Well, at least it’s a start. One of my favorite mobile services, and the reason I occasionally break my 500 texts/month limit with a vengeance, is Cha Cha. I’m not alone, as now Cha Cha’s the fastest growing mobile text search, beating out the incredibly useful Goog-411, Google SMS, and whatever Yahoo! has to claim 7% of the market.

It was one of those things nobody had heard of a year ago, but when I showed off what it could do people became instant devotees.

Unlike Yahoo! or Google, Cha Cha has real people, called “guides,” answer each question that users text (to 242-242) or call in (1-800-224-2242). After sending in your question, the guide does some Internet sleuthing and texts you a response, often with a link to their source.

Each guide makes about a dime/question answered, and the service is free to the end user except for whatever your carrier charges you for the texts.

I’ve gotten answers on everything from mathematical formulas to fashion advice to pickup lines and, my most frequent question, what’s something fun to do tonight I can do on the cheap?

I’ve been waiting for them to start to monetize – losing a dime every time your customers use you isn’t a great long-term growth strategy – and yesterday, I got my first peek at their early plans:

ChaCha's working on your answer - keep an eye on your phone! *Get HOT new Ringtones: call 8667198841 now!

Sigh. I’m asking them for a place to spend by money, and they ignore that golden opportunity of restaurant referrals to send me the thousandth offer I’ve had today for something I don’t want.

At least they’re doing something, and based on all the additional functionality – including location-based searching – they’re adding on the website, I’m sure they’ll have smarter, more useful, and ultimately more profitable advertisements soon.

P.S.: Cornell alum? Interested in mobile marketing? Check out the panel I’m hosting next Thursday, at Google’s Boston HQ, “Marketing in the New World Part III: The Mobile Frontier.” It’s the first free event for the Cornell Professional Network, and there’s only 10 spots left!