The SMS Marketing Blog

[ By Ez Texting ]

T-Mobile to Add Advanced Messaging to its SMS Services

Depositphotos_7529492_s-2015

According to a recent study, texting is the most used feature on a smartphone across nearly every age demographic. Third-party apps jumped on the wagon early to improve built-in SMS and MMS features and developed apps like Facebook Messenger and Apple's iMessage. Many of these apps make it easier to send large data files, communicate quicker, and confirm messages have been received. However, T-Mobile has just released a new feature for its users that may change the message game altogether, by bringing advanced messaging directly to the device.  

SMS and MMS messaging are still incredibly relevant to smartphone users despite the millions of apps now available to them. Rather than develop its own third-party app, T-Mobile has introduced software called Advanced Messaging, which is built on Rich Communication Services (RCS) and addresses many of the limitations various apps have capitalized on. The service is very democratic—while it’s currently only available on the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime, the software was designed to work on all carriers and across every operating system. Software updates will be necessary for existing devices, but T-Mobile has said that several phones will be available later this year with Advanced Messaging already enabled. 

 

Understanding Advanced Messaging 

Advanced Messaging incorporates several features including real-time messaging, read notifications, currently typing icons, and the ability to send up to 10MB of data via text. With improved regular SMS and MMS messaging on the device itself, users won’t have to reply on compatibility or downloading multiple apps and interfaces. There’s no extra charge for the service but it does require Wi-Fi or LTE to operate the improved features—otherwise the software defaults to regular messaging.

While it is unclear whether or not all smartphones will adopt the software in the future, it’s an interesting approach to take on behalf of the user. On the one hand, the promise of a unified messaging system that operates as well as, if not better than, popular third party apps is a gift to users who would no longer have to think about availability or compatibility. On the other hand, it’s a bold move from T-Mobile that undercuts Apple’s highly integrated app-based platform that emphasizes selection and choice through a variety of different apps.

T-Mobile is not the first carrier to launce RCS, but it is the first carrier to offer it in the US. In 2012, MetroPCS, a flat-rate carrier, released RCS just prior to a merger with T-Mobile. At the time, RCS delivered features like simultaneous voice and multimedia messaging as well as social presence. The merger delivered the scale and financial resources to expand geographic coverage, as well as offer an improved selection of devices and services, so T-Mobile could compete with the nation’s larger carriers. 

Launching Advanced Messaging was a bold choice in the wake of a developing app-based mobile culture. Time will tell if the user-friendly software will proliferate or remain exclusive to T-Mobile users. 

Indiana's Text 911 Program Puts the Rest of the US to Shame

Depositphotos_2328751_s-2015
 

If you’re choking or otherwise incapable of speaking into a phone, the ability to send a text to a 911 service is a great thing. Indiana was the first US state to institute a 911 texting program, which is now available in 88 of its 92 counties. It’s highly doubtful it will be the only state to do so on such a massive scale.  

“When it comes to 911, we’ve been able to lead the country for several years with 911 services,” said Barry Ritter, executive director of the Indiana Statewide 911 Board. Fort Wayne-based INdigital telecom is the company behind the designing, building, and operating of the IN911 network for the board. Ritter also said the state features the largest deployment of the service in the country.  

Most US states offer 911 text services in a few of their counties. Illinois, for example, offers the texting service in about five areas within three counties. Verizon Wireless was the first carrier to allow customers to send text messages to 911 emergency responders in counties all over Indiana, with T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint following suit. The Indiana Statewide 911 Board notified carriers in May of 2013 that it was ready to accept inbound texts. 

 

Texting Versus Calling

Calling 911 is still considered the best and most efficient way to reach a dispatcher, and texting should be used only when calling is not a possibility. This is because calling offers an instant response compared to texting. The time required to enter a text, send it over a network and then wait for the dispatcher to write and send a response means emergency services might take longer to reach the afflicted party. Providing location information as well as the type of emergency in the first text is therefore essential. It’s also important not to use abbreviations or slang to keep the emergency message as straightforward and clear as possible.  

Statistics obtained since May of 2014 show that eight 911 dispatchers in Indiana have received more than 50 emergency text messages, while 30 dispatch centers received fewer than 50 emergency texts. These numbers indicate that residents are using the service but are not flooding dispatch centers with text messages. It also shows that people are using the service when appropriate. 

If you reside in Indiana or another state where using 911 text messaging is an option, it’s important to keep a few basic guidelines in mind. Texting should be used only when calling is not possible, i.e. if the victim is deaf, speech-impaired, choking or in a situation when speaking is unsafe, such as during a home invasion or abduction. For example, earlier this month an Indianapolis woman texted that she was being abducted, which resulted in her rescue by police on Interstate 70 in Vigo County. The abduction helped raise awareness about 911 texting as a viable solution in emergency situations.  

