1. All text messages are NOT created equal
There is a big difference between SMS over a short code and SMS over email (also knows as “SMS over SMTP”). Some SMS suppliers use the email channel, or SMTP, to deliver outgoing text messages. The wireless carriers then pass those emails via text message to their subscribers (for example 5551231234[at]wirelesscarrier.com). However, this method was never intended for commercial delivery of text messages, and wireless carriers can monitor and block organizations using this delivery method at any time.
This is taken from the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices Guidelines:
“The carriers that support such gateways do so with the intent that they are not utilized for any commercial traffic. To that end, carriers actively monitor and filter against these connections to protect subscribers from unsolicited messages (spam) and utilize a variety of mechanisms to do so.”
Also, if your text messages are delivered this way you are opening yourself up to legal action. Because text messages sent via SMTP are technically sent through email they are subject to Section 14(b)(1) of the CAN-SPAM act and companies abusing this channel can be prosecuted.
Bottom line – DO NOT use a SMS platform that delivers outgoing messages via email. Text messages should always come from a 5 digit short code.
2. The SMS gateway is a very important piece of the SMS marketing puzzle
It’s convenient that some online SMS providers will let you sign-up for their service on their site and start texting right away on their shared short code. Have you ever wondered what might happen if you, or someone else, abused their system? When your account is on a short code with other users, one misused account can lead to a shut down of ALL accounts by one or more of the wireless carriers. The wireless carriers are very protective of their customers and abuse of their SMS channel will not be tolerated. In 2009 more than one large SMS supplier had their short code blocked on Verizon’s network. That means Verizon was blocking all of the clients on those short codes, regardless of whether they were the ones abusing the system or not.
Bottom line – “Self-service” SMS accounts are risky and should be avoided if reliable delivery of the text messages is crucial.
3. You may be excited about your large list of mobile subscribers, but your SMS provider may not
One of the goals when starting a SMS campaign is to grow the list of subscribers over time. Considering the popularity of text messaging, lists can quickly grow from a couple site-utility hundred to a couple thousand, and larger. However, managing a wireless short code can be a very delicate process and if your provider is not aware of your list growth, and consequently the number of text messages you need to send at one time, you could be setting up your account, and other accounts on the short code, for delivery problems. Carriers need to be aware of the maximum number of text messages that will be sent at any given time and per month. Unlike email there are only a few major wireless carriers in the country so they have the power to quickly block short codes they feel may be cause problems. It’s important to work with your SMS provider so they are aware, and can communicate back to the carriers, the expected number of potential messages as your subscriber base increases.
Bottom line – Your SMS provider should work with you to not only grow your list as effectively as possible, but also make sure you’ll be able to message all those people when you hit your subscriber goals.
4. Outgoing text messages should not be the same as your Twitter or Facebook updates
SMS is a unique channel because of its ability to deliver a message with a tremendously high read rate (over 95%). Special care should be taken to determine the appropriate message and delivery time of day. Updates appropriate for social media channels like Twitter or Facebook may not be a good fit for text messaging. Outgoing messages that do not offer significant value through information or promotions, overly frequent messages, and messages sent at the wrong time of day can lead to high opt-outs and possibly abuse complaints. Some SMS platforms will offer an “all-in-one” solution for updating social media channels and sending text messages, but if used improperly these solutions can lead to serious database retention issues.
Bottom line – Social media and SMS should be treated as separate channels and managed differently.
5. Getting people to opt-in to your texting campaign is not always easy
Text messaging is a great marketing channel because nearly everyone knows how to use it. You may think getting your audience to join your SMS campaign is easy considering the technology’s widespread adoption. However, properly executing a texting campaign can be tricky and getting help from your SMS provider should be essential. The incentive for texting-in, the placement of the signage, and the type of promotional media used can all play a part in either desirable or undesirable results. Depending on the capabilities of the texting platform a custom SMS application may be needed to provide a valuable and positive interaction for your audience. It’s alright to make small changes after launching a campaign, but a badly planned campaign can also cause your audience to lose interest from the start.
Bottom line – Make sure your SMS provider will work closely with you to launch and manage your campaign. Enquire about their ability to build custom texting applications to fit your organization’s needs.