SMS News

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August 28, 2014

Appeals Court: Mobile Agency Served-up Taco Bell Spam

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Recently a federal appellate court ruled that Taco Bell isn’t responsible for the text messages that a marketing agency blasted out to consumers. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a California trial judge’s ruling that the company shouldn’t be responsible for the marketing campaign of an outside agency. In other words, consumers will have a difficult time suing advertisers in the future (as opposed to the agencies that handle their marketing).

The agency in question, called ESW Partners, was hired by a dozen Taco Bell franchise owners in the greater Chicago area. A branch of ESW Partners, called Ipsh (now known as The Marketing Arm), was slated to handle a mobile advertising campaign for the franchise owners. The text message campaign, executed back in 2005, consisted of a promotion of new products including Chicken and Steak Nachos Bell Grande. The text asked for local residents to vote on which variety they preferred.

Because the recipients of the texts did not opt-in to receive these text messages, such an act could be considered illegal under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The plaintiff Tracie Thomas sued to that effect: she stated that this campaign violated the text-spam law, further claiming that Taco Bell used automatic telephone dialing systems to send messages to mobiles without the consent of the consumer.

The truth of the matter: the judge and the appellate court ruled that Taco Bell Corporation had nothing to do with the affair.  In a statement during the appellate court case, Taco Bell’s representatives argued that it “had no role in the decision to distribute the message by way of a blast text or that it ever reviewed any proposed text message, or even knew about the outgoing text message component of the local promotion.”

There is no word on whether the agency was sued by Thomas, but all marketers should consider this a wake-up call.

Mobile marketers must carefully examine their campaigns. Give attention to the laws regarding text message marketing campaigns. Make certain that every consumer has opted-in, providing permission for text ads (through a web form, for example). Exacting language must be provided for the consumer, outlining precisely what they are signing up for. Aid should be provided regarding the terms and privacy. And, as always, consumers must be allowed to opt-out at any time.

Be a smart mobile marketer: always follow the best practices for text message and SMS marketing, and protect yourself from future lawsuits. For more information on regulations and best practices, visit http://www.fcc.gov

August 19, 2014

SMS is Helping Scotland Improve Public Health

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In the last couple of years, the government of Scotland has commenced with several widespread mobile marketing campaigns to enhance public awareness, especially regarding health. Working directly with SMS-based marketing corporations, the government has rolled out some advertising campaigns to raise awareness about quitting smoking, children’s safety, and breast cancer. The common thread among all of these campaigns is a widespread connection with the public, as well as a series of calls-to-action. The Scottish citizenry have responded, and these campaigns are being lauded as great successes.

First, the government of Scotland provides a texting service for quitters – those who want to quit smoking, that is. The service is simple: mobile users may send a text to a specific number, including the exact date they wish to give up smoking. Daily, an automatic reply calculates the number of days that are left until they quit. It also provides them with daily incentives and tips to quit through an app called the “quit calendar.” The application and the text-based program are beginning to show some terrific results.

Second, the Scottish government has worked in tandem with a company called Incentivated alongside the Scottish Children’s Panel to provide a service regarding public hearings. With just a simple text, adults can sign up for hearings regarding child safety within the home. The service automatically calls mobile users back with information about child safety, and provides them with the ability to secure a seat at the hearing they wish to attend. In the first month, this service received over 1500 responses from the Scottish public.

Finally, in the latest example of SMS marketing for the Scottish government, the company Incentivated provided a way for women to locate the nearest breast screening center. The ad gives a simple code and a call-to-action, and has been included with government advertisements in print and online. When a mobile user texts in, they receive a reply with a local telephone number of the nearest center, and it urges them to make an appointment if they haven’t had a screening in the last three years.

All in all, mobile technology for the common good is easy-to-use and gaining traction not just in Scotland, but around the world. These campaigns target the public right where they live, providing simple services with the push of a few buttons. Opting in via SMS allows mobile users to decide which services exactly they want to be notified of, thus providing users with practical, real-time information they find useful. Expect to see more of these types of mobile marketing campaigns in the near future.

