded colleges and universities to provide practical tools and services designed to engage and involve their prospective students, students, alumni and contributors to keep coming back to their site.  The Internet in my mind was the delivery vehicle to do that.

If your organization is not currently developing strategies to deliver your brand, message and services to your constituents by cell phone technology, you are missing out on their dramatically changing behaviors.   

Need some tips on how to get started? 

After talking to communication officers, enrollment management and advancement officers, I’ve come to understand all are working 50 plus hours a week, just keeping up with their current responsibilities and tasks.  Few, have the time or research to understand how to implement rapidly changing technology to stay relevant to their constituents.   To help you start thinking about how to adopt cell phone technology in a few selected departments on your campus, here are 18 ideas:

Communication office

  • Give constituents the ability to choose the type of releases they are interested in AND the HOW they want to receive them (including by cell phone)
  • Deliver famous/dignitaries speeches via cell phone
  • Like American Idol, take votes and gain alumni support for educational legislation via their cell phone

Admissions office

  • Send alerts to prospective students regarding deadlines via their cell phones
  • Create video “blogs” of students on campus and deliver to prospective students phones
  • Use Dodgeball technology to show students near them who are considering going to your institution

Orientation office

  • Create technology to let students build cell phone buddy lists and connect with each other
  • Send news and information to their cell phones over the summer to keep them connected
  • Adopt Google’s map technology to show who near them is coming to campus

Student Services

  • Deliver student news and campus events via their cell phones
  • Use available technology to get students involved in flag football, disc golf, basketball and other amateur sports
  • Adopt cell technology so students can make campus purchases using their cell phone


  • Modify your alumni website so they can access it via their cell phone
  • Adopt an online directory that can be searched via your alumni cell phone
  • Make it easy to register for events using their cell phone


  • For interested annual giving participants send bar chart updates to their cell phone showing progress
  • For high end givers, deliver a video statement from the President once a month
  • Create a series of videos on planned giving or estate giving that can be viewed on their cell phones while traveling on trains or as passengers in cars

Our firm has been helping organizations for over a decade create compelling, comprehensive Internet strategies. If you’ve read this article you’ve just received thousands of dollars in free advice.  My hope is that you will act on this and begin to help your organization create relevant strategies and match the expectations of your users. 

If you want any help to take it to the next level, don’t hesitate to call.  We are always on the look for visionary organizations who want to get ahead of the curve, but not have to reinvent the wheel along the way.  Email me don@iaccorp.com with your ideas today.

For those who read this article who are responsible for creating the Internet & marketing strategy for your organization or are responsible to “look around the corner” to see how to better relate with your constituents, you don’t have to look to far around the corner. As Thomi is sharing with us, the numbers are proving that your constituents are already engaging cell phone technology and accessing the Internet. 

Thomi reminds his readers:

The trends are irreversible. The sooner you understand this coming change, the more you can capitalize on this transition both personally, and professionally. Spot the trends now, and be one of the early visionaries to this inevitable future.

With the push of a generation of cell phone users from age 12 on up, adopting multimedia endowed cell technology, their behavior is changing rapidly.  So rapidly in fact that your organization is becoming less relevant and is getting less “shelf” space in their minds and their cell phones.

You can protect your organizations future by starting your research today, budgeting for technology and implement strategies to augment your campus wide Internet strategy with a cell phone strategy too!

Posted by Don Philabaum on April 25, 2006 at 08:33 AM | Permalink


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Cell Phones have become a necessity and no one can imagine a life without them.

Young generation spends half of their time talking on phone so why not have a Cheap International Calling card

Posted by: James | Apr 25, 2006 11:42:05 PM

I for one don't read news feeds and such on my mobile, but I sure do see a lot of people who seem to rely on their handsets for info. Also, see this article:
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

The So-Called Thumb Economy Is Expanding Rapidly In Shanghai
A good piece here on how Shanghai's major newspapers have moved aggressively into the mobile-handset space, launching a series of mobile papers for its commuting, time-starved readers. One such service has been branded News365 and offers readers constantly updated headlines. (Longer stories are available on other services, but they are thought to be less desirable for mobile users.) Next week the mobile-newspaper business gets busier in Shanghai, when an English-language version is launched. According to a story on CRIENGLISH.com, two shortcomings of the current system in Shanghai are that it does not support the delivery of exclusive-for-mobile news and the editors are not permitted to conduct interviews.

Posted by: Jim O'Hare | Apr 26, 2006 2:16:19 PM

In our interview we'll refrain from product company name, and concentrate on the benefits of cell phone use in general. Thanks

Posted by: cg | Sep 27, 2006 10:43:53 AM

This is an interesting article. I never knew about this before. Thanks for guiding me through this. Rarely do I find good entries that would walk me through.


Posted by: Cellular in Philippine Phone | Dec 21, 2009 1:04:03 AM

That's funny that you mentioned Buck Rogers stuff, because the cell phone always reminded me of the tricorder things in the original Star Trek series.

Posted by: cell lookup | Aug 10, 2010 3:45:06 PM

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