Open-source marketing?

When you think open-source you think free. It turns out that while many still think that open-source happens mostly during the night and created by bored developers looking for fame, there is also money in it. There are quite a few companies now trying to have a healthy open-source environment and at the same time make money.

I’m excited to refer to Roberto Galoppini (pure Italian) has earnt great respect in the open-source world and is now joining InitMarketing to help them.

Viral Marketing in mobile

Last week I received an e-mail from Michael of Mocondi that forwarded me an update about the status of their service. I can’t say I have known Michael for a long time, in fact I have never met him, but since the news is about mobile, it got me thinking.

The information is about their product called MeYou that, from what I understood, is a program in which you can buy mobile content and services and you can suggest the same contents to your friends in your network. When you suggest something or perform other actions you earn points. This is nothing new, of course. According to their numbers, their service is very successful especially in Italy (not a surprise, again, as Italians buy a lot of ringtones and contents in general).

What really got me thinking, was actually how they created the service. Reading from the website the service is available in Italy only to customers of 3 and Vodafone (I’m a TIM customer), users should download a Java application to get started. Users can browse a selection of contents available for their device and then can purchase. Billing happens via the operator.

The numbers that Mocondi reports are good, such as 1.6M recommendations sent and 24% subsequent purchases. What I just don’t understand is why you need the hassle of a Java application. It’s hard to download and sometimes will fail to install. You use it to browse and send messages to your network of friends. I suppose you will also be able to manage your network.
When I think about this application, I think the browser would be the perfect fit. Browsing is just what it’s made for, for a start! Managing your network is something you could do via specific pages. Messaging… Well, you have SMS and MMS and if Mocondi already has agreements with mobile operators I do not see problems delivering messages and tracking users. Settings should already be in place so no problems installing the application or downloading the catalogs. Also, I suppose that users will not get notifications if they do not start the application while with SMS and MMS you get them in any case and the browser can be started automatically (read wappush).

I really think that mobile devices are the perfect target for viral marketing and I like the idea. I just think that the browser would have been a better choice. Do you read me Mocondi? Check out Refresh Mobile or Flirtomatic and how they left the Java platform for the browser. There are things that are better in Java (games, etc) and other things that are better in a browser.

mobispirit is open for business

What is mobispirit.com?

  • A unique marketplace for mobile service creation
  • Choose and personalize applications that you need and build your own mobile publishing platform
  • Create mobile services such as mobile web sites, SMS services or mobile video service
  • No software to install
  • Rely on a robust and secure infrastructure

This is what the homepage of Mobispirit says. I registered for free and took advantage of the free trial. The site offers a number of services all centered around SMS and a little bit of mobile web (or WAP, if you like it better). A number of services are available from Mobispirit and you can decide which ones you want to activate (and pay for). The available services are Newsletter, SMS Push, Web Triggers, SMS Triggers and Video Galleries.

Newsletter
This is exactly what you’d expect from it, allows you to send an SMS message to a list of recipients. Recipients are managed on the server side, you can insert names and numbers manually or import from a text file (basically a CSV file). It is also possible to edit addresses and numbers using the web interface, very simple. I tried to create a couple of recipients and sent out a newsletter, I received the SMS within a few seconds. Special characters such as accented letters (à, è, ì, etc) were displayed properly on my phone. It might seem something stupid, but if you have worked with SMS you’ll know that everyone has lost a few hours or days trying to make them work properly.
When sending a newsletter you can pick the recipients manually or build distribution lists (much more comfortable if you do it regularly, of course).

SMS Push
This service lets you specify a text (shorter than a standard SMS), and a URL and deliver a wappush message to a list of recipients. Simple and effective.

Web Triggers
Web Triggers is very interesting, you get an HTML code snippet that you can paste into any of your web sites and users will be able to provide their phone number and receive a wappush message. Very useful if you have a website and want to invite users to easily reach your mobile site. Wappush messages are also often used as bookmarks so sending it easily is certainly a nice thing to have. The service also lets you customize text messages so you can personalize and localize them. Multiple languages are not supported, so if you want to do it, you will have to create more web triggers. Could have been better.
I hadn’t seen this as part of a public service before.

SMS Triggers
This is what you might have seen on magazines, allows a user to define a set of id’s and customers sending an SMS to a short number will trigger an event.
All content providers know this VERY well.

Video Galleries
This is probably the only part that is also about mobile web sites. You can create a list of video contents that users can browse and download.
There is certainly a lot of work in the background as you can upload a video in a wide range of formats and the server will take care of converting and rescaling the video. Understanding the right codec, size and bitrate for each mobile device is something that takes a lot of time when you start doing videos for the first time, so it’s great they are actually taking all the hard work for you. When new devices are released, Mobispirit should follow quickly, so even maintenance is taken off your shoulders.
When building a video gallery, Mobispirit will also build the catalog for you. A full service could include sending wappush messages to your video gallery, or using a web trigger to go download videos.
According to Mobispirit, the generated site gets a 5 (best rate) on ready.mobi, dotMobi’s checking and rating service.

Conclusions
Video Gallery and most of all video conversion is the only thing I can really say is innovative. The web trigger is something I hadn’t seen before, but it’s not rocket science.
It is clear that the service is actually built on top of the experience that the company has developed in many years working in the mobile space.
It is good, anyway, that you can have a single place with all these services. It is certainly inviting for a company that wants to do some integrated services.

Reading from the service description in the homepage, I would have expected much more WAP development in the sense of a simple CMS service that would allow me to build WAP pages. It is not clear if the service is meant for companies that will have their own WAP site (and so use the SMS push) or if they should use the generated sites for Video Galleries. Most of the services are meant to be connected to something that the user should build on his own, while the Video Gallery does everything. Since WAP has a high learning curve, providing more services around it would certainly add value to the Mobispirit service.
Since they built the page creator for videos, why not do it for images and ringtones?
Where is the streaming service?

The overall rating is good, anyway, I’d give it a 7 out of 10 because the site is simple to use and the SMS messages were delivered within seconds. Phone numbers should be entered in international format and will be delivered worldwide and this is certainly a good thing.
The documentation pages need some more work, I think, as I had to try a couple of things before I could understand how they’d work while I could not understand if from the documentation.
Mobile payments certainly lack. I know it’s not easy to put them in place, but even if they were limited to some countries, it would be good to have a process to open paid services similar to Bango or as a premium SMS.
It is good to have all these services available in a single place and if Mobispirit keeps adding them in the next months and years, it can become a point of reference.