Additionally, in order to send a successful emergency text, the victim must have a text messaging program on his or her phone and send the message to a 911 call center or Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) that accepts emergency text messages. 

 

Marketing Has Gone Hyper Local

Depositphotos_45467981_s-2015
 

When geo-targeting technology first began to emerge a few years ago, small regional businesses of all kinds were given the opportunity to market themselves to larger numbers of potential customers than ever before.

As a mobile marketing tool, geo-location was a gift to retailers looking to attract more walk-in business. It enabled businesses to target users to within a square foot, sending time limited discounts and special offers only to those people most likely to take advantage.

As region-specific mobile marketing tactics become more sophisticated, SMB owners have a dizzying array of options: beacons, GPS, location information garnered from previous interactions - they’ve all ushered in a new era of hyper-localized marketing. 

Such accurate technology is helping local businesses maximize efficiency on tight budgets. Even without geo-location, mobile marketing tactics are already the most cost-effective way to reach more people. With it, that cost-efficiency improves further still, granting small companies a way to reach the widest customer base they can realistically serve. 

It looks like an exciting future for targeted mobile marketing. The technology has already reached lofty levels of sophistication, but there are a few places it can go. Some mobile marketing analysts are looking towards pitching discounts according to what the weather’s doing. It’s certainly not relevant for every type of business, but bars serving cold drinks on an outside patio would love to know if it’s about to rain just before they’ve sent half-off mobile coupons. Other local data like traffic conditions could begin to play a role in geo-targeted advertising. 

One thing’s for sure: these tools are allowing creative, imaginative marketers to realize their wildest dreams without being thwarted by technological limitations. If the rapid rate of development continues at the same pace, mobile marketing tactics will look very different in a decade - exactly how different is anybody’s guess.

SMS Messaging: Conversation Before Apps

Depositphotos_21446083_s-2015
 

Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? For a GUI (Graphic User Interface) designer, that question is becoming more relevant as the nature of the mobile user influences app development—perhaps towards a post app world? 

That’s a scary thought for a GUI designer, or a developer who unintentionally overlooked the simple truth that text messaging is far and away the most commonly used feature on a smartphone. Almost 97% of all smartphones users engage in text messaging; this familiarity creates incredible potential for a new generation of text-based application that can solve any problem an app can solve, through a more convenient interface: the text screen. 

 

Text-Based Apps Are Nothing New

The above, however, is not a new revelation. In fact, some apps controlled exclusively via text or SMS messaging already exist. Magic, for example, can help you reserve a table, check a bank account, or buy a car, all via text between a user and a concierge (an actual human being) who assists with these requests. WeChat is another app that uses text to bypass traditional apps altogether—effectively creating a universal portal to all things mobile.

According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, across all age groups in the US, text messaging is the most popular feature used on a smartphone. In this way, life is beginning to challenge the artist; while app designers may have intended to make our lives easier by developing apps to meet out every need, at the end of the day, people are universally more comfortable texting—having a virtual conversation to get at what they want. 

There are some people, like Matt Galligan, co-founder of the news aggregation app Circa, that believe we’re headed towards an overhaul of basic software and design. Galligan feels that something called “MessageKit” will be Apple’s catchall for apps located in iMessage. Instead of opening different apps with different design characteristics and UI controls, all the apps would perform their same functions but via text command or queries inside a fluid conversation.  

Apple’s new iOS 9 has already made some considerable shifts in its latest version, one of which is prioritizing app content for Internet search queries made via mobile. While there’s nothing like “MessageKit” available quite yet, it’s an interesting theory that attempts to recognize the user’s reality in a predominantly designer-shaped mobile world. 

One foreseeable drawback is that our familiarity with texting may causes people to use these services at inappropriate times. For example, texting while driving is already a major concern in densely populated areas. Additional text-based services may further encourage our desire for instant access, even behind the wheel.  

It’s ironic that an entire generation gets labeled as ‘less socially communicative’ because it’s always on smartphones, and yet, somehow, that same generation may bring society back full circle, where the digital dialect of texting is used to reinsert what was missing from our mobile lives: conversation. 

 

 

Truecaller is Making Android SMS Messaging Smarter

 

Depositphotos_25357907_s-2015

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to draw a parallel between email and SMS messaging on a mobile device. Both collect messages from familiar and unfamiliar sources, gather spam, and offer instantaneous communication with countless people from around the world. 

At least, that’s what Truecaller noticed when it decided to launch Truemessenger, an alternative SMS messenger app for Android. The Swedish-based company recently raised $80 million in funding to further perfect this new line of communication powered by Google Inc.

 

New But Familiar Design

By connecting the proverbial dots, Truecaller is introducing a familiar system to the SMS world of communication. We’re all accustomed to filtering our emails, assigning spam when necessary and prioritizing mail in personal categories; now, Android users can operate their SMS inboxes the exact same way, making it easier to avoid unwanted spam, by verifying the identity of those who send messages. Customizable spam filters are another unique feature, as they allow inboxes to remain free of clutter and help streamline the experience for users.  

