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5 Apps for Helicopter Parents

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Remember the old days? When kids were free to run wild without their every move being micromanaged by anxious parents? Growing up in the 80s, the best a worried mother could hope for was a call from a public telephone – if the mood struck her child.

Those days are gone. Between SMS messaging, smartphones and GPS, app developers have all the tools they need to help anxious parents keep tabs on their offspring. Kids, you might want to stop reading now. Grownups, check out our top 5 apps for making sure little Johnny is as safe as houses – and your house is safe from little Johnny!

iCam

Featured on Today, CNN and Good Morning America, iCam provides you with live feeds from any room in your house, direct to your mobile device. Each room must contain a running computer with webcams and the app installed. Probably unwise to use it instead of a babysitter, but it’s ideal for people on vacation who can’t shake that feeling that the house is burning down being broken into.

Kitestring

The ultimate in overprotective app, Kitestring can be programmed to track your whereabouts and ensure you arrive safely at your intended destination, at the intended time. Just like a worried parent, it checks up on you by requesting a response at a certain time. If you fail to respond, the app alerts your pre-programmed contacts via SMS messaging.

FBI Child ID

Created by the FBI, this app allows parents to store ID information and photographs of their children. The stored information can be quickly access in the event of the child disappearing. Crucially, it only stores info on the iPhone until parents need to send it to the authorities. The app includes shortcuts to 911 and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Find My Kids – Footprints

In the same vein, this app gives parents real time updates on their kids whereabouts. GPS has been applied to everything from vehicle navigation to mobile marketing solutions, but this is a world-beater in terms of providing parental peace of mind. Find out if your child is travelling alone and whether they’ve arrived at a specific destination.

Txt Shield

As kids grow up, concerns about sinister abductions begin to lessen. But parents of newly-driving teens have a whole new set of concerns. Txt Shield is one of a number of apps on the market aimed at preventing accidents caused by distracted driving. The app sends automatic replies to any incoming text messages based on how fast the mobile device is moving. 

Neglect Text, Neglect Success: The Benefits of Mobile Marketing

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If you keep your eye on the latest mobile marketing solutions and SMS messaging strategies, you’ll be familiar with the statistic that’s often bandied around, but for the benefit of the uninitiated: 95% of all mobile users open and read SMS messages within three minutes of the text being sent.

It’s certainly a compelling piece of data. And yet, so many businesses are still failing to employ SMS marketing as part of their overall strategy. Some are afraid of anything relatively new and stick to what they know, others have never bothered to give it a good go. But the advantages of text marketing are manifold, and you ignore them at the peril of your business. Here are a few of the key benefits to creating a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy:

  • Speed. At 160 characters or less, your average text doesn’t take long to create (or to read). Use this fact to your advantage by turning your mobile marketing campaign into a masterclass in brevity.
  • Directness. Most email inboxes are checked once or twice a day, and commercial messages are filtered out automatically, manually or just mentally. Compare that to an SMS inbox, which is frequently checked multiple times in a single day – often as and when each message is received.
  • Affordability. For small businesses, the sheer affordability of text marketing is one of its key assets. Far cheaper than real-world billboards or television ads, you can usually buy in bulk to get an even better deal on an SMS package.
  • Eco-friendliness. More and more businesses are adopting greener practices. Apart from being ethical, it makes good business sense – most customers want to know the brand they’re dealing with has at least some environmentally-friendly credentials. In the world of advertising, SMS marketing is as green as it gets.
  • Interactivity. Engaging with your customer base is easy with SMS. Issue polls, surveys and questionnaires. Not only will they encourage consumers to visit your social media pages and website, they can provide invaluable data on personal preferences and buying habits.
  • Trackability. Monitoring metrics is crucial to understanding the success of any advertising campaign. With text, it’s a lot easier to track these metrics. Some companies offer a tracking service as part of their SMS messaging package. Use such services to review a detailed analysis of each text and you will start to understand more about how your business is functioning as a user experience.

As you can see, there are huge potential sources of untapped business out there, just waiting at the end of a cellphone to receive your latest offer – so climb on board with the text revolution!

 

 

 

50% of Workers Will Be Required to Use their Own Smartphones by 2017

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Employees across America will be required to use their own mobile devices for work within three years, according to a new study. Data from research company Gartner indicates that the current practice of employers offering their workforce smartphones, tablets and fully paid-up network contracts will soon become a thing of a past.

The study claims that 38% of all companies will cease providing mobile devices to workers by 2016. Instead, workers will be expected to use their own phones and tablets.

‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policies have increasingly found favor among business owners looking to reduce costs. Another upside is the ability to leverage the power of employees’ social media networks and unaffiliated connectivity. 

As a mobile marketing strategy, disseminating information from personal accounts not associated with a brand name is a lot more trustworthy to an increasingly sophisticated web audience with a knack for spotting corporate shills and charlatans online.

But there is a great deal of confusion among employees regarding their company’s stance on personal device usage. A survey conducted by GLOBO suggests companies that do have a BYOD policy often fail to communicate this to their employees. The report claimed 68% of people used their own mobile device for work purposes, but only 29% of them knew whether their employer even had a BYOD policy in place. More than 90% of people said they didn’t know if their company planned to instigate a BYOD policy.

Furthermore, cutting costs on cellular data, SMS messaging and mobile devices may be a false economy in the long run. Although initial savings may impress Financial Directors, the long-term implications of employees using their own devices in and out of work can be expensive. One of the biggest pitfalls is security breaches – although these can be mitigated by imposing VPN, remote lock and cloud computing software on devices.

But therein lies another problem. Can employers really ask their workforce to not only use there own devices for work, but to use up space with a multitude of security software and applications? After all, recent research shows that 48% of decision makers use between one and ten mobile apps as part of their infrastructure. The use of mobile apps is increasing, and whether that will be compatible with a demand for BYOD policies remains to be seen.

 

 

 

Apple Patent 'Transparent Texting'

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This is undoubtedly weird. Created by Japanese mobile firm NTT Docomo as a public service announcement, the aim is to demonstrate the dangers of texting and walking at the same time. While Americans are campaigning for legislation to stamp out texting while driving, it seems Japan is more concerned with the potential problems caused by pedestrians not looking where they’re going.

For those of us who can’t read Japanese script, the text claims that one out of five people who text and walk wind up injuring themselves or others. According to a study conducted at Aichi University of Technology, only 547 out of 1500 people who look at their phones while crossing an intersection would reach the other side without colliding into someone, tripping over, or dropping their phone.

With 7.25 million iPhones sold in Japan during 2011 alone, it’s hardly surprising that the country’s number one smartphone is working on a solution to the problem of ill-timed SMS messaging and web browsing. Last week, Apple filed a patent that aims to provide customers with a live video feed of their surroundings while texting. The objective is to give text addicts a better chance of avoiding street lamps, pedestrians and cars.

The inbuilt camera will be able to continuously capture the immediate environment while texts are being written and communicated. It’s a pretty far-out notion, and says much about the compulsive phone habits of many smartphone users.

There is no indication of when we can expect to see the technology in action; there are already some apps that allow transparent overlays, but they currently require users to copy and paste a text into a relevant application. The live editing function is what’s missing – Apple hopes to change all that.

For SMS marketing purposes, the technology has some exciting implications. With the use of geo-targeting, stores could wait until consumers’ cameras are within range of their outlet before sending a text. Imagine reading a text as you walk down the street, and being able to see the retailer in the background. Creative minds in charge of mobile marketing campaigns will be waiting for this patent to bear fruit with great excitement – and Japanese pedestrians could be a whole lot safer as they walk busy streets. 

SMS Tips: Getting the Most Out of Google Voice

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Launched in March of 2009, Google Voice is a telecommunications service that provides one phone number, thereby allowing users to keep the same number regardless of phone company changes, job changes or any other life changes. Using Google Voice means your number stays the same, with features including the ability to forward calls to your cell phone, block and screen calls, retrieve voicemails and more. Since Google Voice is a free service, mobile marketing tactics are beginning to focus on it more, marketers are discovering how it may be implemented into assorted mobile marketing solutions and strategies. Let’s take a look:

First Things First

Before discussing Google Voice utilization in a mobile marketing strategy, it’s important to note the service’s limitations. Google Voice cannot send pictures or any other form of multimedia messaging (MMS), and will ignore such messages without alerting the receiver. However, many other viable options are available for sending pictures, such as email, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Sending Free Text Messages

One of the arguably biggest benefits of utilizing Google Voice in a mobile marketing strategyis the ability to send free text messages to your list of leads. Calling leads usually isn’t the most effective strategy, as people aren’t always able or willing to pick up their phones, but can still easily answer a text message. Let’s say you have a few hundred leads you wish to contact to determine if they’re still interested in your business. All you have to do is copy a number, hit ‘text’ in Google Voice, and paste the number along with the message. What’s more, the person’s reply will be sent directly to your Google Voice account, which you can also reply to. It’s as easy as sending email, and more than that, it’s free and is almost guaranteed to be read.

