Many marketers misunderstand the distinction between the micro-blogging social media service Twitter and opt-in SMS marketing. The most common misconception is that Twitter is a viable alternative for opt-in text message marketing. Or, at least, the benefits of "free" far outweigh the potential benefits of any SMS marketing initiative with hard costs.
This misconception has the unfortunate consequence of making it tough to sell the CMO on why a comprehensive SMS marketing program is justified. Here are some arguments to break through the Twitter-vs.-SMS misconception and help justify investment in an opt-in SMS marketing program.
Twitter is not mobile marketing
Many marketers operate under a fundamental misconception about Twitter, confusing the 140-character text limit for tweets as being the hallmark of mobile or SMS marketing. Sure, the 140-character limit on tweets is there in part to ensure they can be created and delivered as SMS messages. But this does not mean that tweets are SMS.
Some Twitter users have tweets delivered as SMS messages, but many do not. The 140-character limit for tweets simply ensures the content is always small bites of information, quickly digested, and very disposable. This does not necessarily mean the content is consumed through SMS. In most circumstances tweeting does not qualify as mobile marketing either in the technical sense of being accessed on a mobile device or in the spirit of mobile marketing, which is designed to leverage timeliness and location to define a unique and valuable interaction.
Free isn't "free"
Yes, SMS marketing will probably require a budget to cover transmission fees and perhaps other short code, technology, or services costs. Compared with the free Twitter service even a modest SMS budget can seem like a bitter pill to swallow. However, considering the resources, time, and materials necessary to promote a Twitter account, it is easy to realize there are costs in play no matter what. To obtain a critical mass of followers and achieve any semblance of mass-marketing, investments have to be made. To leverage Twitter to its strengths for maintaining more personal dialogs, well-educated personnel need not just monitor the Twitter presence, but actively engage. Getting value out of the free Twitter service is an investment in itself.
You can't take it with you
Two-way communications through Twitter are excellent, and the application -- when used well -- really does foster legitimate interactions. Those interactions supply profound insights into a consumer base. However, this intelligence is locked away in Twitter. Simply, Twitter followers do not represent a database in any valuable sense outside of Twitter. It is impossible to compile, package, and export knowledge gathered there in a concrete sense. It is impossible to make those insights portable and actionable in meaningful ways across other digital or offline channels, because those consumer attributes are not in a database.
Now, think about the organizational value of data that can be mined through smart, two-way SMS marketing programs; for instance, discovering where SMS program subscribers live or shop, based on a zip code volunteered in exchange for more relevant offers and information. Or, a subscriber may share demographic information when participating in a mobile poll and receive an instant coupon in exchange. Or, understanding which subscribers are converting in-store or online based on unique coupon codes and tying that insight back to a database profile. These are all valuable pieces of knowledge -- database optimization -- that simply cannot be managed with, or extracted from, Twitter.
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