Why SMS may be your best engagement tactic (Still!)

May 30 2018
It happens 18.7 billion times a day, all across the globe – a text message is sent via mobile phone. While it seems hard to imagine life without texting (officially known as SMS, for Short Message Service), it’s a communication method that really hit its stride only at the start of this century.

From the mid-90s to now: A brief history of texting

Back in 1995, Americans were sending an average of just 0.4 texts per month. In just five years, the average increased to 35 per person each month.

And what’s our national text volume now? Much, much higher.

It’s probably no surprise that young people are the ones sending the most text messages. An Experian study reports that Americans ages 18 to 24 send an average of 2,022 texts per month (67 texts a day) while receiving another 1,831.


Find your audience where they are

Despite the introduction of new communication platforms, texting not only remains an incredibly popular way to communicate, I’d like to make the case that it remains a highly effective method to engage consumers in promotional efforts. Brands often dismiss SMS as “old news technology,” and look for newly emerging platforms they feel will position themselves as innovative leaders. They may succeed in achieving that objective with certain audiences, but they do so at the risk of causing apathy among other market segments. This can also lead to very fragmented promotional strategies.

Part of our job as promotional experts is to help brands avoid the next casualty (Bye, Vine) and find platforms with staying power (Hello, Ghostface Chillah–aka the Snapchat Ghost). However, it’s important that we keep measuring the effectiveness of all communication platform options to avoid moving away from a platform that’s working just to jump on the latest technology bandwagon.

Here at YA Engage, we’re always happy to deliver the latest innovation, but we pay more attention to what works. For example, if the promotion is highly targeted solely to a younger demographic, a platform like Snapchat makes perfect sense. It’s used at least once a month by 83.4 percent of U.S. mobile phone users aged 18 to 24. We recently ran an enter-to-win promotion for a brand whose product is aimed at a younger audience. The prize offering included tickets to a young singer-songwriter’s concert and the promotion was launched using Snapchat. Both the prize and platform aligned perfectly with the audience. This approach, if used on a product with broader appeal to a range of audience segments, would have failed to engage the other segments.

SMS Promotion


Don’t underestimate the power of SMS

The range of engagement enabled by SMS communication reaches well beyond the same old ‘Text KEYWORD to short code 1234’ model. The SMS message doesn’t have to *be* the engagement, but merely the means (check out the open rate stats!) to deliver a more engaging experience by providing the link to a richer mobile experience via mobile microsite, apps, etc.

Here’s an example: PureLeaf® Tea offered consumers the chance to win a trip to a culinary class in New York City by texting keyword “PURELEAF” to a short code, which then returns a unique link to the promotion registration website. Navigating the consumer experience to the website enabled the brand to deliver video content and recipes in addition to entry fields.

If you want to use a technology that’s universally accepted and understood, you can’t eliminate texting as an option. It’s right on trend with the ever-increasing interest in gamification, so the right SMS promotion can be highly appealing to consumers.

SMS engagement also allows brands to capture a mobile number and an opt-in choice. This is a highly effective way to begin a 1:1 conversation since consumers are more likely to read a text than an email. The open rates for SMS messages average 98%, compared to an average open rate of 22% for email marketing. Ask yourself the last time you didn’t open a text, and you’ll get the idea.

Once you’ve started that conversation with an interested consumer, you can time messages and leverage triggers for ongoing engagement along the consumer journey. And you can use the information consumers share to capture product and service insights, develop profiles and support your brand’s R&D insights efforts.


Let’s talk

We’re here to share ideas on the many ways you can use SMS to increase engagement, still delivering innovative solutions. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you acquire new customers, retain the ones you have and build lifelong loyalty, then let’s start the conversation. Contact me to learn more.

Shawn Anne Buttschau is Vice President – Client Services at YA

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