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.
— Dave Cutler (@CutlerDave) July 23, 2013
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:
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.
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.