Mobile Engagement in the Era of App Overload

Posted by PBS Idea Lab on

These days, there seems to be an app for everything. Voice-enabled pizza ordering? Check. An app that says “Yo?” Check. As of today, Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store are home to over 1.4 million appseach!

If these numbers seem overwhelming, you’re not alone. In 2012, mobile analytics company Adeven (now Adjust) reported that 400,000 apps on Apple’s store had never been downloaded at all. At the time, this was nearly two-thirds of all iPhone and iPad apps, completely ignored.

Since then, the total number of apps available has more than doubled, but recent usage trends aren’t any more encouraging. Of the apps that are downloaded, one in five is only opened once, and people spend the majority of their app time using only their four favorites.

In our work at Textizen, we talk to countless people working for governments, service providers, and businesses, who are passionate about public participation. Many believe that deploying an app will solve their participation woes and unlock the power of mobile engagement. But there’s a problem: not everyone has a smartphone (only about 50% of U.S. adults), and those who do are already drowning in app overload.

The fact is, “if we build it, they will come” works better for amusement parks than for apps. Unless you think your app will join the elite few that see downloads repeated use, it may be time to rethink your mobile strategy.

STRATEGIZING FOR REAL IMPACT

In our relentless pursuit of better engagement technology, it’s easy to forget that technology is not the goal, but a means to an end. For public participation efforts, the ultimate goal is inclusion: creating meaningful conversations with as many people as possible. How can organizations meet the needs of the people they serve, if these people aren’t being heard?

people texting into a Textizen prompt at a bus shelter in Buffalo

Residents in Buffalo Niagara, New York text in their thoughts for the One Region Forward planning initiative. Image via One Region Forward.

If your goal is inclusive participation, choose your tools accordingly. Not only are people tired of apps, but those apps are only available to people with smartphones and data plans, shutting out a large portion of possible participants.

SMS: THE MOBILE OUTREACH ALTERNATIVE

In our work at Textizen, we have found text messaging to be an effective tool for reaching people where they are, even those who can’t make it to public meetings or who don’t have a smartphone. Texting as an engagement medium is accessible and cost-effective — with 90% of U.S. adults owning phones capable of texting, nothing else comes close.

image of senior texting

Via Flickr user Jim Fischer under CC BY 2.0.

With a series of sidewalk text-in prompts, Philly Bike Share collected over 1,000 comments on potential station locations. Fort Collins transit provider Transfort collected constructive feedbackfrom hundreds of bus riders. And environmental advocacy group Clean Air Council trained a team of volunteers to report illegally-idling vehicles via text message, which has already led to significant policy change.

These are just a few examples of many that have inspired our team to think hard about the role technology plays in fostering inclusive dialogue. Native mobile applications are great for solving certain problems, but just because we can deploy an app, doesn’t mean we should. Unless an app can join the elite few that are actually downloaded and used, it may not bring you any closer to successful engagement.

subscribe to sdpb email updates TileAd_Beatsupport_300x250.png food and cooking banner image learning blog link living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

The Latest From SDPB Radio News

Johnson, Bjorkman Quarrel Over Finance Records On SDPB TV

Candidates vying for South Dakota’s lone seat in the US House of Representatives say they’ll keep their state roots...

The 20th Annual Animation Show Of Shows

In The Moment ... October 18. 2018 Show 444 Hour 2 The Animation Show of Shows is an annual compilation of the year...

Modern Gold Exploration In The Black Hills

In The Moment ... October 18. 2018 Show 444 Hour 2 The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources...

The Prairie Doc - Medication Overuse

In The Moment ... October 18. 2018 Show 444 Hour 2 Dr. Richard Holm is The Prairie Doc. Today, he joined us from the...

Several South Dakota Communities Risking To Lose Their Local Nursing Homes

In The Moment ... October 18. 2018 Show 444 Hour 2 Longterm care facilities continue to face challenges throughout...

Kevin Woster: Race For The U.S. House

In The Moment ... October 18. 2018 Show 444 Hour 1 South Dakotans head to the polls on November 6, but many are...

Woman Uses Art To Overcome Domestic Violence

Art can be a healing force. In Rapid City, one artist has pulled memories from the most painful part of her life and...

Meet The Candidates - Naveen Malik

In The Moment ... October 18. 2018 Show 444 Hour 1 South Dakota Public Broadcasting introduces you to the candidates...

Meet The Candidates - Liz Merrigan

In The Moment ... October 18. 2018 Show 444 Hour 1 South Dakota Public Broadcasting introduces you to the candidates...

Humbird Live For Song Circle This Saturday Night In Rapid City

In The Moment ... October 18. 2018 Show 444 Hour 1 Siri Undlin a.k.a. Humbird joins Jami Lynn, Eliza Blue and Luke...

The Latest from NPR News

As Border Restrictions Tighten, Some Experts See Migrant Caravans Growing In Size

Mexico has begun allowing members of a mass migrant caravan to cross its border, following violent clashes between...

Crowdsourcing To Find Survivors Of Hurricane Michael

According to one website, at least 300 people are still unaccounted for on the Florida panhandle in the wake of...

At $1.6 Billion, Mega Millions Jackpot Becomes Largest In Lottery History

After no one won the jackpot in a drawing on Friday night, the winnings surpassed the record $1.586 billion for the...

World Reacts With Skepticism To Saudi Confirmation Of Jamal Khashoggi's Death

Saudi officials initially claimed that the journalist, who had been missing since Oct. 2, left their consulate in...

Nation's Only Independent Gov. Drops Re-Election Bid In Alaska And Backs Democrat

Three days after his lieutenant governor resigned for an "inappropriate overture," Bill Walker, polling far behind...