Text Messaging Campaigns
Marketing campaigns using SMS or text messaging are becoming increasingly common globally. If the campaign is to be successful and encourage a change in consumer behavior, several best practices should be adopted. It is of fundamental importance that permission is obtained before any messaging is sent. Failure to adhere to this practice has the potential to have legal consequences. Other best practices relate to the frequency of the messaging, the time to send them, and the content and style.
Get Permission First
- Without a doubt, obtaining permission before instigating an SMS marketing campaign is the number one best practice. The reason is simple. It is a matter of legal compliance with the rules of the US Regulatory and Telecommunication industry.
- Consent cannot be implied. It must be explicit. Failure to comply can result in a reasonable legal penalty. It also has the potential to impact on reputation if the laws are not complied with. Never send messages without consent.
- The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) governs this area and requires "express written consent." before recipients are added to an SMS marketing campaign. The consent must be clear, with a clear call to action. It cannot be a condition of purchase that a consumer join an SMS mail out.
- All subscribers must give express consent, not just new customers/ This law equally applies to old customers. Every phone number used during an SMS campaign must have an express consent attached to it.
- If the consumer opts in a confirmation text should be sent containing validity, organization identity, message frequency, opt-out language, which must include a keyword like STOP, similarly a HELP keyword, and the message and data rates.
- In complying with what is essentially a consumer's right to privacy, a company is seen as more ethical and transparent, which is more likely to elicit a positive response from the consumer. The audience that is being targeted is refined to those that have a genuine interest.
- Balancing the number of texts required to get the consumers' attention or interest against the organizational need to ensure that the message is communicated effectively is not easy. Too few, and the organization does not get its message across. Too many, and the organization will potentially annoy the consumer.
- The recommended frequency is 2-4 text messages per month. The true test around an appropriate frequency depends on the way an organization is using text messaging and the value of each message to the consumer.
- When considering the frequency and the content delivered via text messaging, it is best practice to use text messaging for time-critical communications. The organization sending the text message should weigh up why a message must be sent by text rather than, say, email.
- 80% of Americans aged 18-45 have their phone with them 22 hours a day. This same demographic sees more than 80% check their phone within one hour of waking each day. This equates to an unprecedented amount of access to the consumers' attention, a privilege that should not be abused.
- Recent research has suggested that the consumer will start to lose interest after 10-12 text messages a month. The ultimate question for each message is, "Does it add value without being intrusive?"
- The effect of operating according to best practice guidelines relating to the frequency of SMS text marketing campaigns should not be underestimated. Campaigns that are run with messaging at a suitable frequency have the potential to act as bait to the consumer. However, if the messaging is too frequent, it is highly likely to result in damage to the brand.
Send Messages at the Right Time
- Research into the right time to send SMS marketing messages has shown that if the message is considered more valuable at the beginning of the day, then the optimal time is 8 am — 12 pm. If the recipients are more likely to take action at the end of the day, then the optimal time is 5 pm — 9 pm.
- The most important aspect of this best practice is ensuring that time zones are noted and respected. Consumers should not be receiving messages at times that disrupt their schedules.
- As with the best practice around frequency, timing has the potential to assist in a highly successful SMS marketing campaign, and as with the frequency, if the timing is not appropriate, the potential for brand damage is very real. Incorrect timing has the potential to create a poor perception relating to both the brand and the marketing in the eyes of the consumer.
- To avoid this impact, companies must identify the best time of day to send the message and adhere to the best practice for that time of day.
- It is of fundamental importance that if an SMS marketing campaign is to be instigated that the different time zones of the consumers are identified and categorized so that if necessary, the messages can be categorized and sent in separate batches for the different time zones.
Use Short and Closed End Messages
- Another best practice relates to the content of the text messages and how they are presented. The most effective SMS marketing campaigns use short messages with a closed-end.
- Kelly Mirabella, a Certified ManyChat Educator Partner, describes the best practice, "One of my biggest best practices for text messaging: Be shorter than short. People don't want back-to-back messages in their texts, which means you need to be straight to the point. You can then take people from text to Messenger, where you have more flexibility with how much copy and content you send."
- It is important that any text message is relevant, and adds value to the organization's product or service. Make sure that the 160 character limit is adhered to.
- When the message is tailored appropriately, open rates as high as 98%, and response rates as high as 45% have been achieved. Email campaigns, by contrast, have figures of 20% open rate and 6% response rate. But an SMS campaign will only work if the best practices are adopted.
- The impact of not adopting short closed-end messages will be reflected in the open rate and response rate. As consumers become disinterested in SMS marketing, the likely outcome is these measures will start to fall, and the marketing campaign will lose momentum.
The Red Cross Campaign
- Red Cross is an example of a non-profit organization that has used SMS marketing to maximum effect. The confirmation message reads, "Thanks for your pledge. Your pledge can be completed here (link). Message and data rates may apply. 4 messages per month. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to stop."
- This organization has complied with its legal requirements, kept the frequency within the optimal range, and used short, closed-end messages. It is clearly worded and easily understood.
- This is an example of an organization using SMS marketing successfully to its advantage by adopting industry best practices.
To determine the best practices for SMS marketing campaigns, we reviewed a range of industry publications, marketing guidelines, legislation, expert opinion, and data relating to marketing practices. We determined the best practices by identifying those that were discussed most frequently, recommended as critical by market experts, and had been adopted by a number of industry players.