Guerilla Mobile Evangelism – Hunting the Normob

SMS Text News reader Olly sent us in his thoughts…

So I got to thinking recently…

Actually, I just realized that I start everything I write that way, so perhaps it should be “So I kept on thinking recently…”

But I digress.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about mobile content, and how it can be improved. I’ve talked about in various places, and
spent countless hours bitching to Ricky over at Symbian-Guru about it (I think that if Ricky were to categorize his worst distractions from getting things done, me bitching would be in the top 10. Maybe the top 5, I dunno). I’ve also evangelized it everywhere, because I truly think that access to information changes people’s behavior in (mostly) positive ways.

So here’s the question for you: we, as in you, me, everyone who is probably reading this, are all what I would classify as part of the ‘prosumer’ category (or you might just be an ‘insider’, i.e. someone who works in the industry, makes no difference for this point). Just de facto, by reading this article you’ve put yourself above the ‘normob’ category (a word I only learned about a month ago, and which I love). So here’s my question: what kind of content makes the most sense to introduce the ‘normob’ to using mobile data? What is it that would get them “hooked”?

I think, in my infinite wisdom, that I’ve found a very simple solution, one which can be used on any phone anywhere from dumb- to smartphones, and demonstrates that mobile ‘data’ (and by data I mean information, not the actual bits and bytes that we all pay for) is for everyone. The service is: (drum-roll please)

Google SMS.

Yes, while we all (as in us prosumer and industry types) are wondering why our EDGE is not 3G, our 3G is not 3.5G, and our 3.5G is not caught up to Japan already, good old sms might just be the answer that gets everyone, normob, prosumer, and industry type, moving in the right direction as a collective.

Allow me to explain.

When it comes to our use and consumption of mobile information, my wife and I couldn’t be more different. While I’m frequently messing about on my N95-3 or my blackberry, surfing the web, streaming music, taking pictures, Jaiku-ing, etc… she has but a lowly Nokia 6131 that she uses for three things: random snapshots of our daughter over MMS, SMS, and calls. That’s it folks (oh, and maybe an alarm or two here or there). While I have a flat rate unlimited data plan on my phone, which consumes massive amounts of data every month, she doesn’t even have the most basic data package.

She just doesn’t care.

So if I’m on the extreme end of the ‘Prosumer’ category, she truly is the definition of a ‘normob’.

But recently, I’ve got her hooked on Google SMS. Google SMS, if you’ve never used it, is simply a short code that you send an SMS to (thank you to T-mobile USA for unlimited sms!) containing an address, business name, whatever, and it returns information back to you. I myself use it all the time (and over the last couple of years have cut out any and all information call charges from our bill).

So recently my wife and I were out and about and we were trying to find a restaurant — we knew the general vicinity where it was, but I wanted to call them real quick and get directions, as well as confirm our reservation. My blackberry is near useless to me while I’m driving, since I have to look at it too much (qwerty), and my N95 was happily charging on the very short car charger lead that we have, close to battery death. So I grabbed my wife’s phone, initiated a text to Google (short code in the U.S. is 46645, or GOOGL), typed in the name of the place and the city (I can do this while driving without even looking at my phone, thanks to T9), and voila, we had a phone number, and address, returned to us via sms. It was at that point that I used the “add to contacts” option on my wife’s phone, my thought being if I have to use it on her phone, why not have it in her phone book?

Oh little did I know that would start a landslide!

My wife called me a few days later, out with some friends, and asked me what the short code I had used was (they were tipsy, trying to find some bar somewhere). I told her I saved it in her phonebook under ‘Google Search’, and she thanked me and got off the phone. Well it turns out, that one little act of saving the number into her phonebook was the catalyst that I needed to give her, because she uses it. All. The. Time.

Which brings me back to my point here. If the question posed is this: what can we, as the more knowledgeable, do to get our normob friends on to the mobile information gravy train, then I propose a solution is to start small. Too often we are trying to convince them to get full on smartphones, full data plans, etc — when frankly they don’t really care. But as any effective salesman (or drug dealer, as the analogy may fit even better) knows, once you get ’em hooked, their appetites will only increase, so start small and cultivate!

Consider this one last piece of the story: my mom and my wife were out to lunch recently, and when they came back to the house my mom was going on and on about Google SMS. In the space of an hour, my wife had evangelized my mom, and added it to her phone book as well.

My mom’s phone isn’t even a color screen. It won’t take MMS, and has no access to GPRS/EDGE, etc. But she’s now in on the mobile information game. Incredible!

With that in mind, here’s my suggestion for a bit of Guerrilla Mobile Evangelism: next time you are around your normob friends, hijack there phones, add Google SMS Search (or any other useful service you think they might enjoy that’s easy) to their phonebook, and give them a quick 10 second explanation of it: “next time you need a phone number, send an sms to this entry with the business name and city”. See how quickly the get hooked on it, and then you can gradually start introducing them to more and more services (my next project with my wife is MMS to Flickr from her phone). Beyond that, see how quickly they spread it to their normob friends as well. These things are viral!

If the iPhone proves anything (at least here in the States, which are are overrun by normobs), it’s that as the normob awareness raises, the rest of the industry goes forward too — and we, the prosumers and industry folks can happily ride that wave to 4G and 5g and beyond!


7 replies on “Guerilla Mobile Evangelism – Hunting the Normob”


But with that code not working in the UK, I guess we’ll have to make do with the real people at 66000 Texperts. Lifesavers, they are. Essential for travellers.


Very astute piece. I got my wife a data plan, showed her the wonders of Gmail Mobile and PTT on Palringo. Apart from the odd email check, is she hooked? Nope. She never remembers to start the Palringo client. Because I’m the only S60 nut in my circle of friends and relatives, I don’t get to play much, so anything that advances the cause has got to be good. I’m certain Olly’s right here. But I don’t think we have Google SMS in the UK – do we…?

I’m rather surprised that you guys don’t have Google SMS in the UK! From talking to my colleagues in my company’s London office, I always thought sms usage was through the roof over there. Google, if your listening, get our British brethren dialed in already!

Oh and Ricky, just wait until T-mobile USA launches its 3G network and then fails to have a single decent phone to use on it.. Them my complaining will likely make your top 3 distractions!


Stefan – opera mini is a great idea, especially since it doesn’t need as hefty of data plan as a smartphone does, and again can be installed on 95% of devices out there. I use to not be a fan of opera mini, but since v4 came out it has won me over, especially on my blackberry since the built in blackberry is almost unusable!


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