Have you sent or received a text message before? Great! Most of us have. “Text messaging” and “texting” are common terms used in the US. In most other parts of the world, people use the acronym SMS, for Short Message Service. Regardless of what you call it, its impact and reach is undeniable, both for personal and business use.
The average email is opened within 48 hours, while the average text message takes just four minutes (PhoneArena). What does this tell us? If you want to reach somebody quickly, it is wise to send a text message instead of an email. Why is this? Just think about how you behave when you get a text message. Do you immediately open your phone to see the message? Probably, given that you hear a familiar sound. Now think about what happens when you get an email. Do you even know that you received an email? And, if so, how do you know it is something that commands your individual attention? In general, the people who have your phone number are fewer in number and more trustworthy than those who have your email. And your mobile phone, where you receive text messages, is a much more personal device than your email. True story: while typing this blog post, I received a text message. Guess what I did? I stopped writing, picked up my phone and read the message.
Nearly every mobile phone today can do two things: make a phone call and send a text message. It doesn’t matter if you have a simple feature phone or the latest iPhone. Both calls and text messages operate the same way across all devices. Keep in mind that mobile phone penetration worldwide is above 85 percent and in the United States is 105 percent. (Many countries have a mobile phone penetration rate greater than 100 percent, because although every person in a country may not have a mobile phone, others have multiple phones, such as one for personal use and another for business.) Because of this ubiquity, you can assume that the population you are aiming for has access to text messages, which you can use in your mobile enterprise strategy.
What to use text messages for
You know that text messages can cover a wide audience, but what kinds of messages work well in the enterprise? Think about the messages that you receive: they often fall into a few categories. First, there are personal messages that you receive from friends and colleagues. Most text messages you send and receive fall into this category. These are about personal communication. Alerts are other common messages whose goal is to deliver late-breaking information. I get text message alerts when my favorite basketball team is playing that keep me updated on the game score. Universities have also begun to use alerts for emergencies and the like.
What kind of messages to send
How can personal messages and alerts be used effectively in the enterprise? Through the research and projects my group at IBM Learning has done, we find it is critical to have action-oriented messages. Instead of just giving the recipient some information, use that message as an opportunity for them to take action. For example, if you have an upcoming virtual event, you can send a text message reminder for the user to take action and join the event. The action does not need to happen on their phone, but the text message is used to grab their attention quickly. We are building a system that allows this type of automatic communication to help drive event participation.
You do not always need action-oriented messages. For example, your system could automatically send the latest financial information for a company or deliver breaking news for an industry.
How to integrate text messages in a mobile enterprise strategy
There are a few things you should consider when looking to use text messages in the enterprise. Decide whether the service should be opt-in or opt-out. A good general rule is to give users the option to register for your service and not require them to receive the messages. Because a mobile phone is such a personal device, it is always best to let the user act first. When you have your users, be sure to use text messages sparingly. Be clear with your users on the frequency with which you send messages, and take care not to exceed it. Start out with one or two text messages per week and adjust accordingly. Finally, be aware of the time when you are sending the text messages. Nothing turns you off more than getting a text message about work in the middle of the night, when you’re sleeping. Time your messages to happen during work hours.
Tools to send text messages
You’ll need to use an SMS gateway for sending and receiving text messages. These companies provide the necessary infrastructure for you to get up and running. Clickatell is a popular service that many enterprises use. Twilio is an agile, low-cost provider with its own application programming interfaces (APIs) and is quickly becoming the tool of choice for many companies.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a text message to send.