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12 Best Practices for SMS Text Messaging

If you are a marketer or a business owner, chances are, you’ve definitely heard about the many benefits of SMS text messaging. This communication strategy, commonly referred as “text messaging”, is a favorite among marketers because of the highly receptive audience it targets, the unmatched open rates it produces, and the overall success derived from contacting customers and prospects on the mobile devices they carry around all day.

Over 98% of SMS text messages are opened and read, which dominates the rate of email at an average of 20-25% depending on industry. Since SMS is the single messaging function that is baked into every device and pre-installed by default, this communication channel is a permanent fixture on everyone’s phone. It doesn’t just sit in the background either, it’s fully utilized. In fact, the first thing that most of your customers do when they wake up is look at their phones and check their text messages. Talk about a captive audience!

Perhaps you are beginning to wrap your head around the full capabilities of SMS text messaging, or maybe you’re thinking about how to integrate this new channel into your overall go-to-market strategy. Possibly, you're even trying to figure out how to incorporate SMS text messaging into live campaigns that are already underway or into your 2018 digital and mobile marketing strategy. Whatever the case may be, let’s take a further look into what SMS text messaging is and how your business can start leveraging it.

The SMS Text Messaging Opportunity

SMS stands for “Short Message Service”. It is a simple, yet powerful, communication tool by which businesses and organizations send promotional messages via text to a segmented audience. Enterprise companies in all verticals, including nonprofits, politics, sports, entertainment, education, SaaS, and many others, are finding success with SMS text messaging. Even small businesses, from fitness studios to boutique SPA's, are utilizing SMS text messaging to promote hot deals and specials straight to their customers’ mobile devices. Why? Because 90% of all text messages are read within three minutes. You might think that texting thousands of people back and forth would be time consuming and I agree. But today SMS text messaging platforms allow you to reach thousands in a matter of minutes and have real live conversations with your clients and customers without touching a phone.

While there is clear evidence to support the benefits of text messaging for business, there are still many factors that affect the level of effectiveness. Understanding and following the best practices of mobile messaging can make all the difference. Ensuring that your business first understands the do’s and don’ts of mobile marketing is the first priority. After you're compliant, you can focus on strategy and execution.

Here are 12 of the best tips to remember before texting your customers:

1. Get Proper Consent

Proper digital etiquette dictates that you should only send text messages to someone who has given you permission to do so. It’s called permission-based marketing, and it’s critical to making SMS text messaging campaigns successful. Even more importantly, it’s imperative that you are compliant and adhering to local laws and CTIA recommendations, which protect consumers from unwanted solicitation. To entice your users into opting-in to receive text messages, you can use email, social media, or other channels that direct them to an online form or contest entry that contains the correct legal language. You can even promote special offers and deals by instructing them to text a particular keyword to a short or long code number.

2. Include Legal Disclaimers

As I briefly touched on in the first tip, the CTIA is an international non-profit trade association that represents the wireless communications industry. They provide us with many of the best practices used in SMS text messaging today. They require you to include things like "Msg & Data rates may apply" within your initial opt-in messages. Since these disclaimers are so important to remain compliant, our SMS text messaging platform adds them automatically in the required places so you don't have to worry about it. The good news is that your subscribers will only see this once when they first join your list—not every time you send a mass text message.

3. Provide An Easy Exit

Your subscribers need to be made aware that they can opt-out of your text messaging program at any time. This is another thing that our SMS text messaging platform does for you by default in your auto replies. When someone signs up for your text messaging list, in addition to "Msg & Data rates may apply", we also add "txt STOP to cancel" to the end of your auto reply. Again, this is included ONLY in your auto reply. They will not see this in every text you send out. Subsequently, once a subscriber texts back the word ‘STOP’, the system automatically blocks their number from receiving any more messages. The idea is to keep the opt-out process simple. If your customers can’t opt out, they’re likely to start complaining to their wireless carrier, which could potentially lead to them filtering your messages down the road.

4. Keep An Appropriate Frequency

Though it may seem like common sense, we have to cover this. Don’t text too much. Even the most engaged consumers do not want their Messaged inbox flooded with texts from your business. The best practice is to send 2–4 texts a month. If your business exceeds that, you’ll run the risk of annoying your customers and creating an increase in opt-out rates. It may be a good idea to state, either in your auto-confirmation message or when advertising your text campaign, how many texts you plan to send per month. But if you go this route, be very cautious strictly sticking to that number. If you do, I recommend you state a higher threshold that you would never exceed on the number of text messages you plan to send perform.

