Tall Tales Of Short Message Services

Today, companies are increasingly turning to SMS or text messaging campaigns to improve the efficiency of their marketing and CRM communications, but when considering SMS, it is important to understand how to leverage it properly in enterprise environments so that common missteps can be avoided.

Below I have outlined six of the most common questions companies have when considering SMS, and the simple answers to help overcome these hurdles.

What is a short code, and do I really need one?

Short codes are the four- to six-digit numbers you see for today's texting campaigns. When combined with a keyword, these codes can be used to perform a variety of actions in messaging campaigns. One benefit of short codes is that they route messages to a server rather than a carrier's SMS gateway, meaning organizations have the ability to manage, control, route, audit and store everything associated with any messaging campaign, enabling them to capture large amounts of data effortlessly. Short codes can also increase an organization's profit margin by bringing added value services such as personalized CRM communication or mobile wallets.



How can I get a short code, and what do they cost?

The only way to get a short code in the U.S. is through the Common Short Code Association (CSCA), which manages all short code leasing in the country. In order to lease one, you must apply with the CSCA for one of the two types of short codes that are available, "random" or "vanity," the latter enabling companies to use branding in the code itself (like spelling out "Google" with your six-digit code). Random short codes cost around $500 per month to lease, while vanities will run you $1,000 per month.

So, I got my short code; what's next?

The next step is to develop and deploy the specific application for your campaign. Once functional, it must be submitted for certification by all of the carriers you would like to have run your campaign. The approval process can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months but can be minimized by having an SMS aggregator apply to all carriers simultaneously. Without the use of an aggregator, organizations must contact each carrier individually for application certification. SMS aggregators have widely varying pricing models for their services, so shop around for the aggregator that fits your organization's needs and budget.

Should I incorporate MMS?

MMS, or Multimedia Messaging Service, permits the sending of Internet-based data (images, audio and video). MMS requires capabilities that do not exist on all mobile phones, such as Internet-enabled data connections. Another drawback is that there is currently no single MMS format that meets all carrier and handset interoperability requirements, making MMS both economically and technologically prohibitive.

SMS, on the other hand, is a fundamental aspect of any cellphone call made in the world, and thus, by definition, works on every mobile phone. The use of SMS (via an overhead or paging channel) causes your phone to ring, receive voicemails, provide caller ID information, etc.

Bear in mind that broader reach should be your top priority and SMS is the common denominator for every cell phone used today. Ergo, if your mobile strategy only incorporates advanced wireless capabilities, you are severely limiting your reach. Is that good enough for your organization's mobile strategy?

How does the MMA fit in the picture?

The Mobile Marketing Association is an industry-sponsored association that looks over the conduct of enterprises and aggregators specific to mobile messaging campaigns on wireless networks. The MMA has very strict guidelines on the type of content that can be sent via SMS and stresses that all campaigns must be operated on a permission basis, meaning the user must initiate and approve the conversation (or remove a user's number from a database, if requested). These permission-based protocols help control spamming to wireless users. It is very important to adhere to these guidelines, as the MMA can terminate a campaign for violations.

Is there anything else I should know before I launch?

Launching a mobile messaging campaign has the potential to be one of the biggest assets in your overall marketing or CRM strategy. Once implemented, texting can provide a cost-effective method for dynamic, personalized and engaging communication with your customers. But one must be very knowledgeable of the ecosystem and follow the specific guidelines that have been established. It is also critical to be aware of various industry patents, especially regarding mobile content delivered via SMS text.

SMS can be the next step in the evolution of your mobile strategy, but in the fast-paced world of mobile marketing, only the most targeted, well-managed campaigns that respect the end user have the ability to take your organization to the next level.

2 comments about "Tall Tales Of Short Message Services ".
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  1. John Van Wagner from Piqora, August 26, 2010 at 10:17 a.m.

    This is a good sms 101 column, thanksl Robert. As a means of supporting more adoption, however, I'd like to point out the process of certifying a shortcode rarely takes 6-12 months. Anyone new to mobile should seek out help from an aggregator and a mobile marketing services firm or agency. Doing this will cut that time to just 2-3 months.

  2. Mike Simms from j. simms agency, August 27, 2010 at 12:15 p.m.

    In response to John, that's still a ridiculously long time to provision a medium that promises speed and simplicity as its strongest qualities for market outreach. Carrier certification is the biggest block to the success of using SMS as a viable marketing tool. Not disagreeing with you on the need of using an agency to guide and expedite the process. Just saying that even 30 days is too long to provision a program in this day and age. What's the solution?

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