Sending out an SMS: Why Texting Should Be in Every Social Marketer’s Toolbox

We’re excited to be partnering with the Ad Council to bring you this post from their blog AdLibbing!

Before joining the Ad Council, I founded a youth culture newsletter where I offered predictions at the end of each year. Since 2007, my predictions heralded the “year of mobile.” Mobile has now finally fully arrived, in some cases making up more site traffic than desktop. Smartphones are omnipresent and the successful valuation (or successful acquisition) of messaging apps like Snapchat or WhatsApp reinforce the reality that mobile is here to stay.

For nonprofit organizations with limited resources, mobile may simply mean having a dynamically generated, mobile version of your website. Some organizations have made the leap to responsive design, and for those targeting teens or millennials, developing content specifically for mobile devices is crucial. A few pioneers have even experimented with augmented reality. This past year at the Ad Council, we partnered with a developer to create Toothsavers, a mobile app/game for our Children’s Oral Health campaign designed for preschoolers and their parents to make twice-daily toothbrushing a reality.

While apps, wearables and augmented reality may be sexier, texting (SMS) is still the most commonly used feature on all mobile phones. It’s also an incredibly personal and, if used correctly, effective way to engage your target audience, especially if your target audience is teens, low income, African American or Hispanic, where texting over indexes. That said, even boomers are now sending and receiving an average of 80 texts per month. Unlike email, texting also has a 99 percent open rate since it’s completely opt-in and spam free.

The Ad Council just partnered with Mobile Commons to integrate SMS into more of our campaigns and have embraced the power and potential of texting.

Slice, dice and serve personalized content

By polling or asking your texters questions, you can begin to tailor more personalized content based on their responses. For example, if we ask parents about the age(s) of their child(ren), we can send them oral health tips that are more relevant for seven year-olds vs. two year-olds. When we are trying to encourage young adults to save money through our Financial Literacy campaign, we can ask them what’s most important to save for over the next six months and we can send relevant content that will help them reach their goal. We can even ask for zip codes to send information about local resources, or use Spanish key words to engage with Spanish-speaking users.

Make it personal with a persona

Because texting is so personal, it can help to give your texts a persona so they can spark more of a conversation between your organization and your audience rather than being disembodied tips. Building this personal relationship can also make larger asks, like user-generated content, more of a reality. Do Something.org, a nonprofit organization that has been wildly successful using SMS marketing to reach teens, uses “Alysha” as their persona. We are experimenting with using “Ben” short for Benjamin Bankes, our Financial Literacy campaign’s mascot.

Individual analytics

With SMS, you can measure every text, call, and click in addition to building out the texter’s personal profile, allowing you to know who’s receiving your texts, and what kinds of information they hope to receive from you. Unlike the digital environment where analytics tools track nameless users, SMS offers you a much deeper understanding of your audience.

Anastasia Goodstein serves as Vice President of the Advertising Council’s Digital group where she manages the team in charge of digital and social strategy for all Ad Council campaigns as well as AdCouncil.org. Prior to joining the Ad Council, she lead the product development and marketing for the Inspire USA Foundation’s primary service, ReachOut.com, a digital space for teens struggling with depression or other mental health issues.