Using Mobile to Mobilize: Tapping Into Youth Info Needs

Aug. 7 update: New podcasts for ISIS and MobileVoter links at the end.

If you still think Cha-cha is a dance step and Isis is a bird, it’s time to mobilize your mindset and get a glimpse of mobile youth trends and teen texting so you’re fully abreast of The Next Great Thing.

Kids literally have helpful information at their fingertips just a keycode away, whether it’s mobile voter activism, volunteering on the fly, youth contests to prevent STDs and sexual health services, or cell cams to post photos on Flickr for Good for peer to peer cause-marketing.

The key to “mobilizing generation 2.0?”

Tapping into the information youth need by engaging them on their media platform of choice, and using the tools that make sense. (e.g. I Love’s use of Google Earth to show the coal mining impact of mountaintop removal, VERY visual use of ‘wow’ factor)

While some parents might bristle at “Text 1 if ur condom broke, 3 if s/he’s cheating on u” most advocates for youth would see text messaging as an outreach distribution channel for public health to compete with behavioral cues being imparted via media as ‘super peer.’

Fact is, 1.1 billion youth own a mobile phone, (see 2008 slideshare research capsule from Mobile so you kinda need to ‘fish where the fish are,’ if you want to get messages into kids’ hands (literally) or counter-market an influence that’s pervasive.

You may recall I wrote about the first ever SexTech conference where kids created their own ‘Fresh Focus’ videos of what sex ed should be, by partnering with Do-GooderTV and sharing their creations in UGC poll format.

Loved this concept. Well, since then, ISIS (internet sexuality information services blog here) has been working on other contests, including “what would your undies say’ a kitsch design-driven youth plea for STD/HIV prevention, and mobile phone “Sextexts ” at

They even have ‘anonymous e-notification’ cards, confronting the ‘it’s too embarrassing to confess’ issue of newly diagnosed exposure, which may be gutless, but is clearly better than zero notification at all.

And where do the text messages route? “Some of the answers refer youth to local clinics, which they had young people check out and approve beforehand. Every six months, I.S.I.S. goes back out and talks to the kind of youth they are trying to serve.”

ISIS also specifically asks them, “How do you use your phone?” So they’ll no doubt be able to bridge from texting to web surfing, or photo uploads, etc. depending on the youth being served. They got the word out initially via MySpace Friend Blaster for their texting launch.

Welcome to Web 2.0…fighting fire with fire for public health.

As we know from sites like YPulse, text messaging is huge among youth.

It’s far beyond these emarketer stats quoting 13 messages a week sent by 18-34 adult demographics…

Um, try 13 messages a MINUTE by tweens and teens in Silicon Valley environs here…(anecdotal observation only, but seriously, I’ve seen this firsthand with our crew…albeit, that includes the ‘yah’ and ‘sups?’ )

I’m sure when I attend the YPulse Mashup I’ll have TONS of new mobile youth reports to deliver, especially since Blyk’s freebie “ads for eyeballs’ swap kicks off as keynote for the 16-24 demographic…hmn.

Talk about a free for all, anxious to hear how Blyk is screening THOSE advertisers…

But for now, here are Britt Bravo’s helpful links and notes on the recent session with author Ben Rigby of Mobilizing Generation 2.0 (and Founder of Mobile Voter) with audio forthcoming soon on the Netsquared Podcast. (note Isis’ Deb Levine has her full powerpoint presentation attached at the very end of Britt’s post)

Whether it’s preteen vaccines, delivered in viral marketing and game form like Shaping Youth’s new intern, Rebeca Boyte shared with us (see: or resources for teen suicide prevention via social media widget (YPulse is working on a badge for concerned peer to peer intervention) more and more, mobile media is THE access point of delivery for important alerts in the youth sector…(phone plan willing)

I think we’ll see a lot more of these pragmatic mobile applications that are useful to consumers and youth infomaniacs using phones far beyond just dialing.

I’m eager to hear how we’re going to keep the commercial forces at bay in favor of serving content kids ASK for from credible sources, whether it’s the closet veggie restaurant, finding the nearest public potty, or texting an SMS code to donate 99 cents each at a rock concert for the musicians Sweet Relief fund!

Tons more mobile news out there (ChaCha’s new mobile “search engine” via voice for hands free info and such) so there’s a part two to this post.

I’m particularly anxious to hear reports on volunteer groups like Mobile and other social change agents at YPulse, using phone technology fueled by youth energy to DO SOMETHING(.org)!

Ben Rigby of Mobile has a great wiki up using Desktop SMS Campaign Tools for mobile, and gave some great examples of ‘dos and don’ts’ for nonprofits to heed, per Net2 notes:

He gave three ways that organizations are incorrectly using Web 2.0 technology:

  • The John Edwards Way: Do everything
  • The 8-Track Way: Do nothing
  • The 1.0 Way: Scan your brochure/have a blog without comments, etc.

And some effective ways nonprofits are using Web 2.0 tools:

Shaping Youth is still testing different concepts in different arenas (currently hard at work in a virtual world project with conceptual development of healthy cues via an informal learning ‘quest’ and avatar powers, but it’s not live yet, stay tuned)

Hopefully, the Ypulse 2008 National Mashup on Monday will be teeming with interesting ways to make positive impacts on a global scale…

I can’t wait to see the Emmy-award winning director/Michael Franzini’s youth culture snapshot of the 100 Young Americans book project to see how it compares with our own younger kids’ observations with our own K-5 documentary project, ‘Body Blitz: Media, Shaping Youth’.’

Later, I’m hoping to meet up with my daughter to go to the movie American Teen in the evening…with the guest panel of teens in it. (documentary style) Busy times. Stay tuned…

Update 7-16:

Been awol on the blog due to covering the YPulse National Mashup and will be back soon with reports in full…Standby!!

Related Articles by Shaping Youth

Texting for Toy Safety

Project Vote Smart: Youth Hub for Critical Thinking Skills

Media’s Positive Impact on Kids: Sending an Orphan to College Texting on Twitter

Teen Heroes, Twitter Texting in Citizen Journalism

Jott is Genius: Notes to Myself

MizPee Mobile Mapping, Where to GO on the go!

Cyberbullying, Flash Mobs and the Texting Teen Scene

Teens Atwitter/Mobile Social Minutiae

Jangl: Social/Mobile Messaging Without Using Your Real Home Number

From NetSquared Aug. 7,2008:

Presentation by Deb Levine, ISIS
Interview with Deb Levine, ISIS
Presentation by Ben Rigby, Mobile Voter
Interview with Ben Rigby, Mobile Voter

Visual Credits: Lead cell photo: Mobile, all other logos per their own sites

Special thanks to nonprofit media maven Britt Bravo, who blogs not only at NetSquared, but also at Have Fun, Do Good, BlogHer, and her own BigVision career & project consultancy! Stellar role model for yours truly…huge fan of hers. Check out her words of wisdom.



  1. I read your post with interest (as always!), because while my 12 yr old son does not yet have a cell phone, I know the day will come when he will.

  2. Hey Charlie, stay tuned then, because I’ll be writing a LOT about mobile very soon, including a sample ‘contract’ created between teens and parents to collaboratively agree on terms with our new teen consultant, Vanessa VanPetten who wrote the book “You’re Grounded” (she’s 23 and gives lots of GenY insight into how we can create teen/parent win-wins with respectful boundaries) 🙂

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