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SMS marketing – the loner in the corner?

Senior Director, Social Media

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Is SMS too nerdy to be used by today’s sophisticated marketers? This technology has the highest penetration of any digital channel, according to PEW Internet (using their iPoll feature to get direct access to survey data) 85% of the US population has a mobile phone as of March / April 2012). Sure, 45% of the US population (not just cell owners) has a smartphone, more than the 34% who say they have a feature phone so the ability to use the sexier HTML email, mobile websites, and mobile apps is a huge draw for marketers. (The “feature phone / mobile phone / don’t have” numbers don’t add up because some 6% of respondents don’t know the terminology and can’t answer the question).

It can’t be the numbers because why would anyone leave 55% of their potential audience off the table? SMS is being ignored for some other reason.

Back to my original premise, it really isn’t a very sexy technology, and it takes active participation from the user. Feature phones aren’t that ergonomic for text messages, and the brief period where teenagers were tapping at their keypads like Morse code operators of old are nearly gone (example: 4-4 = H, 3-3 = E, 5-5-5 = L, 6-6-6 = O — which is why SMS rips apart spelling and grammar).

Is it that we don’t have offers that are worth a few key-presses? Is the convenience of mobile not worth the price of texting “COUPON” to 55555?

Plus, the 45% of users with smartphones actually have keyboards now, so they can text at the same speed that they respond to emails. The smartphone makes the text experience nearly painless, and introduces a raft of options such as web links and auto-dial phone numbers.

A bit of research on Google uncovered a small case study of the three main types of mobile access: SMS message, QR code, and typed URL with the following results:

That’s a pretty close race! This study was based on a Marketing Sherpa study of a “paperless conference” organized by Juniper networks.

So, when looking for real-world to digital transition points, SMS is definitely worth a second look. What do you think about SMS for consumer and B2B marketing? does it deserve to remain in the mix?

More About the Author

Brad Einarsen

Brad is Klick's Senior Director leading the social practice. His group ensures that clients get the best bang for their buck on the social platforms.

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