We've all heard the phrase "the medium is the message." In the case of teens, this is even more relevant. Teens will judge your brand in an instant. But by communicating in a first-person voice in channels in which they "live," you put your brand on a level playing field. You can grab their attention more easily than with a TV ad or other traditional medium and effectively drive them to take action.
SMS is just one of the many dimensions of the mobile channel that creates results. To harness its power, you have to grab young consumers' attention with a simple, yet strong call-to-action. An SMS program's rate of participation -- regardless of its targeted demographic -- is the result of media exposure coupled with a compelling call-to-action and offer. The equation looks something like this:
SMS Call-to-Action Response = Media Exposure x Call-to-Action Strength x The Offer Value
If you follow the five rules below while keeping this in mind, you'll be on the way to creating a powerful SMS call-to-action and offer.
1. Your shortcode is your new URL. For teens, mobile is the first place they want to go. Be bold, and make the shortcode BIG. It is part of the primary message. A simple SMS call-to-action will work with any advertisement and, while their parents may not, your teen consumers know what to do with those five numbers and keyword. Put it in every piece of printed and outdoor material you have. Your Website is the only possible exception; see point 5 to learn why. When looking at the specific call-to-action, focus on making the keyword and shortcode the strong elements, as these are the keys to open the door. For example: "Text the keyword DUNK to 777483."
2. Don't forget about the value proposition! Your young consumers are not going to join just because you are a brand they know. Offer something fun, engaging, useful and valuable. What teen wouldn't love a PlayStation or a retail voucher? People love the chance to win something. We've had clients build mobile databases three times faster than other clients simply by adding a sweepstakes element.
3. Out with vanity codes. Smartphones are here to stay. Vanity codes worked well, just like those catchy customer support phone numbers that spell out the company's name (SPRITE=777483), when all phones came equipped only with the standard 12 buttons. But what teen remembers that? BlackBerries, Palms and even iPhones now have full QWERTY keyboards. If you have a vanity code, then always include the digits; it's very hard to work out the numbers from the letters on a smartphone.
4. When in-venue, remember the rule of three. The call-to-action must be announced three times and supported with a visual reminder like video on a JumboTron. Ideally, have the announcer also do a shout-out asking people to grab their phones and TXT in. Announce the keyword and short code at the beginning, middle and end of the event. You are trying to get an entire venue's attention, to borrow some of their memory, and get them to act. Also, be sure you're advertising where they can get mobile reception.
5. If online, stay online. Asking people to grab their phone to send you an SMS when they are on their computer is a fail. Instead, offer them a field to enter their mobile phone number. Time and again, we see higher response rates to this mechanic than asking them to TXT in.
Remember, mobile is a teen's remote control for their world. It holds the key to their friends, family, social networks, and it goes with them everywhere. So respect the unique perspective and needs of teens, and you'll get them engaged in your mobile program.