Google Voice Auto-Reply SMS

Want to let customers know about your new number? Google Voice Auto-Reply SMS is an easy way to do this. Another free tool, it automatically lets customers and leads know about your new contact number, allowing you to avoid continuous, confusing calls to your old one.

Sending Free Text Messages to a Range of Devices

Besides the ability to send free text messages, Google Voice provides additional mobile marketing solutions in that you can send those text messages to a wide range of devices. Mobile marketing tactics and campaigns are sometimes limited to a certain type of phone, something Google Voice eliminates entirely. Use it to send text message alerts regarding sales, events, coupons and anything else pertaining to your business to any device that accepts SMS.

“Voice” is Often Preferable to Smartphone Users 

Keypads on smartphones aren’t always easy to use, particularly if the user has large fingers! Many smartphone users prefer to text or search for something using their voices instead of their hands, so it follows that Google Voice would make an attractive part of a mobile marketing campaign for smartphone users. They can easily listen to messages and reply using their voices.

Have you used Google Voice as part of your latest mobile marketing strategy? If not, it might be time to try!

 

 

UK Experiencing Mobile Marketing Boom

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While companies continue to use mobile marketing tactics to promote and expand their businesses in the U.S. and in the U.K., the mobile marketing industry across the pond continues to trail its U.S. counterpart.  It seems everyone in the U.S. has a smartphone attached to their hand, which they use to send texts, make calls, look up information, browse social media and make purchases among many other activities. Smartphones and tablets are even surpassing laptops in popularity, as U.S. citizens are increasingly turning to mobile devices to retrieve necessary information. This frequent use of smartphones does not appear to be mimicked in the U.K. 

Recently O2 Media and the Marketing Institute surveyed 252 marketers in the U.K., finding two-thirds of marketers dedicating portions of their budgets to mobile rather than traditional media. Of these marketers, 14 percent obtained additional money for SMS marketing campaigns, and 7 percent redirected funds used in online / desktop marketing.

Despite these efforts, the idea that “marketing spend hasn’t followed where the eyeballs have gone” remains a concern, notes Fintan Lonergan, O2 Media’s managing director. The company works with clients such as Heineken, Aer Lingus, Ikea and Nissan, helping them connect to consumers.

In 2013, a mere 19 percent of U.K. businesses had dedicated 10 percent or more of their advertising budget to mobile marketing. “This is very low compared to the central role that mobile plays in consumers lives,” Lonergan adds. Only 7 percent of surveyed marketers said they worked for “a mobile-first organization,” with “lack of strategy” considered the biggest challenge Ireland faces in regards to mobile marketing. 

Progress is being made, however. Lonergan cites location-based targeting as a “really encouraging” development in the U.K., with more and more marketers focusing on mobile marketing strategy. In 2013, the most popular mobile marketing tactics were social media, SMS messaging, apps, mobile displays and  mobile-optimized websites.

“There is a lot of media attention on mobile and the growth of mobile and yet very little has been known about what marketers are doing within mobile,” says Lonergan. 

In the UK, Lonergan says mobile marketing has gone on “a hockey stick curve in the last 24 months,” noting a recent eMarketer study that found mobile advertising in the U.K. will likely surpass print advertising in 2014.

“Our marketing industry is lagging behind a bit, and that’s not a criticism, it’s just a fact,” he notes.

So why this “lag”? Perhaps it’s simply a matter of company funds, or maybe there just aren’t as many smartphone users in the U.K. Companies are provided with numerous other options in terms of advertising, such as email and social media, and success in those areas may prompt businesses to look at SMS marketing campaigns as unnecessary. Whatever the reason, it will be interesting to see how fast the U.K. catches up with the U.S. regarding this expanding form of advertising!

 

6 Mobile Marketing Tactics That Won’t Get You Sued

 

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Crafting a quality SMS mobile marketing campaign requires ensuring none of the tactics you use will get you sued. Mobile data collection practices, political spam, patent infringement and scam subscriptions are just some examples of the many mobile marketing issues that result in legal trouble. Let’s look at a few surefire ways to avoid such trouble and keep your mobile marketing strategy on the right side of the law:

Get the Permission You Need 

Not everyone has unlimited text messaging, meaning unsolicited text messages can cost up to $0.20 per message. Since this practice results in seriously unhappy potential customers, always obtain formal permission before launching an SMS mobile marketing campaign. Creating a list based off of invoices, contracts and “fish bowls” is not considered “permission.” Opt-in lists are your best bets, and allow customers to subscribe to your company’s alerts, updates and exclusive deals as they wish. The “call to action” must be very clear so customers know exacting what they will be receiving when the sign up.