August 03, 2014

Hispanic Market Growth Reaches New Heights

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Though we are still in the early days of mobile marketing, new technologies are allowing businesses to share their brand in revolutionary ways. Reports about new advertising techniques and ways to reach consumers on their mobile devices are flooding the blogosphere. But are advertisers paying attention to the changing face of the mobile marketplace? The real news flash: The Hispanic Market represents the fastest growing segment in the U.S.

This information from the Census Bureau and Nielsen is not really new. Marketers have been watching for years as this minority has grown into a significant force in the advertising world. Currently about 1 in 6 Americans are Hispanics. By the year 2050, however, Hispanics will represent one-third of the entire American populace.

These statistics are even more significant when we look at buying power. Hispanics command over $1 Trillion dollars in spending capital. The media have been aware of their buying power for a couple of years now: in 2012, the U.S. media spent $7.9 billion in advertising dollars that target Hispanic consumers.

Market analysts have been mining this data to find out what makes Hispanic consumers tick. The average age of Hispanics is 28 years old, and nearly 8% of Hispanics use their mobile devices to seek out content. Neilsen studies have shown that Hispanics outpace all other ethnic groups in mobile downloads of music and photos, and they are more likely than others to watch video on their mobile phones. Most Hispanics age 18 or older spend about 4.5 hours per day using social media. About half of Hispanics use social media during purchases, in the form of product reviews, the best deals, and to share their own shopping experiences. By incorporating this data into their strategies, mobile marketers have the opportunity to take advantage of how and where Hispanics spend their money.

Hispanics are also heavy phone users. On average, they send and receive more than 900 texts per month – more than any other ethnic group. Also, they make an average of thirteen calls per day, which is 40% more than the average U.S. consumer.

Hispanic consumers have a history of committing to certain brands. They are 25% more likely to follow a brand than the average U.S. adult. In a recent survey, 38% of Hispanics admitted that they generally select certain brands when they have customer loyalty programs. In a similar fashion: Hispanics are 18% more likely to follow a celebrity. 

According to Nielsen, Hispanic video viewers are 68% more likely than non-Hispanic White viewers to watch video on the Internet, and 20% more likely to watch video on their mobile phone. This may be due to the fact that Hispanics are less likely to have internet access at home than the average U.S. consumer (14% less likely, in fact).

There is a wealth of data available surrounding customers in today’s fast-paced world of mobile marketing. Knowing the ways that Hispanics choose to do business can give you a leg up against the competition. By approaching the Hispanic population with a mobile app, service, or direct mobile marketing, marketers can successfully target a consumer base that practice brand loyalty and constant engagement. It’s time for mobile marketers to wake up to the thriving Hispanic market.

July 30, 2014

Microsoft Finally Takes It's Head From the Sand... and Into the Cloud

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After years of threatening to become a computing anachronism, Microsoft is transmogrifying into a cloud services provider with a strong focus on mobile marketing. 

Earlier this year, the tech giant put the finishing touches to its Windows Phone 8.1 OS, and promised delivery to consumers by ‘Summer 2014’. They’ve already begun integrating Nokia’s smartphone business, and shares have gone up by 25% since the appointment of new CEO Satya Nadella five months ago.

On the face of it, Microsoft is finally joining the cloud/mobile party that’s been in full swing since the turn of the decade. It’s been a long time coming, and competing with the likes of Google and Apple will be a tough road aho.

Critics have lambasted Microsoft for its reticence regarding the obvious consumer appeal of cloud computing, but their strategy has become more focused on Nadella’s watch, with the professed ‘cloud first, mobile first’ philosophy at last gaining credibility.

In particular, the firm has begun to recognize the need to give partners more control over the cloud services they resell. They recently announced the implementation of the Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider program, which grants affiliates who resell products like Office 365 and Windows Intune greater control of billing and customer service tools. Says Phil Sorgen, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Partnerships:

“It fundamentally enables our partners to own the customer relationship.”

