The Importance of SMS in an Instant Messaging World

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Instant Messaging
Instant Messaging

Do you know when, where, how and to whom the first Instant Messaging SMS was sent? The first text message was sent from a computer to a mobile phone 25 years ago today. On December 3, 1992, engineer Neil Papworth sent the first SMS message to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone. It simply read “Merry Christmas,” and Jarvis had no way of replying.

The idea of sending short messages via mobile phone only became a focus for telecoms companies in the UK years later, though the first commercial SMS service was launched in Sweden in 1993 by Telia. In the early days of texting, users had to stick to a 160 character limit (there was no way of running texts together as there is today) and T9 and other predictive text systems did not exist before 1995, meaning texting speeds were much slower.

In today’s technology filled world, SMS has now become one the important communication platform among people and also for almost all business owners to reach all the potential customers to convey what their messages.

Evolution of Instant Messaging Apps

Instant Messaging
Instant Messaging

SMS – Short Message Service, instant messaging service has evolved rapidly with the evolution of messaging apps such as Snapchat, Facebook, Text Messaging, WhatsApp and even Skype. Whichever app we use texting impacts the way we communicate because it allows us to express thoughts and emotions immediately and often in a language that twists spoken and written words.

Key Advantages of Using Instant Messaging

The first and foremost leading instant messaging SMS has some advantages that grant it significant staying power:

  • Sheer marketing potential. 

    SMS texting remains one of the most versatile marketing channels for modern businesses. Nearly every phone is equipped with basic SMS features, and because most customers have a phone on them at all times, they’ll be instantly notified when receiving a new message. Because it’s useful for recruiting new customers, advertising deals to existing ones, and streamlining things like appointment scheduling, it’s likely to remain in use for the indefinite future.

  • Open rate. 

    Text messages also have a much higher open rate, on average, than email—another simple form of communication that remains unchanged after decades of use—up to 90 percent in some cases. This makes it an extremely reliable form of peer-to-peer communication, as well as a high-return outlet for marketing and advertising. It’s also a secondary indication of its high user adoption; if consumers weren’t relying on text messages regularly, the open rate wouldn’t be nearly this high.

  • Low cost. 

    It’s been estimated that it costs carriers about 1/1000th of one cent to send an SMS message, but the true cost may be even lower than that. Because SMS-related data is piggybacked on existing relays, and the infrastructure is already in place, it costs companies (and consumers) practically nothing to send texts back and forth. This low cost means there’s practically no downside to continuing to offer SMS as-is, even if it faces competition from new modes of communication.

  • Consumer identity and authentication.

    SMS is also a highly reliable way to verify a user’s identity; each consumer is, for the most part, issued one phone number, and that phone number can’t be copied or assigned to another user. Accordingly, if your app needs a way to verify someone’s identity, or ensure a second account hasn’t been fraudulently created, SMS is ideal. SMS texting is also one of several channels ideal for two-factor authentication, a security standard that’s growing more important in today’s world of vigilance in cybersecurity.

Guidelines For Using SMS Messages For Your Business

Instant Messaging
Instant Messaging

Any company who is sending SMS messages as part of their marketing initiative need to follow the below guidelines:

  1. You should have written consent from your customers about receiving SMS communication from you. The required written signature can be obtained via email, Web site form, text message, telephone keypress or voice recording.
  2. If you used a web-form for opt-in, you should immediately send a double-opt-in confirmation request to verify the handset
  3. The opt-in confirmation message you send to new subscribers should be compliant with MMA and CTA guidelines.
  4. Maintain a “unsubscribe/do not call list” and honor any request to not be called again. When such a request is received, the requester may not be called again on behalf of the business for whom the solicitation is made. Do not violate the National Do Not Call registry.
  5. Your current messaging content should be related to the original program the subscriber opted in to.
  6. Your company name/brand name should be clearly mentioned in the text.
  7. In every message you should provide the opt-out details like – “Reply STOP to opt out”. It is also advisable to mention “Msg rates may apply” to inform the customer about the cost involved in replying back.
  8. If you used a web-form for opt-in, always provide an empty checkbox with a link to your CTIA compliant mobile T&C’s. Have a clearly written policy available to anyone on request.
  9. Maintain single or double opt-in confirmation messages on file with a time stamp.
  10. Limit the messages to a period between 8 AM to 9 PM local time of the customer.

Exemption from TCPA

Non-marketing messages such as flight updates and bank balances are excluded from the guidelines. Also excluded are one-time transactions such as texting a keyword to a common short code to receive a coupon, which is delivered via a code in the responding SMS message, with no further messages sent.

A text message is exempted from the TCPA if the message:
  1. Is made on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
  2. Is not made for a commercial purpose.
  3. Does not include an unsolicited advertisement, even if it is made for a commercial purpose.
  4. Is made to a consumer with whom the calling company has an established business relationship. This relationship cannot be established merely by having made a prior solicitation call. The customer ends this exemption when he or her requests that no more calls/texts be made.

In case of any doubts regarding the category in which your messages fall, or whether you need to comply with TCPA, please refer the original guidelines or contact your legal advisor. You should obtain written consent from your customers for all messages where you are not sure of the nature of the content.

