The use of SMS (short message service) also known as text messaging has been well-ensconced in Europe and Asia for some time now. Teens have enthusiastically embraced it in the United States. But, it has only begun to emerge in the United States as a marketing tool because of all of our competing phone companies with differing technologies. Most people are unaware that SMS can be used to get instant information, send money, make money, and to save money.
SMS or texting involves sending a short text message limited to 160 characters to a cell phone number, email address, or short code. A short code is a five or six digit number used for commercial convenience so that you don't have to remember or to key in a whole long phone number.
No wonder the younger generation has already enthusiastically embraced texting as the preferred means of communication over phone calls and email. SMS is fast and efficient. Of course, there's the down side too, and SMS has been used for cheating on tests so that some schools frown on their use. Another negative aspect is the cost of per text messages. Warning: if you plan to text, get an unlimited plan.
To text someone, just input the recipient's cell phone number in the To: box, key in a short message (no more than 160 characters), and push send. Alternatively, you can send a text message from a phone to an email address.
More sophisticated phones worth their salt will offer a countdown log in the corner of the input screen indicating how many characters you've typed and how many remain. Some more sophisticated phones offer canned messages that you can tap on and edit to save inputting time and effort. Examples of canned messages are "in a meeting, on a call, running late, where are you? Can you talk now, call me, email me, wanna do lunch?" Some devices such as my Treo 750 also offer a popup grid full of emoticons.
With the limitation of 160 characters combined with the cumbersome tasking of inputting text on a phone keypad, text users have come up with a language of their own to save time and strokes. For instance, 2GTBT=too good to be true; 143=I love you; 404=I don't know. Go to www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp for a good reference for text messaging abbreviations. There is also a chart with an array of emoticons on the bottom of the same page.
Texting has many advantages over email and phone calls. Brief text messages can be assimilated quickly by the human mind compared to processing phone conversations with all the extras and social amenities. Text messages can be archived and automatically linked for easy review on more sophisticated phones. Text messages are never dropped or cut off because of bad reception. Messages are transmitted instantly and can be used in situations where talking on the phone would be awkward, such as in meetings or in public places. You can send links or URLs to Web enabled phones. Texting if fun for casual flirting and for building good karma with thoughtful messages and reminders. Busy people can become even more effective using SMS.
We are only beginning to see the emergence of SMS marketing in the United States. For instance, TV shows such as American Idol have used it successfully for voting. The millions and millions of responders are evidence of its popularity and acceptance. Unfortunately, voting was only open to AT&T customers. The problem is that all the different carriers in the United States have competing and differing technology. Fortunately, there are companies like Synergetics (www.synergetics.org/sms) that make it possible to bridge the gap across platforms.
Think of the power of SMS with respect to marketing. There has never before been such a powerful means of marketing. Almost everyone carries a mobile phone these days. People don't leave home without them, and they are your constant companion. Accordingly, a marketer has the opportunity to reach customers at anytime any place.
Unlike email in which must despised SPAM has become widespread, SMS is not subject to SPAM. That is because the receiver must request the information and can instantly opt out by simply texting back the word STOP.
I will discuss the applications of commercial SMS more fully in a future article.
With text messaging, you can quickly send/receive information, make reservations, make contributions, send money, receive money, make money, and save money. I will be discussing all of these aspects in future articles. SMS is a powerful way to target consumers on the move because it goes where the customers are. Most consumers find the novelty of SMS fun and engaging. Email has become snail mail compared to the efficiency of SMS. Texting will soon become the preferred marketing method of large and small businesses because the future is in mobile technology. As Bill Gates has predicted, mobile phones are the future, not laptops, and not Pocket PCs. Mobile marketing will expand accordingly.
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About the author: Timothy S. Hillebrand, Ph.D. is a retired archaeologist who has a newfound passion for mobile technology and has published hundreds of articles on the subject. His most recent passion is SMS. To find out more about text messaging for fun and profit, visit his SMS Blog.
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