The program will expand gradually until it covers all MS cloud services. It certainly appears that Microsoft is offering the right incentives to partners. They are waiving the first year fee for new registrants wanting to sell Azure and Office 365, and increasing the number of internal use rights licenses by anything from 25 to 200 percent. Even their traditional on-premise software products are getting a 10 percent price slash for partner programs.

The jury is still out on whether this cloud and mobile marketing strategy will pay off for Microsoft. With hundreds of thousands of partners out their, the challenge is to meet the needs of a vast, heterogeneous group with extremely diverse priorities. Not all of them are thrilled at the way the wind is blowing.

Many long-time resellers and integrators will find themselves struggling to adjust their models to cloud-based services after years spent building business around on-premises Microsoft software. For one thing, on-premises deals are usually made with a one-time payment, whilst cloud services are sold by subscription. The latter generates recurring revenue streams – but the size of the deal tends to be smaller.

But Microsoft have realized that focusing on the future is the only way to ensure long term prosperity. Their attentions are pointed at the ‘born in the cloud’ generation of entrepreneurs who have never used on-premises software. For them, Microsoft’s evolution can’t happen quickly enough.

July 29, 2014

How to Text From Your Laptop

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There are a variety of ways to send a text message from your laptop. Of course, you must have the recipient’s phone number and a connection to the internet. Now, once that’s established, start texting… And the best part is: there is no fee for you to send a single text message through the internet. (Standard messaging rates to apply to recipients though.)

Here are several ways that you can send a text message from your laptop:

1)    Send a text message from your email account.

If you know the recipient’s cell phone service provider, enter the recipient’s number the field where you would ordinarily enter a his or her email address. Next, you’ve got to couple the number with the proper domain name, depending upon the recipient’s mobile phone provider. The domain suffixes for various companies are as follows:

-        T-Mobile: @tmomail.net

-        AT&T: @text.att.net

-        Sprint: @messaging.sprintpcs.com

-        Verizon: @vtext.com

Verizon is especially versatile. If you use the suffix @vzwpix.com, you can also send photos and video over the internet. To recap: the recipient’s email address should read something like 9876543210@vzwpix.com, if you were sending a picture message to the phone number (987) 654-3210. If the recipient replies, the response will come back to your email address.

2)    Send a text message from a provider website.

Both Verizon and AT&T allow you to send texts to recipients, provided you have an account with them. Just sign in to your My Verizon Account (http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/myverizonlp) or your My AT&T account (https://www.att.com/olam/passthroughAction.myworld) and you will be able to send text messages from your laptop. T-Mobile also offers text messaging capabilities, but only to recipients that are T-Mobile customers (https://my.t-mobile.com/Login/). Check with your provider to see if they offer this, and be sure to note if you are restricted to their network.

3)    Send a text message through a free SMS website.

There are websites dedicated to sending text messages over the internet. It may be best for you to Google which websites you would prefer to use – there are a great deal of them to choose from. I recommend these three:

-        Send SMS now (www.sendsmsnow.com)

-        Ez Texting (www.EzTexting.com)

-        Txt2day (www.txt2day.com)

Many of the free SMS sites, however, may require you to sign up for service with them, and/or provide an email address with which to receive responses to your text messages. But this is a small price to pay for the ability to send free texts. Plus, these online SMS services will allow you to send bulk messages to thousands of recipients at once, after uploading a contact list.

Imagine the possibilities! You could send dozens and dozens of free text messages – right from your laptop. If you have a curated message to send to several recipients, you may want to consider one of these methods to reach out to customers. And if you can send them a text with a call to action worth responding to, those recipients will more than likely text you back.

July 24, 2014

Apple’s ‘Reuse and Recycle’ Prices Falling

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Earlier this month, Apple quietly made a few key changes to its ‘Reuse and Recycle’ program. The lack of ceremony surrounding the changes are easily explained: it’s not particularly good news for customers.

Customers in Canada and the United States will now get less money for trading in their iPhone. The new top value is $225, versus the former rate of $270. Go back two years and Apple were offering up to $345 for a pristine iPhone 4S (then the latest model). The new pricing plan is the lowest since the program was launched.