Remember, Full Disclosure is Key

Full disclosure is highly recommended, as companies often find themselves in proverbial hot water for failing to clearly describe offer terms. Your customers should have a strong sense of what they’re agreeing to when they sign up rather than being surprised by fees and similar issues.

Maintain Records

Maintain detailed records of mobile marketing lists so you know exactly who has opted in...and who has opted out. Keep such lists for at least six months if not more, and update them frequently to avoid getting sued by one or more customers looking to make easy money.

Stop Sending Messages When Customers Opt Out!

When a customer unsubscribes or otherwise opts out of an SMS mobile marketing campaign, it is imperative that you stop sending them messages. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled companies may send one follow-up text verifying customers no longer wish to receive texts, but that is all. This message must be sent within five minutes of the opt-out. Continuing to send marketing and promotional materials can easily result in lawsuits and other legal trouble.

Keep Customer Data Secure

Hackers looking to use your mobile marketing lists can result in a significant number of lawsuits, making it essential that all customer information is protected from unauthorized use. Choosing the right platform and using every available security measure reassures customers that their information is safe, and upholds your reputation as a company who cares about client privacy and security.

Be Careful When Choosing SMS Mobile Marketing Campaign Wording

Another cornerstone to an effective SMS mobile marketing strategy is the right wording. For example, the word “free” should mean just that--the message is free to the end-user (FTEU) with all supported carriers. If this is not the case, this word can result in legal trouble, as unhappy customers will be billed for something they thought wouldn’t cost anything. Avoid misleading customers by using phrases such as “Msg & data rates may apply.”

It makes logical sense that people are going to buy from a company they can trust rather than one that slams them with unsolicited text messages and hidden fees! Keep these tips in mind as part your SMS mobile marketing strategy! Use these and similar mobile marketing tactics to avoid legal issues, maintain relationships with current clients and attract new customers. And remember to always consult an attorney when making final campaign decisions.

 

Messaging Apps: The Carriers Bite Back

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A capitalist economy is all about competition. Each company strives to get your dollar before the other guy does. AT&T is trying to do just that. With technology advancing, it is becoming even harder for traditional carriers and SMS texting providers to compete with the advantages offered by free and cheap one-time-buy mobile apps. Mobile phone providers are attempting to fight the loss of their customers with new mobile marketing solutions and a new SMS marketing campaign.

AT&T’s New Benefits

Just last month AT&T advertised that they will allow contracts for LTE roaming in many different areas internationally. They also announced their intention to make international SMS texting free for their customers. Not only will this support text messages globally, but it will also support picture messages and video messaging. On the 28th of February, AT&T started their Mobile Share and Mobile Share Value plans. These plans were created to have the same capability of third party apps, thus diminishing their value and rather increasing the appeal of AT&T. AT&T says that their SMS service will be available in 190 countries, and their MMS in 120 countries. Unfortunately these new mobile marketing solutions do not support tablets or laptops; all messages must be sent from one phone to another phone.

The new mobile marketing campaign also includes the new feature of international calling at a rate of one cent per minute. This feature is allowed in 35 countries. These new mobile marketing solutions really have users’ interests peaked. Previously, phone customers had to pay extra money to send picture and video messages, or even for every individual text. Often users would turn to mobile apps to allow them to text more when their SMS limit had already run out.

T-Mobile’s New Benefits

On March 23, 2014, T-Mobile will have a launch improvements of their own. Their new mobile marketing solution allows some users to double their amount of data for the same price. It also allows mobile customers to have unlimited SMS to 120 countries internationally. Because of the size of T-Mobile’s customer base it can not provide as widespread benefits as AT&T, but it shows that they too are wising up to the staggering appeal of mobile messaging apps. 

The Competition

Back in 2012, researchers found that the collection of messaging apps sent a total of almost 19 billion messages every day. That vast number passed up text sent by traditional SMS carriers by almost 1.5 billion. In the spring of 2013, it was projected that 2014 would be the year that application messages would pass SMS messages at a ratio of more than 2 to 1. There are fewer app users than SMS users, but the affordability of free in-app messaging is of course enormously appealing.

