Our campaign managers in the field have been experimenting with using SMS to reach target audiences to spread news and information, campaign messages, and news about campaign activities.
SMS allows conservation campaigns to reach a bigger audience, especially of people who are harder to find in rural and expansive areas. We learned some pros and cons of utilizing SMS from Wildlife Conservation Society Mongolia’s Rare Pride campaign for sustainable hunting practices in Eastern Steppe, Mongolia. This campaign needs to communicate details about all hunting laws, most of which are completely unknown to the average person.
Pride campaign manager Bogii Sanjaa was unfamiliar with the target audience of hunters at her conservation site. WCS-Mongolia had not previously worked with this group, and this section of the community is often unknown and hidden. Utilizing SMS provided an opportunity to reach this hard-to-find-but-critical audience and provided an opportunity to reach a larger audience than normal.
In addition to utilizing SMS, this campaign also utilizes national and local TV, local radio, and magazines. This campaign will be deemed successful if there has been a significant increase in awareness of hunting laws and a reduction in number of people hunting illegally both inside and outside of protected areas, in order to maintain gazelle populations in the short term and increase population numbers by 2015. The campaign will run targeted workshops to train hunters in regulation definitions and processes, and partnership meetings to reform the hunting permit system so it will be effective in supporting legal hunting.
Bogii partnered with Mobicom, the largest mobile provider in Mongolia. It cost $1,7500 to send two SMS messages per month to our target audience of about 7,000 individual mobile users. Each message ended up costing about $0.0125.
Each SMS message starts with “Dornod Pride Campaign:” to connect the message with all other Pride activities and ends with “(WCS)” to identify the message sender. Bogii has paid to run two SMS messages per month through December.
The first message introduced the Rare Pride campaign on protecting gazelles in the area, and the second message announced a special TV show on gazelle hunting laws that Bogii and her partners put together. Another message asked people if they had seen and read her campaign posters.
The Mobicom partnership comes with access to their SMS website, which allows Bogii to track the messages that have been sent, how many were undelivered due to connection issues, and to see audience responses to the message. She also has the ability to send individual messages through the site to less than 50 individual phone numbers if she wants to respond to the replies received.
- Access to a large network of mobile users within target site.
- Strong corporate partnership that can be leveraged for future opportunities, such as co-branding during festival events, inclusion of corporate social responsibility article in Mobicom consumer newsletter, and more to be explored.
- Does not require much additional work for a campaign manager. Bogii simply notifies Mobicom of her message and a date to send and the work is done for her.
- Leverage existing Mobicom best practices on best times of day to send messages.
- Easy to use website to track messages and responses.
What didn’t work
- Lack of access to numbers receiving the messages, which means Bogii is not creating a long-term database of phone numbers to use beyond the Mobicom partnership.
- Messages are sent to a random selection of mobile users within target site for each message, so no guarantee of reaching the same individuals time after time.
The program is still in its infancy.. However, Bogii is already receiving some very positive anecdotal evidence of the messages. She’s had several people approach her directly at the site to inquire if she (WCS) sent the message and to comment that it’s very new for them to receive such a message. These individuals ranged in ages and gender, but all spoke very positively about the messages.
While on my site visit, Bogii did a presentation to a group of mining students (who are also hunters) to pre-test her poster and share her latest campaign updates. During this time she asked the mining students if any of them had received text messages from Dornod Pride Campaign or WCS and four of the 13 students had received a message (at this point in time only two had been sent). We hope to get a greater sense of impact once Bogii begins sending SMS messages that request feedback from recipients.
What I’ve been most impressed with is Bogii’s strategy to connect all her mass media and community outreach activities to one another. Her SMS messages are not being done in isolation, but rather is part of a greater effort to increase audience touchpoints with her Pride campaign.
She has not had the necessary time to send text responses yet to recipients who reply to the initial blast and that’s something I would like Bogii to work on that further.