But that’s not all; what makes the app ‘smarter’ is the integration of familiar social aspects with the user’s interface. The app draws photos and nicknames from popular social media sites and adds them to contacts when they message you. The app also allows users to customize color themes. What’s more, the Swedish EDM artist Avicii created a custom ringtone for the app, as a ‘friendly favor’ to the company. 

Alan Mamedi, co-founder of True Software doesn’t believe we’ve seen the end of SMS messaging though. In fact, he believes some markets like the US and India have a long future of SMS usage ahead.

“The volumes are still huge, and no-one is tackling the problems,” he explained.

Currently, 15% of all SMS messages are reported as spam—this amounts to almost 1.3 billion unwanted messages every year.

By focusing on the user’s experience, Mamedi hopes that solving some of the basic communication problems with SMS will keep it viable in the future. 

 

SMS Competition 

But what about the competition? Unlike most app founders, Mamedi believes the company is headed in the right direction because a number of larger corporations have taken notice of the work it’s already accomplished with Truecaller and now Truemessenger. Companies like Facebook were so inspired by the company’s work that they created their own caller ID app earlier this year. Since Facebook’s Hello and similar apps have launched, Truemessenger has actually received more users by proxy. 

Currently, the app is only available in India and for Android users in the Google Play Store. Google’s operating system allows for third party SMS/messaging apps, whereas Apple’s iOS platform doesn’t—yet. 

The good news is that SMS messaging is wising up to problems faced by its users, as advertising becomes more sophisticated and deliverable on mobile devices. How long will ‘smarter’ be ‘smart enough’? We’ll all just have to wait and see. 

 

The Great Fake Traffic Swindle

Depositphotos_65903993_s-2015
 

$7.5 billion. That’s the size of the black hole into which hundreds of companies have inadvertently thrown their digital advertising budgets in the past few years, according to a Moz.com article. Most of these companies never realized their marketing dollars weren’t being spent wisely.

 

What Happened?

How did companies manage to lose $7.5 billion on Internet marketing traffic that never existed?  Investigators point to three key facts:

 

  • At least half of the paid online display advertisements companies have purchased over the past few years have never been seen by a real human.
     
  • Nevertheless, ad networks and agencies were often driven to sell these ads by the presence of “volume discount” kickbacks, which made them profitable for the sellers in the short term – even if the ads did not operate as promised.

  • Instead of real people viewing the ads, bot traffic was used to artificially inflate the number of “people” who were supposedly viewing the ads.  These bot-traffic numbers both impressed the companies who purchased the ads and, in a cost-per-click agreement, cost them money.

 

The Rise of Non-Human Traffic

Bot traffic is also known as “non-human traffic,” because it results in increased impressions without the intervention of real people.  Instead, traffic comes from bot programs that mimic human behavior online.  Often, these bot programs are installed on hacked devices that are operated by real people.  As potential customers browse the Web, an army of bots works quietly behind the scenes to artificially inflate ad traffic, without the human at the keyboard ever knowing – or seeing any of the ads the bots are pretending to view.

Not all bots are bad.  Google and other search engines use bot programs to find web pages to include in search engine results.  But bot traffic that’s used to drive up search engine results offers zero return on investment for companies.  

 

From Bots to Buyers: How to Place Your Content in Front of Real People 

No company wants to spend money with no hope of ROI.  Fortunately, companies can take steps to place their digital marketing materials in front of real human audiences that are genuinely interested in what they have to offer.  Here’s how:

 

  • Ask questions.  Before signing off on digital marketing, ask how the company defines “human traffic” and whether traffic results will be verified by a third party.  Doing this demonstrates that you’re aware of potential fraud and that you won’t settle for bots.

  • Go mobile.  According to a recent Mobile Marketing Magazine article, the rate of bot traffic fraud is much lower on mobile platforms than on desktop platforms.  In-app ads may also provide an added layer of protection.

  • Leverage the power of SMS.  SMS and MMS advertising send your content directly to customer and client cell phones and tablets, ensuring there’s a real person on the other end of the line to get your message.

