Idol Thinking: What We Can Learn From an American TV Giant

idolA new season of American Idol premiered this week and, regardless of what you think of the actual show, its success as a SMS titan cannot be denied. Every week millions of viewers vote for their favorite amateur singer, with final vote counts reaching the tens of millions. The season finale vote count has topped the 100 million mark for the past four seasons. And the lion’s share of that activity comes via SMS.

 Your SMS group probably doesn’t see the same action, but there is a lesson to be learned from Idol: engagement is king.

It’s so easy to use your opt-in SMS service exclusively to send messages to your group. But challenging yourself to make group-SMS a two-way process will be a much more rewarding strategy. We won’t lie to you: it’ll take work and creativity, but your customers will have a ball with the final result.

Perhaps the thing that drives Idol fans to participate the most is the ability to affect change. Their vote literally dictates the course of the show—sometimes to the chagrin of the judges. There’s something about knowing the fate of a institution rests in the people’s humble hands that inspires quick and passionate action. Time to make your business that institution.

Is there something about your business that customers can change? A new item to put on the menu? A new product to put on sale? A new award you can give? Even something as simple as the color of paint on your walls would be a worthwhile topic to put up for a vote. Think of something that would be fun to change without potentially devastating results and run with it.

Whatever topic you choose make sure the result is something tangible. A meaningless poll taken out of curiosity will get some votes; a poll taken for real results could get 100 times the usual activity. It’s the promise of a payoff that will keep people coming back for more.

Tracking SMS voting requires spending some time with your account. You will have to setup new keyword and familiarize yourself with some of the tracking tools. It may seem like a challenge at first, but it’s not difficult. And once you’re set up you can just sit back, relax, and let your fans do the work. But even you don’t like the results, remember: it’s the will of the people that makes it fun.

If you’re up for a bigger challenge and want to capture the American Idol feel, create a vote that can stretch over several weeks, with all the elimination and tension of the hit show. Does your business need a new mascot? A new name? Perhaps a fun Most Popular Salesperson contest? The possibilities are endless. Make an event out of your SMS poll and soon your business will become the real attraction. And you won’t even need Ryan Seacrest to do it.

Eric Duncan

Eric Duncan writes about Marketing for TextMarks--The industry leading SMS Marking & Communications platform.

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