The Reluctant Texter

Nielsen Mobile this week released a report saying the average U.S. cellular subscriber sent and received 357 text messages per month in the second quarter of this year–compared to making or getting 204 monthly phone calls. No surprise there. Mobile marketing experts have long said that SMS usage in North America would soon catch up …   Read More

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Nielsen Mobile this week released a report saying the average U.S. cellular subscriber sent and received 357 text messages per month in the second quarter of this year–compared to making or getting 204 monthly phone calls. No surprise there. Mobile marketing experts have long said that SMS usage in North America would soon catch up with that of the rest of the world–in which texting trumps calling, due primarily to costs. Even in the United States, texting is becoming THE way to reach consumers in the manner they like best, as long as they have subscribed to receive such messages.

What gets me, though, is that some people still refuse to see the light. That is a fatal mistake for marketers. Some of the most common arguments I’ve heard–and reiterated on recent news blogs–are:

Text Is For Kids: Even members of the tech-savvy crowd insist that only teenagers and young adults are into SMS. Further, these myopic commenters lament texting, whether because it erodes the English language, is another example of instant gratification, or is a weapon of stealth in which evidence is quickly erased. The Truth:While the 13-to-17 crowd does send the most messages of any demographic, they aren’t the only ones using SMS. Remember, the Nielsen figure cited above is for an average of ALL mobile subscribers, which certainly includes adults of all ages.

Text Is Too Expensive: A reader of Wired’s blog, of all places, complained of SMS costs. Even though, since it’s surpassing voice in usage,  it’s clearly affordable for most cellular customers. Critics complain that per-message costs of $0.20; remember the Telus text scandal of a few months back. The Truth: Even phone minutes cost a lot if you’re using them a la carte instead of in bulk. Same with SMS. Most U.S. providers now offer “unlimited messages” for a set price that’s often lower than their thriftiest voice plan; they also offer packages as cheap as $5 for 200 texts (AT&T Mobile).

No One I Know Really Texts: Marketers sometimes say this when confronted with SMS opportunities for the very first time. The Truth:I once had a boss who, way back in March 2005, didn’t believe it when I said that CEOs and major enterprises were starting to use blogs for branding and marketing. He soon saw the light, as did the rest of the corporate world. In the case of texting, marketers shouldn’t just accept my argument–they should look at Nielsen and other figures for themselves.

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3 comments

  1. LeilR

    I must say, big and small companies should start integrating SMS in their marketing campaigns, before its too late. Strike while the iron is still hot. And besides, running an SMS campaign won’t hurt their marketing budget coz some offer text platforms for free.

  2. Eydie

    Rob, I was wondering the same thing about figures. I could have sworn I read something showing that it’s on the rise–if any alert readers can find it, plesae share the link!

    But there are serveral reasons why MMS probably won’t become a major marketing channel:

    First, the SMTP vs. SMPP thing: For example, it’s harder to send out a single MMS message to gobs of subscribers than an SMS message, because of the complexity of the technology.

    Second: Because texting was much cheaper than calling in most countries, SMS became the de facto preferred method of communication. MMS, on the other hand, was ever a “practical” solution.

    Third: Not all cellular networks make MMS easy. Here in the United States, my sister has to go online to a special Web site to see pix I MMS her, because her carrier required that she sign up separately for MMS service. And last year I had a friend visiting from the U.K.; she could not MMS or even email me pix she took of us on her phone camera, because she didn’t realize she needed to sign up for extra service to do so.

  3. Rob

    Are there any recent stats on MMS user data? Although obviously the lagging sibling to SMS, has there been any increase in the take up of MMS? If not, why not? Is it still a time issue before MMS takes off, or has the boat been completely missed?

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