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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mobile Marketing, SPAM, HLR Lookup

Mobile Marketing, SPAM and HLR Lookup 

Using HLR Lookup to Improve your SMS Mobile Marketing

Marketing via SMS email is big business. In 2011, Informa reported that worldwide nearly $12 billion was spent on these initiatives. We've all experienced email spam. SMS spam takes it to a new level being much more intrusive. Lisa Peterson describes in her blog on mobile privacy, for the first time in history many consumers now have a connected device with them nearly 24x7. This always-on connectivity is tempting to charlatans and as a result there is a growing amount of mobile spam. The increasing volume of unwanted text messages risks damaging an otherwise excellent channel for brands to engage with their customers.

Today, SMS spam is a less common than Internet spam. One factor in this is cost. In general, it costs more money to send an SMS compared to an email. This has kept many spammers at bay. For this same reason, it has also kept many SMS marketing campaigns in the draft folder. There is good and bad news for brands on this front.

There are ways to significantly reduce the cost of SMS marketing, but some are short term and not necessarily good solutions in the long run.  The bad news is that as cost becomes less of a deterrent the industry has to impose other measures to prevent mobile spamming. I’ll be discussing this more in a future post on SMS Fraud and Security.

This post focuses on HLR Lookup, sometimes known as an IMSI Lookup, which some SMS Marketing companies use to improve their SMS Mobile Marketing.

The HLR contains essential details on the mobile subscriber such as the subscriber’s current mobile operator, whether the number active, and the mobile subscriber’s status which says if the subscriber is active or roaming on a foreign network. Performing HLR Lookup for each of your MSISDNs to create a clean telemarketing list can significantly reduce the cost of executing a SMS marketing campaign.

For example, if a number is not active you wouldn't waste money sending a marketing message. If the subscriber is out of the country, the message is likely to cost you significantly more – an important fact to know.  Making an HLR Lookup standard prior to sending requested SMS messages sounds like a legitimate thing to do, right?  A little upfront intelligence can help you make better business decisions.

How Spammers Abuse HLR Lookup

Unfortunately, some spammers have recognised the value of an HLR Lookup. By sending a sequential list of mobile numbers to an HLR Lookup service you are able to remove all the numbers that are not active, and the spammer is able to build a valuable telemarketing list. To avoid raising suspicions, they may split their request across multiple operators and re-order their requests. It is even possible that you might stumble across these lists. Be warned the penalties and damage to your brand are severe for SMS spam.  

Best Practices for SMS Mobile Marketing  

The GSMA, CTIA and OMA and many others have introduced guidelines designed to protect operators and consumers from mobile spam. Privacy by design is an industry methodology used to build privacy into any mobile solution. For marketers here are a few key items to consider:
  1. Consumer Opt-in Law: Are the marketing opt-in laws strong enough in your country to keep the SMS marketing channel clean and does the regulator offer services to help you comply?
  2. Double opt-in: Did you receive an affirmative response for both of your opt-in notices to your contact. Remember a non-answer doesn’t mean yes.
  3. Keep it current: If you haven't had a response from your prospect or client for over 12 months, should they be on your marketing list? Check the guidelines from your local industry association to ensure you know how often they recommend requesting updated approval from your SMS subscribers.
  4. Check and Double Check: What checks did you make to ensure the list was built legitimately? Are you sure you have the necessary approvals from the contact? 
  5. Make it simple and clear. Be sure your contacts know how to remove themselves. It should be as easy as replying “unsubscribe”. 
Remember the reason SMS marketing is so valuable is the same reason an unwanted SMS marketing message can be so damaging.

HLR Lookup worries Mobile Operators

Mobile  operators are worried about HLR Lookup for a number of reasons.  I don't go into details in this post, but you can find more details in the other posts listed below:
Mobile Operators do use filtering techniques to spot abuse and terminate access but the spammers move on to use smarter techniques, and so the war continues.  The problem is that legitimate uses suffer since the operator has to enforce tougher measures to counter the SMS Spam.  Availability of HLR Lookup services is still surprisingly high, but there is also clear evidence of Mobile Operators working hard to close loopholes and protect their networks.

Stop SMS Spam

If you are interested in stopping SMS Spam, and want to keep the SMS channel clean in order to have powerful engagement with your customers then please follow my blog, take part and comment.

You may find the GSMA Spam Reporting Service interesting.  Simply forward your spam message to 7726 (SPAM) or 33700

You may also find some of the other links useful.
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  1. Very useful content with excellent ideas. I really appreciate your post, thank you for sharing.
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