WhatsApp, Kik, Viber, WeChat and MessageMe, are taking the mobile market by storm, and AT&T would like to do something about it. Keep your eyes open for more benefits from traditional mobile carriers. The phone companies are fighting back, and you might just get a great deal because of it. 

New App Aims to Combat Distracted Driving

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Texting while driving is a special kind of faux pas, a social no-no usually committed when the perpetrator thinks they are all alone. Like singing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ at the top of your voice, or picking your nose at a red light, it’s amazing how far people will go when sealed inside a metallic cocoon.

Of course, people can see you, and they will judge you. For a transgression as serious as ‘twitting’ (Texting While in Traffic), some people even go as far as publicly shaming the guilty.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy when you look at the distracted driving statistics. According to data from the DMV, distracted drivers are the leading cause of car accidents, with 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involving some form of distraction. Anyone who thinks they have time to send a quick response can think again – most distractions occur within three seconds before the accident.

The most at risk group is teenagers, and app developers have responded with all sorts of clever ways to prevent or minimize the effects of distracted driving. The latest to hit the market is Txt Shield, launched this month by two Florida brothers, and aimed squarely at worried parents.

The app puts control in the hands of parents by sending automatic replies to incoming text messages based on how fast the device is moving. It’s available for $1.99 as a Lite Version, which activates as soon as the device is moving above 10mph, but cannot be disabled (if, for example, the teen is travelling as a passenger in someone else’s vehicle). For more flexibility – and a text alert to other pre-set numbers should the app be uninstalled – users must opt for the Gold Version. Still, at $3.99, it’s surely worth it for peace of mind. But how does it compare to similar products on the market? Let’s take a look at the top three distracted driving apps out there…

  • At $29.99, Android’s Textecution isn’t cheap. It works in a similar fashion to Txt Shield, preventing the ability to text if a phone is travelling faster than 10mph. Passengers can override the app – though any such requests must be authorized by an administrator, which begs the question: what if the administrator is driving?
  • Compatible with most smartphones, tXtBlocker provides a neat customizable option allowing users to set certain routes and times – like the daily commute – when phone calls and texts aren’t accepted. Again, it’s not cheap, costing $6.99 per user per month.
  • AT&T’s DriveMode is a winner for the company’s brand image, sending auto-replies for no more than the cost of an ordinary text message. It certainly suggests a caring, safety-first attitude, although in this case, the function doesn’t kick in until the device is moving faster than 25mph, which may not be quite enough peace of mind for some parents.

The slew of distracted driving apps on the market point to a real need for safety awareness among businesses. If you are currently devising a mobile marketing strategy, it’s worth considering the inclusion of an opt-out that only kicks in at certain times. If you can avoid sending a text message while someone is driving to work, it’s another way of keeping customers onside. 

HTC One M8 Goes on Sale in UK

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HTC’s new smartphone went on sale today at several stores in London, ahead of a general release on March 27. International consumers will have to wait until April 11 to get their hands on the device.

The HTC One M8 was officially unveiled just one hour before it became available to shoppers at six Carphone Warehouse and three Phones 4U stores. A few handsets were also released at a press conference in New York.

The HTC One is being heralded as one of the best designs to hit the smartphone market to date. According to a press release published on the T-Mobile website, the HTC One has “the brainpower of a true superphone… [and] stunning hardware design.”

The device has two cameras on the back, allowing photographers to take shots capable of mimicking the depth-of-field control that was once the sole preserve of DSLR machines. Another winning feature is Motion Launch, which lets users quickly deploy their device without having to first unlock it. A phone call can be taken by putting the device to your ear; the camera can be activated simply by upending the phone and hitting the volume button. 

Despite all the bells and whistles, HTC’s new offering faces an uphill battle in terms of marketing. The company aims to make high end products capable of competing with iPhones. To a certain extent, they’ve achieved that with the HTC One, but they lack two key things that Apple has in spades: a fanatic, loyal customer base, and an app store that rules the roost.

That’s not to say HTC doesn’t have potential. For every hardcore Apple fanboy, there’s an open-source devotee who wouldn’t go near an iPhone if their house was burning down. And they’re precisely the same people who care more about design than market ubiquity. In that context, HTC has a place in the hearts of the anti-Apple brigade who don’t want to slum it with a Samsung device.

Whether there are enough of those people out there remains to be seen. In marketing terms, probably not. Few mobile marketing tactics include a pressing urge to reach out to HTC users – and their SMS messaging glitches are documented across the web. But for individual users with a taste for good design, and an antipathy towards good marketing, the HTC One could be the answer.