Instant Messaging Marketing Best Practices

Instant Messaging
Instant Messaging

To be most effective, it is recommended that a text messaging project be a component of a larger integrated health communications campaign in support of the overall campaign goals. Before starting development, please consider the following:

  1. Text Messaging

    • Target Audience(s)
      As with any communications activity, it is important to define your intended target audience(s) in order to develop and communicate messages that resonate with your audience and prompt them to take action. Text messages can be an effective way to reach a variety of audiences like racial and ethnic minorities, teens, moms, and
    • Objectives
      It is also important to have clearly defined objectives before starting a text messaging project. What action would you like the recipient to take once they receive the message? What is your overall objective?
    • Budget
      Text messaging systems are usually delivered through contracts with outside
      There are various factors that can impact the cost of implementing a mobile text messaging project including the length of the program, number of subscribers and the number of messages sent.
    • Referrals
      If the text message encourages the recipient to call CDC-INFO for additional
      information, please notify CDC-INFO in advance so they are prepared.
  2. Length of Message

    Text messages should be short and concise. The entire message should be less than 160 characters, including spaces, punctuation, branding, links, and opt-out instructions. Test the length of a text message, and paste or type your message in the box provided.

  3. Content of Message

    The message content should be topical and cleared by normal clearance channels. All content should be written at no more than an 8th-grade reading level.

      • Abbreviations: Because text messages have a character limit, abbreviations are often used. Abbreviations should only be used when they are easily understood and do not change the meaning of the message. Some common abbreviations are:
  • The US for the United States
  • Info for Information
  • & for And
  • Msg for Message
  • IMPT for Important
      • Punctuation: Use necessary punctuation only if required for clarity or emphasis.
  1. Message Components:

  • Body: CDC.gov users report wanting relevant, actionable, timely, clear and interesting text messages. If possible, it is helpful to target messages to make them more relevant and provide a clear call to action in the body of the message.
  • Branding: The message should clearly be labeled so that users can easily determine the sender of the message.
  • Links and Tags: Include a way for users to follow up or respond to the message, such as a phone number and/or URL to a mobile Web site. Links to traditional Web sites should be avoided and links to sites that have been designed specifically for mobile devices should be used.
  • Phone Numbers: All phone numbers should be formatted so the user can click-to-call the number automatically from their cell phone. For example, do NOT use the number 1-800-CDC-INFO; instead, use 800-232-4636.
  • Opt-Out Instructions: If users can opt-in for the messages, then opt-out instructions should be provided at the end of some of these messages. The opt-out message is typically something similar to “Reply HEALTH QUIT to end.” This message includes 25 characters. While the opt-out message does not need to be attached to every message, it should be included approximately once a week.

Tactics That Will Ignite Your SMS Marketing Success

Below are some of the most effective Instant Messaging tactics I have seen that can help boost response rates.

1. Offer incentives.

Tempt your customers by offering coupons or deals through texts for those who subscribe to your SMS business. This makes customers feel like they are a part of a secret club or community.

2. Keep your message short and sweet.

Over 90 percent of all SMS messages are read within 3 minutes, making it an intimate way to connect with your customers. With only 160 characters to use, ensure your message is to-the-point and delivers high value to ensure your customer is motivated to respond positively.

3. Have a clear call-to-action.

Two factors drive an SMS campaign: the keyword and a shortcode. If you want customers to take part in a campaign that has them text your keyword to a five digit number (your shortcode) make sure those two items stand out and aren’t buried in the message.

4. Integrate MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service)

If you have a hard time with the 160-character limit, use MMS to send video clips or images to your customers. You can even include YouTube URLs, giving your customers a visual about your business.

5. Make contests interactive.

When customers enter a contest or opt-in, include your website or social media links in your automated reply. It’s a simple and quick way to connect customers to your various pages, enticing them to click on the links.

6. Encourage your customers via texts.

Text messages can prod your users to share your social media links. The best advertising is by word of mouth and awards your top referrers with a special deal or freebie product

7.  Create a sense of urgency.

Including some sort of expiration date encourages customers to respond faster, helping you achieve results or gain information as quickly as possible.

  1. If texting an offer to your customers, make it exclusive.

Include the fact that the deal is being offered to all VIP text customers and make them feel like they are a part of something special. If the offer were available to anyone, then being a subscriber becomes less appealing.

  1. Use your texts as hooks to your social media.

Promote any contests or sweepstakes you’re offering on your social media pages through the texts you send your customers. You can engage them further through those pages, but use your texts to direct them there.

  1. Ask questions or send surveys.

Ask customers their opinion on a product or idea, or even if you should launch a business page on a new social media platform. Once you have results, text them to your customers or post the results on one of your social media pages and direct your subscribers to it.

  1. Send a text as a follow up to an email.

Your customers generally receive both of these messages on their mobile device these days, boosting response rates and engaging them in conversation.

  1. Send texts at the right time.

Aim for times your customers won’t be busy, like before or after work, or during lunch hours. As a general rule, don’t send texts before 9 am or after 9 pm.

  1. Engage a younger audience.

18-49 year-olds have grown up with various mobile devices, and are more active texters than baby boomers.

  1. Ask customers about their preferences.

Inquire as to when they would like to receive messages and what kind of information they want. Then simply customize your SMS program to suit their wants.

  1. Personalize the texts.

Customers respond more to materials addressed directly to them, so insert your subscribers’ name when you can. You can also target your customer with more relevant texts based on their preferences.

Final Recap,

The more time you spend honing your skills, the more interaction you will gain from your community. Stay tuned with BulkQ to know more effective Instant Messaging marketing strategies!

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