How to Design a Mobile-Friendly Website

Depositphotos_37581259_s-2015

Creating a mobile-friendly website boils down to simplicity and elegance. You may already have a terrific website that you love, but you’re going to have to overhaul it if it doesn’t play nicely with mobile users. Essentially, a frustrated mobile website visitor is a soon-to-be former customer. Here at EzTexting, we want to help you take the guesswork out of mobile design. With that in mind, we’ve outlined several key design concepts for your new mobile website:

  • Simplicity is Key. Don’t bury your mobile website visitor in banner ads, images, and other content. On a desktop monitor, there is room to spare for descriptions and bios, but on a mobile device, you have to streamline your content. Keep your info in the form of short and easy-to-read blurbs. Additionally, you should make all calls to action more available with finger-sized buttons, and limit the number of fields that a mobile user might have to fill out.
  • Concision Within Context. Keeping your mobile website tight requires a foreknowledge of how your customers intend to use your site. Pay attention to mobile users’ needs, which are often quite different from the needs of desktop users. Take the time to determine why they are visiting: Are they booking reservations? Looking for a phone number to click-to-call? Or are they gathering information about your company? Whatever the case, make the options your customers desire easily available, and eliminate images (or even entire pages) that are extraneous to your mobile website.
  • Responsive Design. Likely a familiar concept, responsive design allows a programmer to adjust style sheets to behave differently when a mobile user accesses your site. This is the perfect solution for businesses that want to tweak their existing design for mobile usage.
  • Design for Screen Size, and Beta Test. To ensure a seamless mobile experience, design your website with the typical mobile screen size in mind. Buttons (and spaces between buttons) must be large enough for the average user to tap effectively. Create copy that is clear for each blurb, and again, don’t overcrowd pages with content or images. Finally, test and test and test again. Beta test your mobile website across all types of devices: Androids, iPhones, and tablets of all sorts. Each kind of phone will have a different filter with which to view your website; be sure to troubleshoot all of those bugs that pop up before unveiling your new site. 
  • Don’t Forget Your Brand! Sometimes mobile website designers are altogether too concise, forgetting to include branding images, slogans, and other elements of your company’s identity. If your page is getting a little overcrowded, don’t fret; with a little creativity, you can incorporate your logos and style concepts into your design without negatively affecting the mobile user’s experience.

The above suggestions should help you get the ball rolling on improving your mobile user experience. When you are ready to take your business a step further into the mobile universe, give us a call at EzTexting. We’re at the ready to enhance your mobile capabilities, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

How to Drive High Quality Traffic through Mobile Advertising

 

Depositphotos_38261991_s-2015

Advertising is the shape-shifter of the business world. It has gone through more changes and taken on more forms than anyone could count. 50 years ago, advertising consisted of radio, print, and concrete materials. Pens and nail files with business information were the name of the game to gain exposure. Since then, as we all know, the business world has become more interconnected than ever, with your potential consumer only a click away. Customers hold the buying power in their hands and can take that power with them, wherever they go, at any time of day. I’m talking about the power of mobile.

So how do you achieve the high quality traffic, boosting your business, and creating long-term clients through mobile marketing? Well, the truth is, the answer is different for everyone. However there are some key points, a mobile mapping blue-print to follow, that can lay the ground work for gaining the visibility, quality, and conversion rate you desire.

 

Knowing Where Your Consumers Spend Their Time

Mobile marketing should be thought of as an opportunity to target potential customers with quality advertising content that can be personalized and optimized to each consumer base, instead of settling for quantity. However, engaging in quality advertising through mobile starts with knowing where to find that potential consumer base.  

Mass media marketing platforms like public radio, TV commercials, newspaper, or even print magazine ads might sound good, but they are only a nostalgic means to a non-profitable end. Smartphones, tablets, laptops—these platforms are the new launching pads for quality targeting and customer access. In an article by Venturebeat.com, it was revealed that consumer’s time spent on digital is now 46% compared to 36% on TV. The digital age has empowered the individual. It’s time to listen and understand how younger generations are consuming information and making buying decisions in order to even begin crafting quality mobile advertising efforts to successfully market your product or service in today’s world.

 

Get Responsive

First, is your business equipped for mobile platforms? It can be an immediate turn-off for potential consumers to find an outdated, unresponsive website. From design, screen size, and having an interactive, engaging mobile site—there is nothing more important to quality mobile advertising than being able to grab the consumer’s attention within the first few seconds.

 

Use Every Medium 

Part of grabbing and retaining a consumer’s attention means expanding the scope of your mediums in use. Videos, pictures, gifs, memes, blogs, social media campaigns, testimonials, surveys, questions, contests, best of lists—your business’s mobile presence can’t just be about a website and paid advertising (although that’s part of it); it should cover all the current hotspots where people are spending their time.

 

Remain Flexible

In the end, your philosophy on the business’ mobile advertising efforts should always remain open and flexible. Gain as much knowledge as you can on how to maximize your mobile budget, where to utilize paid advertising, why and if developing an app is important to your business (spoiler alert it is), and what programs (Facebook and Google Admob, etc.) are the best when it comes to utilizing paid mobile media advertising. 

The options in mobile advertising are limitless, as are the potential gains. Even though the digital age has empowered consumers, it has allowed businesses of all sizes and shapes to reach and engage consumers like never before. Mobile advertising is no longer the future—it’s the present, and it’s time to take notice.