Even with the higher prices on offer, Apple’s recycling scheme was one of the least-trumpeted aspects of their business. Many iPhone users remain completely ignorant of its existence. It works like this:

  • An Apple customer goes to the Apple Store and asks to trade in their older phone for a new, on-contract model.
  • The Apple Store rep keys in the customer’s existing iPhone details using their EasyPay device (those neat mobile touch screen gizmos you see reps clutching).
  • Based on the information entered, a value for the old iPhone is given to the customer. Metrics include display quality, button quality, overall hardware damage, liquid damage and functionality.
  • The Apple Store rep lets the customer know they cannot get their original phone back, and they should back up any info they need.
  • The customer gets a new iPhone and a gift card with the agreed-upon value pre-loaded to go towards the new device.
  • The old phone is placed in a plastic bag, and the old SIM card is given to the customer while the employee sets up the new iPhone.

According to Apple, recycled iPhones are only re-sold in the United States, although they’ve not ruled out expanding the program to international markets. Despite launching the scheme to little fanfare, the tech giant did assert its commitment at the time, stating:

July 09, 2014

How to Make the Perfect SMS Pitch

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Using SMS messaging in the most effective way requires an understanding of the singular properties of the medium. If you approach your text marketing campaign in the same way you would an email campaign, you’ll miss out on the many advantages of an SMS-focused strategy.

Perhaps the most important differentiator between email and SMS is the character limitations of the latter. If you’ve already engaged with social media via Twitter, you’ll understand the unique challenge of crafting a message in less than 140 characters. You may have an extra 20 characters at your disposal with SMS, but the same rules of clarity, brevity and levity apply to the creation of a good message.

But there is a key difference between a social media campaign and an SMS messaging campaign. Tweets don’t require opt-in subscribers, or incur even a minimal additional cost to the viewer. To engage with your texts, consumers have to give up their cell phone number and agree to receive messages. This is no mean commitment, and it demands a new standard of ethics and responsibility on the part of mobile marketers.

With an open-and-read rate of more than 90%, it’s worth getting your SMS strategy right from the start. If you fail to impress with your first message, subscribers will simply opt out. Hooking recipients with those first 160 characters they see is essential for the long-term survival of your mobile marketing campaign. Here, we offer a few pointers on making the perfect SMS pitch…

Be Relevant

You might have a large portfolio of services to offer a wide range of different consumers. The beauty of SMS lists is the ease with which you can ‘divide and conquer’ according to personal preference. Don’t waste that opportunity by viewing your contact list as a monolithic, static entity. Instead, view each phone number as an individual organism, with highly specific needs. If you run a hotel with a public restaurant, for instance, don’t send updates on room rates to someone who only signed up for meal deals.

Be Appropriate

Striking the right tone for your audience is one of the tricks of the SMS marketing trade. This will vary hugely depending on industry, but there are a few rules of thumb that apply across the board:

  • Don’t use text speak in an effort to appeal to a youth demographic, or simply to save precious space. Unless you are aiming purely for a tween crowd, it will come across as unprofessional at best, and incomprehensible at worst. Remember, many people dislike text speak, but nobody objects to proper English.
  • Having said that, your messages should be more informal than a letter or even an email. Strike a friendly but professional tone.
  • Avoid jargon. When working in a specific industry, it’s easy to get caught up with insider jargon, so remember who your audience is before rattling off a message containing a foreign acronym.

Be Link Friendly

In all likelihood, you have a lot more to say than you can possibly fit in a text message, so don’t forget to include a hyperlink to your website. View text as a gateway to your brand, and encourage recipients to click with a clear call to action.

Be Plugged In

Segmented mobile subscriber lists are an invaluable source of user information. You should be constantly tracking the analytics of your mobile marketing campaign to see what each subscriber likes or dislikes, and adjusting your messages accordingly. The more you seem to be speaking to each customer as an individual, the better your SMS pitch will be.

