"SMS personalizes the conversation – but for those providing the content, it also raises the stakes." If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably got a pretty solid business. You’ve promoted a good product, engaged your community on social media, and you’ve delivered the kind of top-notch customer service that makes people swear by your brand. Now you’re enjoying the benefits of having a loyal following – but you’re not quite sure what to do with it. One of the biggest problems thought leaders face is how to level up their communications. Your community members want to hear from you; they want to get inside your head and better connect with your life and ideas. Email and social media allow you to do this to some extent, but I think we can all agree that these have become kind of clunky. People are well-intentioned when they sign up for your email list, but at least some of your messages will get lost among their other concerns. And Twitter and Facebook posts can feel a little too formulaic and in-your-face, unless you’re a massive brand that can take advantage of ad hoc live broadcast tools. SMS, on the other hand, is a more intimate way of staying in touch with your audience. Think about the influencers you respect the most. Wouldn’t you be willing to receive non-marketing texts and updates as a member of their communities? I know I would. People also behave differently in private conversations than they do on social media. Think about the times you’ve wanted to reply to a tweet or comment on a Facebook post from someone you admire. I’m willing to bet there was a lot of self-editing and internal conflict going on. We all want to impress the people we respect, and there’s a lot of pressure when conversing on public platforms. SMS personalizes the conversation – but for those providing the content, it also raises the stakes.
SMS Please, Somebody Text Me
SMS campaigns work particularly well in what I refer to as micro-communities, or groups of less than 500 people. These include youth groups, membership organizations, academies, and app users. Leaders in these spheres need to influence their members without outsiders butting into the conversation. SMS provides a way to do that. From a marketing standpoint, SMS is a no-brainer. Most people read a text within three minutes of receiving it, making this the most effective way to send breaking news updates, event notifications, and other timely content. More importantly, SMS has a 98 percent open rate and 36 percent click-through rate. That’s roughly 12 times the average click-through rate for email. Other messaging apps such as GroupMe and Facebook are less effective than direct SMS because they require people to download the app and turn on push notifications. SMS is universally accepted and it’s always “on.” But SMS marketing comes with a new set of responsibilities. When people agree to receive texts from you, they’re taking the relationship to the next level of permission. Email is one thing, but having direct messages sent to their phones is something else entirely. You should view this permission as a sacred contract and uphold your end by respecting their time and privacy. Just because people are interested in hearing from you doesn’t mean you can get careless in your strategy. Here’s how to make the text dynamic work:
1. Don’t abuse the relationship.
Set your delivery times within an acceptable window, and only share worthwhile content. Interesting updates or user-friendly polls are fine, spammy links are not. That should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how many brands disrespect their followers through vapid or ill-timed text blasts.
2. Focus on value-based messaging.
Personalize your texts as much as possible using name and other data placeholders. Invite your fans to answer questions and send feedback rather than just passively consuming your content. These people signed up for your SMS alerts because they want to hear directly from you, so make sure you sound like a human and not a sales-obsessed spambot.
3. Avoid overly promotional content.
Identify user segments within your community, and send relevant SMS messages to those groups. Stay away from mass texts and hyper-promotional alerts. SMS permissions are an opportunity to amplify your personal impact, not sell people until they hate you. SMS is the new frontier in digital marketing, and it’s a fantastic way to connect with your community. By maintaining boundaries and honoring your commitment to providing valuable content, you deepen the bond with your audience and strengthen their support of your brand.