A few years back, the only kind of marketing that got gurus excited was social media. Facebook had blown up bigger than Mount Vesuvius, Time was cataloguing influential tweets prior to Twitter’s much ballyhooed IPO, and the proliferation of social sites had started to recall the heady days immediately prior to the bursting of the dot-com bubble. Today things look a little different. Oh, social media still matters, but some of the hysterical devotion has faded.
Facebook’s revenue growth is slackening, fans don’t flock to Twitter like they once did, and academics are publishing scholarly papers on social media fatigue. Into this environment steps OpenMarket’s Andy Shirey with a provocative proposition in a recent edition of Mobile Marketer: The SMS functionality of mobile phones matters more to most consumers than social media.
By all means, read the entire piece, but allow me to summarize. Shirey foresees a transition from forcing everything Internet-related into a smartphone-sized mold (think of phone-formatted web pages) to an embracing of SMS, mainly due to its tried-and-true effectiveness. He notes that “an astounding 83 percent of millennials open text messages within the first 90 seconds of receiving them,” numbers that social media can’t come close to replicating.
For that reason, businesses will turn to application-to-person (A2P) SMS (i.e., appointment reminders, delivery notifications) and chat bots in order to meet these preferences. Indeed, “millennials are only receiving zero to five text messages from businesses a week, with 20 percent noting that they never receive texts from them at all.”
Now, predicting the future is a tricky business. Business guru Peter Drucker once wisely observed, “Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.” In other words, we’re likely to get things wrong more often than not. Still, I see signs that Shirey’s prognostications may have the ring of truth to them. Just consider the following …
- Big banks have begun to move away from physical meetings with depositors to connecting with customers twenty-four hours a day. What’s prompting the shift? They’ve noticed how the simultaneously short- and long-term nature of their business meshes with current technology—and their clientele has noticed it, too. “Nearly half of millennials want to receive SMS alerts from their bank and when they have a mobile app on the phone-top, 28 percent of millennials would prefer push notifications, per Salesforce.”
- Billy Gridley, CEO of the charging-kiosk company Brightbox, is rolling out a number of new advertising campaigns, most of which have a decided focus on SMS communication. “Retailers are opting to construct targeting SMS messaging campaigns via the Brightbox as the point of inception for dialogue with consumers,” he says. “We are also driving retail and healthcare app downloads by sending links via SMS and email.”
- Most lower-income communities only end up communicating with the media when something horrible happens, but Macon-based GroundSource wants to deliver news to lower-income communities via text message—and have them communicate their cares and concerns right back. “Texting has emerged as something that anyone can do. My parents can text, my kids can text, it’s a very natural way of communicating,” states founder Andrew Haeg. That functionality has led to a New Orleans public-radio station regularly communicating with 1,200 local contacts via text message.
Again, I don’t pretend to be a prophet. But I believe both in SMS’ power to connect with consumers and that its reputation as old-hat technology is misguided. So who knows? Perhaps we really will see an SMS resurgence in the very near future.