Using USSD for survey/polls vs SMS
I had a discussion with a colleague on the possibilities of using USSD instead/with SMS to run surveys or polls. The main point of interest was that USSD are free – which can lower dramatically the cost of operations/running surveys on large scale.
Here are some excerpts of a little search that may showcase other advantage like speed – share your thoughts and experience!
I am intrigued on “how come something that can be free is not widely implemented yet” or “why are SMS surveys the popular ones?”
What is USSD in the first place?
According to wikipedia: Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is a protocol used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the service provider’s computers. USSD can be used for WAP browsing, prepaid callback service, mobile-money services, location-based content services, menu-based information services, and as part of configuring the phone on the network
In “real life” world – USSD is what you use when you typically input *somenumber# and then dial on your cell phone to check your account balance – recharge your credit.
How it works
After the user keys in a command over USSD – the phone sends it to the phone company network, where it is received by a computer dedicated to USSD. The answer from this computer is sent back to the phone. The messages sent over USSD are not defined by any standardization body, so each network operator can implement whatever it finds suitable for its customers. So, as far as it looks, implementing USSD will require working closely with telecom operators.
USSD Types and how to use them in organizing surveys
- USSD Flash Message : These messages are similar to flash SMS, in that they are displayed on a mobile handsets main screen without the need for the user to go to an ‘inbox’ to view them. Additional they are not stored within the mobile handset, making them ‘one time read’ only – as soon as they are dismissed from the handset screen they are gone, making them perfect for PIN delivery and other sensitive use information such as stock alerts, appointment reminders etc
- USSD Menu Messages: This extremely flexible interactive menu based ‘two-way’ messaging infrastructure gives lots of flexibility. The uses are endless, but some uses for example could be surveys or voting with you receiving the users responses to questions posed. Alternatively it is an ideal way for users to query information you have in your database.. results, company information, balance update, ‘live chat’… the list goes on! As the menus use a live connection to the network there are time limitations that a menu that has not been responded to will remain active, in most cases this is around 30 seconds, however there is no time limit for the length of time an active menu session can last. For this reason we normally recommend keeping menus / questions simple and concise.
- Platform initiated – Via either our web interface or your own software you initiate a USSD menu session direct to the handset.
- User initiated – A user initiates a USSD menu session direct from their mobile handset by sending an SMS with a keyword to our short code.
USSD uses by TATA ( Link )
” Tata Docomo have announced their USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) based access to popular social networking services like Facebook and Twitter. The catch here is that users will not have to subscribe to any data plans to avail these services.”
By dialing *325# and *515#, users will be able to access Facebook and Twitter – can see and post status updates, post comments, poke, like, among others.
USSD vs SMS
- USSD more responsive than services that use SMS
- USSD is Free
- USSD messages are up to 182 alphanumeric characters in length – SMS 160 – twitter is 140 – so it is safe to consider twitter–>USSD combination or SMS–>USSD
- No store and forward option like SMS – which can be a plus in some cases(more privacy)
- USSD can be used in location based content services
- USSD is not cross network or operator (if each operator has their own USSD and shortcode settings, this means implementation has to happen with every operator, not as standard as SMS) – the contradiction to this point of view is service offered by http://globalussd.com
Combining USSD and SMS
SMS can be used to “push” a reply or updates to the handset when the network is ready to send them; USSD is used for command-and-control only.
Companies with USSD Services
Why isn’t the use of USSD the dominant choice?
Different operators and non-standard codes is my best guess – in this case, governments are somehow the “possible” user base for USSD. This being the case, there is no surprise that the demand for USSD software/products is less – since I assume the telecom operator will tailor/manage the govt operation… aka doing USSD polls is not easily accessible to the public … which explain the low demand/apps.
Of course, there could be also some technical tricks/limitations that i don’t know of since i never implemented such project.