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How Facebook, Spotify and CNN are getting push messaging wrong: report

With the continued popularity of mobile applications, marketers are increasingly leveraging in-app push notifications to drive user engagement. However, many marketers still make basic mistakes when it comes to push messaging and risk important customer relationships, according to new research from Urban Airship.

The report is based on a review of Twitter conversations to find out what users are saying about push messaging, and reveals how even big brands such Facebook, Spotify and CNN make mistakes when it comes to push messaging. Others such as Netflix as well as apps for weather services and airlines are ensuring their messages are timely and relevant, resulting in positive feedback from customers.

?Mobile devices are inherently personal and unlike every channel that came before requires brands to think differently about customer engagement,? said Brent Hieggelke, chief marketing officer of Urban Airship, Portland, OR.

?Interrupting people to get their attention is accepted as the price of content on TV,? he said. ?An off-the-mark email just gets deleted. An irrelevant postcard hits the round file.

?But push notifications are different, soliciting extremely positive and negative emotions as evidenced by our Bad Push Booklet. There are many brands getting push messaging right, and they are building mobile loyalty and gaining competitive advantage over those taking a less thoughtful approach.?

Relevant messages
Mobile users who opt-in for an app?s push messaging should be highly-valued customers as engagement levels are 388 percent higher for these users compared to those who do not opt-in.

Getting it wrong with push notifications can have bigger ramifications compared to marketers? other messaging strategies because customers have given permission to contact them, and there is a risk that they will delete the offending app if marketers abuse the relationship.

Urban Airship?s research uncovered several insights about what works and what does not in push messaging.

For example, many marketers still repeat messages from TV, print and the Web, copying them exactly on mobile.

This strategy does not take into account how mobile is different.

Because users have opted-in to push messaging on mobile, they expect more personalized and relevant content, and marketers need to recognize that different users will have different interests.

For example, CNN made the mistake of delivering repeated headlines about the royal baby to app users without recognizing that while some users might be interested in this information and others were not. As a result, users took to Twitter to complain about the messages.

Avoid being intrusive
Another mistake is trying to leverage push notifications to drive transactions and engagement.

For example, when Facebook used push to encourage users to post an update, many were not pleased and expressed their frustrations on Twitter, resulting in negative word-of-mouth for the brand.

It is important for marketers to let users set their preferences for what types of messages they receive. This can help avoid annoyed users who view a brand's irrelevant messages as intrusive.

For instance, Spotify users complained on Twitter after receiving push notifications regarding the availability of music from an artist they were not interested in.

Conversely, when the notification is relevant to a user, this can drive loyalty and positive word-of-mouth marketing. 

Marketers should leverage in-app behaviors to give their messages greater context.

For example, Netflix looks at what users watch so it can update them when content they are interested in become available.

?Allow app users to fine-tune what push notifications they get and what they don?t, as less is more,? Mr. Hieggelke said. ?Use everything they choose to share with you ? preferences, behaviors, location profiles ? to ensure messaging delivers personally relevant value.?

A timely matter
In order to ensure push messages retain value for customers, it is also important not to send too many sales messages. App users may seem like an easy target to drive sales numbers, but overdoing it will lose their trust.

Since push messaging enables marketers to reach customers at any time throughout the day, it is important to keep in mind when messages are being sent.

For example, choose a time when customers are most likely to be receptive and act while being careful to not interrupt dinner or work.

Timing is important in other ways, too.

Many weather apps send out push messages alerting users to impending bad weather in their area, with users expressing how useful they find these messages.

However, if users reply to a Tweet or email and then receive a push message five minutes later encouraging them to respond, they will be annoyed.

Instant gratification
Since users tend to read push notifications very soon after they arrive, push can make sense in instances when an instant action is required.

Many airlines send push notifications when the boarding gate has changed for a user's airline flight, resulting in positive feedback for these brands.

One type of message to avoid is one highlighting a brand?s latest ad campaign. Mobile users are not looking for another ad delivery system - they are looking for relevant communications.

?Your business model might suggest the more app opens or the more page views the better, but don?t be a needy app,? Mr. Hieggelke said.

?If you send a headline, make sure the push is linked to the story so users don?t have to search around,? he said. ?Deliver insight through push that instantly cements your value in the user?s mind even without requiring them to immediately open the app.

?Similarly, don?t just sell, sell, sell, but take an informative approach to messaging that provides users value even if they don?t have money burning a hole in their pocket.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York