Texting Gives Businesses Another Channel

Texting Becoming Bigger Part of Business Communications

Melcrum had an excellent blog on Monday about text messaging as a communications channel. Their focus is on internal communications—so Mike Berry, their head of content, worries about “hard-to-reach and non-wired employees, perhaps on production lines, factories or distribution centres”—but there are lessons to be learned for external messaging as well.

Berry leads us to a survey on texting conducted by the Vitiello Communications Group and a report they issued in their October 2010 online newsletter called Dialog.

“Business communicators constantly balance between push and pull; between information overload and attention deficit,” wrote publisher Jill Vitiello. “What we’ve found is that most people want information they think is important at the moment it is meaningful to them. Anything else is considered an imposition. The organizations that communicate most effectively provide a range of choices. Texting is just one of them.”

The newsletter reports that the healthcare community has embraced texting, as patients are opting in to be reminded to take medication—including people trying to stop smoking. They found from their survey that the majority of organizations do not use texting as a communications tool—although most respondents said that, personally, they send between 1 and 25 text messages a day.

The latest Pew Research Center study reports that nearly three-fourths of all mobile phone users send and receive text messages (up 7% from a year ago). In her blog, Vitiello writes that companies seem to reserve text messaging for crisis situations. In summary, she writes: “Like every communication channel, texting has advantages and disadvantages. When used judiciously, texting can influence consumers to buy your product, remind patients to take their medication, and warn employees of an emergency closing. In our research, we found that asking permission and providing access is the best approach. The stakeholders who want your information and are willing to receive it as a text message are most receptive to your message.”

The New York Times also wrote about the power of texting recently, in reference to groups that raise money for charitable causes. The American Red Cross was able to raise $2 million in the first 24 hours after the earthquake in Haiti hit—by allowing people to use a simple code and the word, “Haiti.” The article talks mostly about the expenses and limitations of raising money through texting, but the power is not debated—especially with people under age 30.

In the report on using texting to quit smoking, “two of the studies looked at programs that only involved text messages, finding that the service doubled the odds that smokers would quit over six weeks.” New Zealand apparently has a government program called Txt2Quit that automatically sends users two to three text messages per day and is relatively successful.

Vitiello also leads us to a place called Mobile Health Interventions that sends you text messages “at the times and in the places you need it most” to “help you change unhealthy behaviors.” Custom texting. They write that “studies show that guided text messaging is a simple but powerful way to help you meet your health and wellness goals because it keeps you on track at your weakest moments.”

Berry at Melcrum also refers us to a “case study of how Virgin Atlantic uses text messaging to contact its cabin crew.”

Text messaging can be yet another valuable form of communication and marketing, but has to be studied a bit and used judiciously. I’m not sure how much SIPA members use text messaging, either internally or reaching out to customers. I will put a question on the listserv, and if you use texts in some way, please let us know in the Comments section and we can revisit this topic in the near future.

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