Using SMS Short Codes for Bulk SMS Job Alerts

August 24, 2020

‘SMS Jobs Alert Promotional Media Campaign’ poster and stand billboard

The landscape of the Gambian labor force is quite vibrant with no shortage of jobseekers, a robust need for skills and capacity development, and naturally, opportunities and constraints. The main challenge in the labor market is a shortage of jobs. Attempts to digitize the job matching experience were introduced in the market and when AccLabGM came into being in 2019, it sought to understand the implications of digitally transforming the process.

By partnering with job-matching platform, GamJobs, the lab sought to understand: whether if youths were directly contacted about available vacancies, there would be more competitiveness among that demographic for skills and professional development training program; and secondly, whether if we created an open access point for available vacancy notifications, then uptake of local job opportunities would rise in the short term. This blog explores the findings from that experiment.

Guided by a Lab challenge of youth unemployment, AccLabGM began its experimentation cycle with an SMS Jobs Alert Promotional Media Campaign. Tracing back to the first national study around a national platform for employment networking and action,* a survey into existing UNDP beneficiaries helped the Lab identify GamJobs as a key implementing partner. Coincidentally, it was also the frontrunner player in market efforts to digitize vacancy announcements. A popular youth entertainment group, Bright Stars Entertainment (BSE), was contracted to provide the campaign media.

In designing the alerts, AccLabGM purchased 500 subscriptions from GamJobs and a short-code service to streamline the user registration process and facilitate bulk SMS alerts of vacancy announcements. For the media campaign, BSE created an 80 second radio jingle that would be aired on two major radio stations during peak rush hour. Stand billboards and poster advertisements were placed in strategic locations and key transit points around the country to ensure reach.

AccLabGM entered the first month of the campaign eager and curious to learn from the results and what could be adjusted to inform an iterative process in the experiment design. Among the adjustments made was a re-strategizing of where and how we placed the poster adverts and the creation of a video for the radio jingle. We also increased our alerts subscriptions for our bulk SMS (short code) distribution after finding out that the demand for alerts that we received exceeded our supply of SMS subscriptions by 100 percent. Even more encouraging was the 100 percent conversation rate of vacancies advertised to filled positions.

The positive effect of our interventions to tackle the issues of reach, did not address all the challenges in the campaign. In March 2020, the disruptions posed by COVID-19 also created challenges to the experiment. Reduced office hours and a crunch in the job market translated to fewer jobs available for posting, despite the use of television and social media following the release of the jingle video. Regardless, 100 percent of vacancies posted were filled on a monthly basis during the entirety of the five-month campaign with an increase in the active user base of GamJobs by over 1000 percent.

Ultimately, the campaign findings also informed of a need to run a jobs drive campaign. It exposed regions were no job announcements were made, that no vacancies were shared by the public sector, or that in The Gambia, men were more likely to use digital technologies over women. These findings can potentially inform program design and implementation at the country office level, such as the need for more digital literacy among women and girls as a result of their emphasis on outreach by phone over digital platforms in this experiment.

AccLabGM is currently exploring a jobs supply oriented version of this experiment with slightly different parameters. Following the release of a Customer Relations Managment (CMR) survey to employers within GamJobs’ userbase, AccLabGM decided to purchase three subscription packages which also factored in the findings from the alerts campaign. To maximize on the number of jobs posted, these packages were offered to the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), The Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (TANGO), and finally, the Public Service Commission (PSC) of government. Taxi billboards are also being used to directly incentive users within those networks to become active.

These attempts to better understanding development, could pivot our approach to how we pursue and ultimately attain the SDGs. Whether its ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ (SDG 8) or ‘Reduced Inequalities’ (SDG 10), this experiment tried to offer a few insights on the challenge of youth unemployment in The Gambia. AccLabGM remains ever-curious and ever-ready to explore and test new ideas and exploit new to market innovations in country.

Would these results hold in your city or state? Let us know!