July 03, 2014

Six of the Best: Mobile Marketing Trends in 2014

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Since 2010, the best practice for mobile marketers has been to interact with clients primarily through social media. Things have changed. Here are six of the best trends in mobile marketing for 2014:

1.Location Targeting

Location targeting has been around for quite some time now, but only recently has it been elevated to new capabilities. Location targeting has become much safer, commonplace, and convenient in the last year. And it’s getting better. As consumers continue to depend upon mobile devices that can find local products and services – when and where they need it – custom ads have been developed for these exact moments. Their activities are then recorded by marketers, so that the relevant information can be examined and tracked to appeal to consumers’ buying habits and movement patterns.

2.Programmatic Buying

Programmatic buying is basically the buying and selling of the consumer’s potential ad space. When a consumer sees an ad in the course of app use, in most cases that space has been won by the highest bidder. This service is getting new traction in the mobile marketing world: advertisers are able to summon historical intent side-by-side with profile data and behavioral data in real time. Forecasters expect programmatic buying to become the most common way to advertise to mobile users in 2015.

3.Wearable Tech

With the inauguration of Google Glass and Samsung Gear, mobile designers are blurring the lines where fashion meets technology. This giant leap forward has begun to provide businesses with new frontiers to claim in the territory of wearable tech. As many tech consumers have begun to embrace this new technology, marketers in turn have embraced their technological capabilities. Ideally, the seamless interactions inherent in these devices will allow advertisers to provide unique experiences for consumers.

4.Mobile Messaging

The ever-popular messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp continue to garner a larger user base. Clearly, an increasing number of people prefer to use these apps to communicate rather than text messaging or calling each other. Apps of this nature allow for a multimedia user experience in real time, which appeals to a new generation of mobile users. Mobile marketers are preparing for the influx of new users upon these platforms, designing revolutionary messaging strategies for the future of text-based communication.

5.Mobile Currency

It’s not just about PayPal anymore. Since everyone has to have a smartphone today, we are beginning to see an increase in the usage of mobile wallets. The mobile phone has become the new way to pay instead of using cash or a credit card. The demand for advertising in this space is bound to increase based on user demand alone.

6.Video Demand

Mobile video viewing has become very common due to faster wireless networks, improved technology, and an increase in data plans. Ads for this medium are likely to follow suit in the next year. Evidenced by both Vine and Instagram’s incorporation of video, as well as the aforementioned commonality of mobile video, it’s pretty safe to assume that this space will be a veritable gold mine for mobile marketers.

Within the past six months, the business of mobile marketing has undergone a revolution. The increase in mobile usage, cutting-edge tech, and the expanding consumer knowledge of mobile utility has broadened the ways in which marketers reach mobile users. It’s time to prepare for the wave of the future in mobile marketing.

June 20, 2014

iPhone Users Will Soon be Able to Leave Group Text Message Chats

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When Apple unveiled its new iOS 8 mobile operating system earlier this month, iPhone users everywhere expressed unprecedented delight with the upgrades. Some of the changes soon coming to the iPhone and iPad alike include features like longer-lasting batteries as well as an improved system for sharing photos. Users will also be able to access home automation apps and services allowing the iPhone to be used as a remote control for connected home devices such as certain types of lighting systems. 

However, it's not the Jetsons-era technology that appears to have gotten iOS 8 users the most excited. The new iPhone feature that has everyone cheering is the one that will now allow iPhone users to exit group text message chats for the very first time ever. The big news was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference that took place June 2 through 6 in San Francisco.

iPhone Group Message Chats: Past v. Future

Until now, iPhone users who felt tortured by non-consensual group text messages had very few coping strategies available to them. They could simply throw their hands up and cooperate, or they could try to ignore their inboxes and those annoying message alerts. Alternatively, users could lie and say they had switched to an Android device that would not read the group text message chats.

Now, however, thanks to the system updates, users will soon be able to choose to either mute the group text message notifications (and read the text message chats later) or simply exit the group text message chat altogether with just the click of a button.