5. Audience Relevance

Once your users have expressed an interest in hearing from you, don’t abuse the privilege. When you send any SMS text, be clever, engaging and brief. Provide your consumers with an irresistible offer that they can’t refuse or information that is significant to them. Do not send them a text just because you have the ability to do so. If you don’t strike the right balance of frequency and relevancy, you run the risk of opt-outs and your precious contact list rapidly shrinking. If executed correctly, your customer may give your text the same attention level as a text received from a friend. You want your customers to feel like they are receiving something so relevant that it is appealing to them. If you're not sure text messaging will appeal to your audience, think again. Data shows that text purchasing appeals to more than just millennials.

6. Be Conversational

Use SMS text messaging shorthand sparingly, if at all. Shorthand is using a short and simple way of expressing or referring to something. This is not a legal requirement, but it gives you and your company more credibility. We do understand that there is a character count limit that needs to be taken into consideration, and shorthand does save you precious characters in the text message, but it can also look very unprofessional. You don't want your messages sounding like they were written by an automated system, but rather a person. If you need to save characters by using shorthand, start with dates and using numerals first, and then try your best to keep the abbreviations to a minimum. As a rule of thumb, if a 5th grader can read and understand your message then it's good-to-go.

7. Text During Waking Hours

In addition to not texting too often and being respectful of your customer's attention and space, it’s imperative to only send text messages during normal waking hours. Be courteous to your subscribers, because if you’re not, you’ll lose customers extremely fast. How would you feel waking up to text messages in the middle of the night from a company trying to win your business? Not only is it rude, but it’s also counterproductive. Be smart about when you try to reach your subscribers, and your success will skyrocket. One of the many benefits of SMS text messaging is to inspire immediate action from your subscribers, but that’s unlikely to happen during the wee hours of the night. You also want to stay compliant with the TCPA who prohibits any telephone solicitation between 9:00pm to 8:00am of the recipient's local time.

8. Associate the Right Keywords

In addition to simple messages and short codes, you should choose contextually relevant keywords to your business. A keyword is a word or phrase that users can text to a short code you’ve provided to opt-in to receiving messages, receive a special offer or get exclusive information. Aligning a message to the appropriate trigger is something the advertising industry – despite its decades of experience – often gets wrong. If you choose to use a keyword, for whatever reason, ensure that it is memorable and easily connected to your business. If your use of a keyword is disconnected from your brand, it could leave consumers confused about what the offer is.

9. Be Responsive

By sending a text message, you’re making a personal connection with your customers. Giving them the opportunity to respond and give you valuable feedback on your products makes them feel like their opinion is valued. Of course, this information is critical to the growth of your business. Whether they are texting back to tell you how much they love your brand, act on a coupon to make an immediate purchase or provide constructive criticism, you can make business decisions accordingly. To keep them engaged, you can also use an auto-responder to instantly and automatically send personalized, follow-up text messages. With that said, it's imperative that you don't lose the personal touch, so you'll want to mix in real human intervention.

10. Go National, But Deliver Locally

Choose a text messaging platform that services beyond local so that you can scale and grow your marketing efforts nationally. You also need a provider that has both short-code and long-code capabilities. Short-codes are used for mass texting and long-codes are used for peer-to-peer text messaging. If you're launching geo targeted campaigns use long-codes with your local phone area code. This allows you to deploy more personalized campaigns at a local level while launching nationally. This strategy will produce higher engagement rates due to audience relevance.

11. Provide Value

Make sure that every text message you send is one of value! If people are willing to give you their explicit permission to text them, you should be giving them something meaningful in return. If your text program is used for marketing, ensure that your team keeps the messages fresh and exciting. Your customers should feel like they are receiving exclusive access they can't get anywhere else. There are several ways you can promote simple deals that require quick-action. This means you should have limited inventory and timeline's that produce scarcity and urgency. If you're not giving your subscribers something of value each time you send a message, chances are, they won't see the benefit of being bothered and they'll unsubscribe.

12. Measure What Works

Smart marketers know how their campaigns are performing and can provide proof of their ROI. With the right text messaging platform you'll be able to track measurable results. You can integrate a tool such as Rebrandly URL Shortener to ReplyBuy and add even more analytics utilizing custom trackable short links in your SMS text messages. This added layer of data collection will enable you to see click-through rates and other deep recipient insights. You'll then be able to easily determine which messages and promotions are working and which ones aren’t. This valuable data will give you the ability to continually refine your text campaigns and improve your messaging. Best of all, SMS text messaging will allow you to build stronger relationships and have more meaningful conversations with your clients and customers. 

With more consumers spending most of their time on mobile and preferring it over other devices, SMS text messaging is poised to play a significant role for businesses to reach and connect with their ideal customers.

If you are ready to start leveraging SMS text messaging in your business make sure to connect with us with next steps. We would like to show you a demo of our platform and how we can enable your business to leverage this untapped communication channel.

About the Author Josue Sanchez

Josue Sanchez is the CMO at ReplyBuy. When he’s not growing, he’s encouraging and empowering others to grow. You can often find him listening, studying, observing, and analyzing people to find out what they like and love, and how they think.

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