The Text Message Turns 20

Happy  Birthday Text Message!  This week, the Text Message turned 20 years old and, what an interesting twenty years it has been. The first ever text message, “Merry Christmas”, was sent by Neil Papworth to Richard Jarvis on an Orbitel 901 (pictured to the right).

The text message, which is technically SMS, or Short Messaging Service, allows users to send 160-character messages to individuals or groups has really taken off in recent years. Originally intended to be a paging service, the text message took some time to become widely adopted. It wasn’t until 1999 that you could send text messages across different mobile networks. And ten years later, over 1.5 trillion text messages were sent or received according to CTIA in 2009.  The arrival of the smartphone has been the single most significant catalyst in this growth.

Like most new technologies,  texts were expensive. When text messaging was first introduced, text messages could cost up to $0.25 per message or be purchased in bundles for a lower cost per message and now unlimited text messaging plans can be had for as little as $10.00 per month.

Putting on my way back hat, one of the first marketing applications for the text message was introduced by Coca Cola.  During the first seasons of American Idol, Coke allowed viewers to vote for their favorite contestants using texts.  It was a brilliant move by Coke to introduce a younger crowd to the potential of their telephone, and that of the text message.

In recent years, text messaging has played an increasing role in Content Marketing. Text messages are one of the most direct forms of marketing and according to mobileSQUARED, 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes. This allows marketers to reach their audience immediately with time-sensitive promotions and coupons to generate instant business.

And with the development of the Short Code technology, a 5 or 6 digit abbreviated phone number that can be leased, marketers have the ability to engage customers with traditional marketing channels and get consumers to opt in to receive content via text messages. This has allowed companies to drastically increase their mobile subscriber lists. Now that smartphones are just as, if not more popular than traditional cell phones, marketers can use hyperlinks in their text message campaigns to drive traffic to additional content that they may not have been able fit in 160 characters or link to pictures or videos.

How do you use text messaging in your marketing strategy?

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