Ability to Exit iPhone Group Message Chats Dubbed 'Miracle'

Twitter absolutely exploded with the sound of rejoicing when news of the updated group text function went public. “We're free! WE'RE ALL FINALLY FREE!” one Liverpool man Tweeted. “Looks like the big man has been answering my prayers,” a Georgia man wrote.

By “big man,” of course, Darnell Augustin meant neither Steve Jobs nor those individual humans responsible for developing the updated technology – nor even Apple as a whole nor any other mortal being. 

The Twitter user was not alone in responding to the news by thanking a higher power, either. In response to the big news, one woman Tweeted: “GOD IS REAL.” Other religious invocations in response to the new feature included, “praise the lord,” “our prayers have been answered,” and “praise his holy name!”

Unfortunately, users will have to ride this newly-discovered wave of happiness all throughout the summer months, as the update is not scheduled to be released until the fall. It seems that we mortals must endure our earthly tribulations just a little bit longer before the heavenly rewards of iOS 8 will all be ours.

June 16, 2014

Where Will SMS Marketing be in 2020?

 

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The mobile landscape has undoubtedly changed the future of marketing. Thanks to touchscreen keypads, more people are sending text messages now than ever, and marketing campaigns are capitalizing on that trend. However, as technology evolves, companies must understand not only how consumers use their smartphones today but also how they will use them in 2020. 

The Future: SMS Marketing, Plus More Mobile Apps

While the year 2020 will see increased mobile customer service and messaging app use, trends also indicate that SMS will remain an effective way to convey appointment reminders, sweepstakes, voting campaigns, and other services. Thanks to iPhone, Google’s G1, and the Blackberry Storm, it is true that thousands of user-friendly mobile applications are now available. At the same time, when rethinking SMS mobile marketing efforts between now and the year 2020, one should realize that 7 out of 10 apps are created for use on iOS, not Android. SMS marketing, by contrast, is and will continue to be effective across platforms.

Messaging Apps and Mobile Marketing

In deciding where to concentrate today's mobile marketing efforts, businesses know that Facebook is the most popular app, with Google Play, Google Search, YouTube, and Pandora Radio at a near tie for second place. In the near future, however, messaging apps will be taking the lead. 

Facebook's own messaging app has become a major topic of conversation in mobile marketing due to recent discoveries that user messages were being scanned for marketing purposes. However, the mere fact that the company has introduced a separate messaging app is worthy of buzz. Doing so falls right in line with the trend that has Twitter and Instagram introducing their own messaging apps as well.

The effects of these messaging apps and others like them on the future of marketing promise to be great as companies seek out innovative ways to monetize the services. Taco Bell, for instance, has begun sending coupons via Snapchat. Similarly, Absolut Vodka is using WhatsApp to engage with consumers. Several chat services, including Japanese-based LINE and Dutch-based Nimbuzz, are enabling in-app purchases, with LINE generating revenue by allowing users to buy oversized emoticon “stickers” that they can then paste into mobile conversations.

Continued Role of SMS Push / Pull Messaging

Today, SMS marketing mostly means advertiser-initiated “push messaging” and consumer-initiated “pull messaging.” On the one hand, interrupting consumers with push messaging has the potential to negatively affect a brand. On the other hand, SMS coupons, for example, are still exchanged eight times more than their email equivalents. One growing trend that will likely continue through 2020 has been the use of push messaging to win over customers by offering them something of value, whether that be a mobile coupon, doctor's appointment reminder, or golfing weather forecast.

Popular examples of pull messaging today, by contrast, include campaigns encouraging consumers to opt in by texting to a shortcode. For instance, in exchange for texting a question, the user receives not only an answer; s/he is also opted in to receive future sales notifications, coupons, etc.

The two most popular uses of pull messaging—sweepstakes and television viewer voting—are simple ways to generate revenue and thus unlikely to be replaced any time in the near future. In addition, QR codes will continue to be an important pull messaging strategy, since 40% of consumers who scan subsequently make purchases. 

While mobile app use is clearly growing – and while text marketing may be moving toward customer service applications – SMS will also likely continue to be a powerful marketing tool between now and the year 2020.