When most of us think about SMS, we envision the (sometimes creatively) abbreviated messages, like “R u on yr way home?” But in addition to being a convenient and addictive personal communication tool, SMS is proving to be a great platform to help marketers reach and engage hard-to-find audiences.
Due to the personal nature of communicating with consumers on their mobile phones, marketers need to get smart about the medium and how to tap its potential to not only push information to consumers, but to spark a conversation with them. So, here are the things you need to remember about SMS Advertising.
1. There is big reach in text messaging, and audiences are already opted-in.
Don't worry about having to deal with fragmentation. If you want to reach tens of millions of consumers through their phones, you can do it today. Moreover, the demographics of this consumer base are not purely teens or twentysomethings; lots of other demographics opt-in for SMS content as well.
Taking a step back, SMS is also the most commonly used mobile technology (besides voice), and because virtually all mobile phones can send and receive text messages, SMS advertising messages reach the widest possible audience.
According to the Nielsen Company, 77 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers used SMS by the end of 2007. In comparison, the same report said that 36 percent of mobile subscribers accessed the mobile web in the same period. More evidence of SMS' pervasiveness: SMS-based information search was used by nearly 15 million consumers to get sports scores, news or weather during the final quarter of 2007, according to the Nielsen Company.
The things that make SMS a great tool for personal communication -- ubiquity, relevance and immediacy -- also make it a great channel for marketers.
Publishers like Yahoo, MySpace, Evite, USA TODAY, the NBA, and most television networks are all sending out content that users are asking for. The diversity of the content available leads to an equally diverse audience.
2. Getting started isn't hard -- it requires little legwork.
The biggest complaint I hear from marketers is that they don't know where to start to find an audience for an SMS campaign. The good news is that this work has already been done for you. With built-in audiences provided by carriers and text message ad networks, marketers simply need to choose who they want to target and go for it. For example, Virgin Mobile recently launched its Sugar Mama program, allowing its customers to earn free mobile minutes in exchange for responding to SMS and mobile web banners on their mobile phones. Marketers have access to Virgin's subscribers, as well as key demographic information about them.
In an example of quick set-up and launch, a leading sports entertainment company wanted to promote the commercial-free premiere of a documentary film on their network to an audience of young sports fans, and in the process, create a dialog with interested consumers. SMS served as a great medium for reaching on-the-go 18-25-year-olds who may not see traditional advertising. The company retained my company, 4INFO, to launch the SMS campaign.
Advertising was placed in 4INFO's text message sports channel, with copy that invited users to respond to "TUNEIN." Those who responded received information about the show and were invited to sign up for an SMS reminder about the air date of the show. No mobile website or rich media was required.
The campaign successfully drove viewers to tune in to the premiere, making it the most-viewed documentary in the company's history. Twenty-four percent of users who interacted with the mobile advertising went on to sign up for a text message reminder about the show. Overall, 14 percent of users who received the SMS ad reported they had viewed the program.
3. Targeting is the key to advertising success.
The text message campaigns that perform best are those with a direct and simple call to action. Relevance is paramount -- relevant ads are effective and memorable, especially when inserted into opt-in content. Here are some other tips:
- Understand the different ways you can target your audience using SMS, including targeting by carrier and consumer interest. Consider the social, financial and tech savvy profile of the audience you want to reach, and target accordingly. If you consider only one of these dimensions, your advertising will be wasted on consumers who either can't use your product or can't hear your message.
- SMS advertising offers the ability to target consumer segments with specific offers. The more relevant the campaign, the better the ad performance. It's not rocket science, but writing "one size fits all" ad copy is one of the most common reasons for poor campaign performance.
- Example: one mobile marketing firm was able to increase conversion rates by 60 to 100 percent by writing specific relevant copy in text message advertisements by targeted audience channel.
- Example: For "Make Me a Supermodel" on Bravo, messages to Alltel customers promoted the My Circle offer, while messages to other consumers promoted different content.
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