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The Decline of SMS and the Rise of the Mobile Internet

October 25, 2013

When I entered the mobile technology/marketing sector in 2007, I had no idea of the potential that this new media had. Clearly the CEO of my company did because here we are, 6-and-a-half years later.

At the time, the company where I work were at the cutting edge of mobile, offering Java games, mobile content (wallpaper, themes, ringtones, SMS tones), SMS campaigns and simple mobile websites.

Mobile internet was then dominated by WAP, which compared to the mobile internet of today was slow and tedious, not helped by small device screens. All of that was of course to change with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. The follow-up in 2008 was even better, with the launch of the iTunes Store and these app thingies that would become a massive hit worldwide on several different platforms, not just Apple-owned ones.

SMS promotions were the darling of our offering, especially for the FMCG client that I worked with for 5 years. Measurable, scalable and more-often-than-not successful, that is until the advent of today’s high-speed mobile internet connections and FACEBOOK.

The thing is, users usually have to pay for an SMS to a short code and companies have to pay for the response SMS. Whilst an SMS doesn’t cost the earth, there’s not a whole lot of personality in a plain old 140-character text message, in comparison to a Facebook interaction and all of the information about the user that accompanies this. Facebook is a cross-platform platform, available optimised on most devices. All companies need to worry about is ensuring that their apps, competitions and content is available for those devices. With graphics, content and personality, Facebook is definitely the arch-nemesis of boring old black and white SMS. Or is it?

SMS continues to have its place in the mobile marketing arsenal. Like kryptonite to the ever-powerful mobile internet… the big ‘E’ appears on your phone screen, your 3G connection has gone, the internet is loading horribly slowly but you can STILL send and receive SMS!

In the same way, not everyone checks Facebook all the time or has alerts set up on their device for when new posts are made on a company’s page, whilst 97% of SMS are read. That’s a massive read-rate and if the call to action is strong enough, this can reap huge response rates.

Finally, there’s the personalization factor: A good database behind a mobile number makes all the difference. The FMCG client I mentioned before launched a loyalty program in 2007 and linked mobile numbers to its loyalty accounts. This meant we had information about people who responded to SMS campaigns to hand and could, if desired, personalize SMS or send out specific SMS-shots based on various information about the user. This is much more personalized than a general Facebook post, which all users are able to read.

To come to the point: SMS may have had its’ heyday in the marketing budgets of most companies as social media platforms like Facebook grow and expand and content marketing becomes king, but it’s still a valid and useful way to communicate consensually with customers in many situations.

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