How to use text messaging in your content strategy and customer service offerings

Estimated read time: 6 minutes

For decades publishers have talked to me about doing more with text messaging.

Let’s send breaking news via text

The latest headlines

Something content related

But most of those texts blow. I don’t need a text that there is a bad car wreck in the paper’s area. I wouldn’t mind a text when the wreck is on my way home. Or if there’s some other connection to me. Of course, that would require some truly sophisticated personalization of content syndication.

Other breaking news is similar. That murder case might be high profile but do I need to interrupt my meeting to hear there’s a verdict? Probably not.

Heck, I even turned off general alerts on my phone. When that presidential alert went out I didn’t get it. And did I miss anything? Nope.

And the more I watch the use cases out there, trying new content syndication methods and see what people in customer service are doing I have come to one conclusion: there might be a place for text messaging and content syndication but the real place is in personalized customer service.

The true advantages of text

In 2020, James Pelton, CEO of Mobile Text Alerts, was on the Business Storytelling Podcast to share the true advantages of text messages.

James started his company to help churches get messages out quicker to the congregation. He mentioned that it’s an easy way to reach a larger number of people quicker.

Open rates on text messages are way higher than emails, said James. Another advantage is that a lot of companies don’t use texts yet. It can help you stand out.

Text messages on podcasts

Texting also can have a place in podcasting. Hosts can say: “Text <something> to <phone number> to get <something you want>.”

James explained it’s much easier for hosts to say the short number versus saying a longer URL. On the flip side it can be easier for listeners to text than to type in the URL. One podcast client was reporting a 4x increase in conversions when moving form a traditional landing page to a text push, he said.

Timing of texts

James explained that text alerts work well for something that is happening now and that prospects and customers want now. You could test texting out that a new podcast is available, but maybe that’s just too similar to the example from publishing above.

“One principle to keep in mind is – always offer value,” James said on the podcast.

Some of the best campaigns have come from restaurants that send out lunch offers the right amount of time before lunch time.

Value and timing are important because those will customers subscribed and engaged with the texts and ultimately the company.

How often should you text customers?

Twice a week might be okay, James said. Some companies do it more and that’s okay when they truly offer value to the audience.

Make sure to test and look at the numbers. Unsubscribes and click  rates can be measured currently. Open rates not yet.

READ MORE: Flipboard is one potentially good syndication method for publishers!

Other great examples of business text messages

When I wanted to change my New York Times subscription we just texted back and forth. It was quite pleasant of an experience and I didn’t have to wait on hold on the phone.

When I was asking about Washington Redskins season tickets they also texted me and we chatted about seats, costs and availability there.

Another one was from Newegg. Going through the American Airlines AAdvantage portal for extra miles I ended up on this company’s website to buy something.

I had a question about my purchase and tried to contact them through the website. There are a number of ways to get in touch with them including the live chat, a phone call and text messaging. I did send them a text message and while they were closed that day they did respond the following day.

So even though that didn’t work out in the specific case the service is still great and potentially useful. And typically it’s much easier to respond to text messages than it is to live chats from mobile devices.

To get more customer service tips like this one check out my customer-focused book here

The final examples was from Sheraton hotels.

One happened as I was staying a night at the Westin in downtown Cleveland while speaking at Content Marketing World. As I was settling into my room they texted me and asked if everything was to my likings.

It was and I appreciated that timely and in-the-moment correspondence.

I didn’t take a screenshot for one reason or another or can’t find it.

I also had a chance to make additional requests they responded to my reply. Great customer service and much better than them calling me and asking me the same thing. I’m a much bigger fan of text messages than unscheduled phone calls.

That’s another strategy and implementation to consider: What’s the protocol if people reply to your messages with a question? Is somebody paying attention or do you have a chatbots-type system turned on to continue to offer a good customer communications experience?

I actually once responded to my texts with the Redskins asking where a parking lot was at FedEx Field. They responded on a Sunday morning. It was quite a customer delighter.

The second example came to me from the Sheraton on the Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. The hotel is located right across one of the three falls and offers rooms that allow you to have a great view.

As we were arriving into the Toronto airport I received a text message from the hotel that also shared a parking map with me.

I also liked how they mentioned the spa-even though I hardly ever go to a spa at a hotel. But on our second day in Niagara Falls it was raining most of the day and the text message at least got us talking about considering going to the spa.

More importantly though for timely communication was the other content of that text message. First of all, I was able to figure out the difference in cost between valet and self-parking before even got there and then when we arrived I remembered to look at the map to find the parking garage much quicker than I probably would’ve otherwise.

I ran across another example when I was flying Iberia from Madrid to Düsseldorf and about an hour before boarding they sent me a text letting me know which gate we would be leaving from. Very helpful:

Some great examples of text content.

They worked because they were:

  • Timely
  • Relevant
  • Short

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a positive experience like this with content-only text messages. I’m talking about the ones that aren’t personalized to me and are really just a tweet in a text message.

So there certainly is room to use text messaging in your customer service strategy and maybe less so in content marketing strategy.

If you know of any good content marketing examples feel free to send me a note here.


Political campaigns and texting

With Iowa where I live and its  first in the nation caucus I’m also getting a lot of text messages from politician and their campaigns for US president. I’m pretty sure I did not opt into them but I still get them and usually don’t respond to them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they have better success with the text messages versus phone calls but again it can get overwhelming and the more overwhelming text messages get the more they’re just like emails.

This was first written in 2018 and updated in 2020.


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