Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Do You SMS?

SMS (short message service) or text messaging has become well-entrenched in Europe and Asia. It has been slow to take off in the United States because of our competing telcos with differing technologies. Teens and the younger generation have been quick to adapt texting as their preferred mode of communication in the U.S. With more and more TV shows using SMS for voting (American Idol and Donald Trump), polling, and for joining fan clubs, its use is becoming more widespread. However, few people use SMS to the fullest advantage. You can use SMS to get instant information, send money, make money, and to save money. It is actually the most powerful marketing tool ever conceived.

Sending a text message consists of two elements. First, you have to send it to either a mobile phone number, email address, or a short code. A short code is usually five or six numbers used for non-personal or commercial messages for convenience so that you don’t have to remember or key in a long phone number.

Personal SMS

No wonder the younger generation has enthusiastically embraced texting as the preferred means of communication over phone calls and email; SMS is faster and more 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. I suppose another downside would be parents' complaints about excessive per message charges. A word to the wise: If you plan on SMSing, get the unlimited service plan.

To text someone, go to the messaging area of your phone’s functions and select SMS or Text Message. Enter the recipient’s phone number in the To: field and then type your message in the message field. Select Send, and off it goes.

Text messages are limited to 160 characters maximum. Some phones display character counts. If you go over 160 characters, some phone will split the messages and automatically create sequential messages. Some phones have canned text with phrases you can select such as “email me,” “wanna do lunch,” “on phone.” You can edit the list to create your own phrases. Some phones have a table of emoticons or smiley faces you can select.

The 160 character limitation and the laborious task of entering text using a phone keypad have combined to produce an evolving character-efficient text talk with new words and abbreviations. For example, 2GTBT=too good to be true; 143=I love you; 404=I don’t know. For a comprehensive list, go to
www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp. Check out the emoticon chart too.

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.

Commercial SMS

Texting in the United States for commercial purposes has just begun to emerge. Perhaps you have noticed texting first on TV shows such as American Idol. You can text your vote using your cell phone—if you are an AT&T customer. Even though limited to a single carrier, the show receives millions and millions of votes showing that it is a well-received and popular activity. The problem of competing technologies of all the different characters has been overcome and the gap bridged by companies such as Synergetics International SMS (
www.synergetics.org/sms) so that it is now possible for businesses large and small to take advantage of this technology for marketing purposes.

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.

It is important, however, that unlike email there is no SPAM involved. The customer must initiate and invite the contact and can opt out at any time.

I will discuss the applications of commercial SMS more fully in a future article.


SMS is an amazing technology that goes far beyond personal communications with its commercial marketing possibilities and as a platform for information retrieval. You can use SMS for making money, sending money, and saving money. I will explore all of these possibilities in more detail in future articles, so stay tuned. Texting is the future of personal marketing. The future is in mobile technology. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has predicted that mobile phones will shape the future, not laptops, not PDAs. It seems that Apple believes this too with the release of its new iPhone.

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