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Peer-to-Peer: The Next Frontier

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Peer-to-Peer, Service ObjectsHow do you get millennials interested in a cause?

For starters, you don’t use traditional direct marketing techniques. Millennials won’t even answer a call from an unknown phone number more than 95 percent of the time. Email is something their grandparents used to use, with conversion rates hovering around 1 percent. And many of them don’t sit in front of a television every night passively watching advertising – they live within a broad web of individual human connections, fueled by smartphones and social media.

These are the kinds of numbers that motivated Bay Area startup Hustle (hustle.life) to create a new paradigm: large-scale peer-to-peer communications via text messaging.

The Hustle platform is an enabling technology that allows text messages to be sent rapidly to people’s phones, using automated templates that can be personalized for each message. While still requiring human intervention to send messages, it dramatically increases the productivity of organizations trying to reach large amounts of people for an event, cause or campaign – and these people can text back and get responses from a real human being. The result is often a response rate in the 30-40% range.

As a result, Hustle has now attracted substantial venture funding, and its product was used to reach nearly 4 million people during the latest election season. More important, the concept of mass communication between individuals is now attracting a great deal of attention.

Of course, peer-to-peer communications are much more than a marketing technique. They are quickly becoming a revolution. You can see it in action when you use Uber to get a ride from a private car owner, or AirBnB to rent someone’s house for a week. Uber owns no vehicles, and AirBnB owns no real estate, but both companies connect people to other people on a massive scale. And in the future, respected prognosticators like Daniel Burrus and Donald Tapscott predict the same paradigm will transform banking, voting, education and many other industries that fuel our daily life.

So how can you prepare for the peer-to-peer revolution? By having better access to these peers. When you are blasting text messages to thousands of people, these numbers need to be correct. Otherwise, you face unintended consequences ranging from intrusive spamming to wasted human effort. Moreover, as you move from organizing to marketing, any one-to-one contact model needs verification tools to assess the legitimacy of your contacts and prevent fraud and waste.

Thankfully effective tools existing for verifying phone contact information. These tools include reverse lookup capabilities that can verify wireless or other numbers against US and Canadian databases, including geocoded carrier information and phone type. You can also detect numbers such as VoIP or prepaid phones for use in lead validation or fraud prevention. Taking things a step further, qualified phone numbers can have other contact information appended to them, and entered phone numbers can be contacted via phone or text for active verification by the customer.

The world is increasingly moving away from centralized market models to a distributed peer-to-peer marketplace. This means that now, more than ever, the data quality of both your contact database and your inbound contacts are emerging as key business drivers for the future. With a small incremental investment in maintaining this quality, you can be prepared to grow in an increasingly interconnected world.

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