The Funniest Mobile App Update: From Boring to Breakthrough Content

I’m writing this post because TalkTo updated its app yesterday and it made me laugh out loud. Yes, you read that right: I’m calling out a mobile update as inspired content, because it’s just that good.

TalkTo has taken the notion of a pedestrian smartphone update to a new level: Creating compelling content in a place most othersoverlook or completely ignore.

It reminds me of the way my grandmother could root out a potato from under the sink and toss it into a pot with a handful of leftovers and create something magical: What others overlook can often be an opportunity to surprise—in business and… uh… at dinner!

I talk about this a lot as relates to content: While other companies might do a fantastic job creating over-the-top experiences for their customers, those over-the-top experiences often require big budgets, big teams, big resources; but plenty of opportunities exist for smaller companies with significantly more modest resources.

In content, breakthrough moments can come when you do what no one else has the wit, or the courage, or the inspiration to do.

Which brings me back to TalkTo.

TalkTo is a smartphone app (for Android and iOS) that allows you to communicate with a business via text messaging instead of the telephone—even if the business doesn’t have text messaging on its end.

For example, this past summer, I used it to inquire about pricing for a bouncy house from a local party rental store for my daughter’s backyard birthday party. TalkTo directs you to look up the business and efficiency SMS text an inquiry—“Do you have the Pretty Princess Castle with Repunzel Tower Slide available for June 28th?”—and then receive a text response.

No time wasted on hold. And for those of us who hate the telephone, it’s a godsend. A frequent hashtag used on the company’s Twitter profile is #NoMoreCalls, which sounds more like a rallying cry against Alexander Graham Bell than a social hashtag.

 

This useful little app originally got on my radar when my friend Dave Cutler (that’s him above) pointed out the company’s personality-packed mobile updates, because (as Dave knows) I’m always looking for examples of compelling content. Since then, I don’t just download the latest TalkTo updates: I actually anticipate them. Because they’re funny.

Last night, the latest came through:

TalkTo update 1

 

TalkTo Update 2

My favorite: “TalkTo’s new release is by Mrs. Farley’s fourth graders participating in President Obama’s Hour of Code 2013 campaign. If you find any bugs, please forward them along to Mrs. Farley at Bellamy Elementary.”

Because That’s Why

TalkTo’s is the only app update that I read and (sometimes) screen-shot to laugh at and share later. It’s the only app update I’ve ever used as an example of good content on stage. And it’s the only app update I’ve ever written about on this site.

I shared the essence of that last paragraph with TalkTo’s head of operations, Jonathan Steiman. And when I followed up with a question about why this fledgling technology company puts any time into crafting updates, he referred me to my own words: “Because that’s why,” he said, parroting them back to me from his Cambridge, Mass., office.

“We were bored by the usual kind of updates—bug fixes, and so on,” Jonathan said. “No one cares. We wanted people to care.”

So TalkTo saw the mobile update as an opportunity to differentiate itself, by “looking for a canvas that one was using. Other companies use Facebook, Twitter, a blog… and we do, too. But no one was using a mobile update.”

The TalkTo product launched in April 2013, and in regular updates the six-person team weaves silliness around a kind of narrative: Of a hapless “intern” who gets zero respect from a humorless CEO, and who posts these updates with some measure of good-natured passive-aggressiveness.

It’s a lot more endearing than I’m possibly making it sound, because the updates are funny and humanize the tech company.

TalkTo shows that the words you use really can be a differentiator, especially if you choose them well and wisely. This is a favorite theme of mine.

(Really.)

Content As Retention Tool

They also see the wisdom in using an otherwise pedestrian update as a pretty fantastic retention tool, and a way to keep an app top-of-mind with consumers.

I regularly download and cull apps from my iPhone. I’m sure you do, too. But guess which one I’m likely to hold on to?

I’ll give you one clue: Mrs. Farley’s class is currently programming an update for it.

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13 Responses to The Funniest Mobile App Update: From Boring to Breakthrough Content

  1. Ann, I recently finished Mitch Joel’s amazing book, CTRL ALT Delete. One of his key themes is how consumers have already transitioned to a one-screen world (e.g., the screen currently staring them in the face). And, that one-screen of choice is quickly becoming their smartphone screens.

    Your TalkTo content marketing example totally supports Mitch’s argument. And, they’re wicked smart to take advantage of that trend by delivering witty, entertaining content literally in the palms of our hands.

    I just downloaded the iOS app (see if you can get paid on commission) ;-)

    • Ann Handley says:

      Thanks for chiming in, Tony. I’m a fan of Mitch’s book, too. I love examples of companies doing more with less… which is in part why I loved this so much.

      No commission.. LOL. But perhaps I’ll let them buy me a latte. :)

  2. Fabulous.
    This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about when I wrote about bringing delight into a brand (http://www.suddenlymarketing.com/the-magical-power-of-delight/). These are the kinds of details that make people fall in love with a brand. I don’t know that I even need this app, but I’m going to download it just because.
    ;)

  3. Ann Handley says:

    Love it, Jamie! > “…delight invites us to be in a space where good things happen. It invites us to see the best in people and situations. It reminds us that, as savvy and cynical as we might be sometimes, we never really lost our capacity for joy and wonder.”

  4. Ryan Cox says:

    I’m not going to go on any “editorial ramblings” in this comment, so I’ll K.I.S.S. — this is brilliant. Not only is the technology pretty cool (despite how mundane), but I’d never heard of the app. Not only am I going to download it now (another user), but I’ll probably write about it after the next app update for the very reason you wrote about it here Ann.

    This just wins. Over and over and over…

  5. Kelly Crumemr says:

    Thanks for the heads up about where to find some laughs! I even went back to read some of the old updates. There are a few flashes, but the Version 1.2.2 on Jun 21, 2013, really hits it out of the park. I wish all apps took the bugs out back to woodshed to slap them around a bit.

  6. DJ Waldow says:

    Ann!

    Love this – the app (just downloaded), the fun updates they give, the HUMAN company they are, and – as always – your commentary.

    About a year ago, I took a screen shot of the Bleacher Report iPhone app updates. They were HILARIOUS. Not *as* funny anymore, but still have personality. Check it: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/team-stream/id418075935

    *Make sure you click on “more” in “What’s New in Version 3.1 to see the full updates.

    #allcaughtupwithawesomeannblogposts

  7. Dilip says:

    Ann,
    Great post!

    We are a startup based in Ca and plan to launch beta in February. So if you like Talkto, you will be blown away with QwikDial (we hope and strive to).

    QwikDial is a mobile app that will let you send a single text and receive responses from multiple businesses.

    We’d love to get your feedback.

    So please take a look at qwidkial.com and http://qwikdial.com/business.html

    Feel free to reach me if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

    @qwikdial4u

    #TotalDisruption

  8. Alan goswell says:

    Hi Ann, just goes to show that tech co’s who remember they are only human, and that their users/clients are only human as well, will stand out in a befuddling crowd. Let’s never forget, people sell to people…

  9. Kelly Grace says:

    I loved the little blip that ran for awhile on bufferapp.com’s site. It said that buffer app was designed to ‘automagically’ schedule posts throughout the day to social profiles enabling the user to have a social media presence and a real life.

    I think automagically sounds like a great way to get things done.

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