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Brands tap SMS GupShup for mobile messaging ads

Pepsi, eBay, Indian Idol, ICICI, Airtel and Tata are among the brands targeting the Indian market with advertising within SMS GupShup text messages.

With more than 30 million users, Mumbai-based SMS GupShup claims to be the world?s largest mobile social network, known as India?s Twitter. The company recently announced the addition of three new senior executives: Amit Sahai Mathur as chief financial officer, Vikram Thukral as vice president of media sales and Vishal Nongbet as senior director and head of marketing.

Mobile Marketer?s Dan Butcher interviewed Mr. Nongbet. Here is what he had to say:

Does SMS GupShup have a mobile Web site and/or app? For which handsets/operating systems is it available?
Since the basic requirement to get GupShupping?chatting?is SMS, it can be used by anyone using any handset and on any wireless carrier. There is no separate application required to start usage.

The SMS GupShup platform allows users to share and connect seamlessly with family, friends and fans for free, via SMS as well as the Web and WAP.

Those wishing to use the platform on the Internet can visit our Web site either on their computers or on their handsets.

Does it have direct partnerships with any carriers?
Though the SMS GupShup platform is independent of carriers, we have working partnerships with all the major carriers.

Carriers today are using the reply-all capability of SMS GupShup to increase average revenue per user and loyalty of their subscriber base.

This product enables many-to-many communication between friends, family and coworkers.

Only GupShup offers a unique chat facility that is a natural extension of person-to-person messaging. It lets more than two people chat simultaneously, and all can see one another?s reply.

We are in active conversation with dozens of carriers to launch this service in multiple countries.
SMS GupShup also sells premium content and services to consumers via carriers.

We feature an SMS App Platform that enables many-to-one and multi-user interactions among users.

The application platform is an open developer platform that enables rapid creation and deployment of SMS based services such as contests, polls, surveys, multi-user games, study tools, productivity and collaboration tools.

By deploying the App Platform, carriers can greatly expand the pool of content partners to include anyone, anywhere, as well as reduce the cost of deployment. It allows for easy development and access to relevant user-generated apps, groups and communities, making it a social destination of choice among the target audiences.

All content shows up on SMS as well as WAP and the Web. Over a 100 applications have been developed on the platform so far.

How has SMS GupShup gotten the word out and expanded its user base (i.e. marketing tactics)?
SMS GupShup grew virally in the beginning with publishers and users inviting people to join these communities.

As the platform grew, we began to do viral marketing in a more structured manner.

Today, we profile users based on the kind of content they opt-in for, and then invite them to join other communities that would appeal to them.

All of this is done through text messages on the SMS GupShup platform itself.

The underlying assumption is that people value content and when it becomes social currency for them, they begin to share and bring new users on board.

SMS GupShup also markets its brand through strategic partnerships with people and organizations that bring credibility and interesting content onto the platform.

These might be celebrities, specialists in certain fields or other media channels.

We have brought on board a number of television/film actors, sportspersons and politicians who engage their fans on our platform.

We have created a community with a well-known Bollywood TV channel to bring the latest buzz on movies to community members, and they in turn promote the community on their channel.

We?re also in talks with a well-known celebrity magazine to start something similar.

We cosponsor college festivals across about 15 campuses every year and enter into partnerships with youth organizations wherever possible to create cobranded properties.

The SMS GupShup story has always been an inspiration to budding young entrepreneurs, and we try and reinforce this by our non-conventional approach to marketing.

What is SMS GupShup?s core demographic?
Most of our users are in the age bracket of 18-28. Unlike other social networks, the geographical spread of our users is not restricted to the top five or six metropolitan cities in India.

Middle-class teens and aspiring yuppies from all over urban and semi-urban India are our core demographic.

How does SMS GupShup help brands engage consumers?
The SMS GupShup platform can be used in different ways by brands and advertisers.

Brands can target specific user-generated communities and run add-on advertising using the messages that get published on these forums.

This enables targeted reach to consumers who have opted in for content of a specific kind and may always be in ?shopping? mode for relevant products.

This has been very successfully done by banks and financial services that have targeted investing and finance communities.

Brands can go a step further and aim for deep engagement through the creation of their own mobile communities.

A community enables the brand to connect with and engage interested users on an ongoing basis through interesting content, games, contests and polls.

What a brand sees as our differentiators:

Content providers are usually limited to downloadable items such as ringtones, wallpapers and games, or services allowing users to subscribe to certain content channels?generated by the service provider.

They do not enable users to generate and consume content the way SMS GupShup does.

Online social networking sites face limited Internet connectivity and few Internet hours per person per day in countries like India.

SMS is a comfortable medium that a greater number of users are familiar with and can be conveniently accessed on the go.

SMS aggregators provide bulk SMS services for small businesses and brands, and some might offer direct advertising.

SMS GupShup follows a strict permission-based no-spam policy for advertising.