Will Spam Turn Mobile Users Off?
It has been said that 97 percent of text messages are read within four minutes. In fact, we know that many are viewed in a shorter window than that. If we’re not those people ourselves, we have likely experienced family members, friends, and others who rudely take themselves out of a conversation to respond to the bing or ding of their phones.
Beyond a lack of manners, what’s behind this behavior? Much of it has to do with the value placed on a text message. Unlike email, the vast majority of texts are either from people we know or solicited by us through membership in permission-based, mobile clubs developed by brands, politicians, sports teams, and others.
That is changing. According to a story in the New York Times, spam is becoming more pervasive on mobile devices. The Times said that in the United States, consumers received roughly 4.5 billion spam texts last year, more than double the 2.2 billion received in 2009, according to Ferris Research, a market research firm that tracks spam.
That is 4.5 million in a year spread out over 250 million text-enabled phones, according to the Times.
Does this problem compare to what we see in our email inboxes? Hardly.
Israeli Internet security developer Commtouch reports that we receive an average of about 4.5 million spam emails approximately every 90 minutes.
Just what are the implications of a doubling of spam on mobile devices?
• If we continue down this path, many mobile subscribers will consider texts an intrusion and ignore them
• Marketers who have succeeded in providing value to consumers who opt into mobile programs will suffer the consequences of a less attentive audience
• The mobile operators may see a drop in messaging revenue. Imagine how many will say no to the text option if the alternative is incessant and unwanted SMS
As the Times reported, mobile spam is illegal under two federal laws — the 2003 Can Spam Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which set up the Do Not Call Registry in 2003. Smartphone users can report numbers that spam comes from on both the Web sites of the F.T.C. and the Federal Communications Commission. The major wireless carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Bell Mobility and Verizon Wireless — all also offer ways to report the numbers on their Web sites and can block numbers.
It is up to the carriers to enforce the laws and quickly shut down the spammers whether they are smishing (illegally seeking personal information) or marketing outside the rules.
Anything less than vigilance will turn off consumers and the route to them.