Acquiring Social Media Followers with SMS

By Jessica Gaynor One of the best ways to achieve social media marketing goals is by integrating digital channels as part of a cross-channel promotional strategy. Though Passbook, mobile web, push, and voice all present viable options, one channel that performs exceptionally well while driving social media traffic is SMS.

For the majority of customers, texting a keyword to a short code  is simpler than attempting to correctly copy a URL or scan a QR code. Because of this ease, consumers prefer SMS over mobile web. An SMS prompt can return a social media homepage's URL, which significantly increases the chance that customers find a company's social presence online. No searching or typing, just direct placement onto a like-gated page.

Take, for example, Ashley Stewart, a women's retail company which took the approach of sending a URL to its mobile subscribers in order to promote a Facebook contest for Mother's Day. Within minutes of delivering the link to its mobile subscribers, the Facebook page saw a 600% increase in likes.

Beyond ease of use, harnessing SMS to promote social media sites stands out for two reasons:

1. Open Rate

Mobile phones are a modern staple; people read news, email, and play games from their devices constantly. Practically everyone keeps their cell within arm's reach all day and even by their side while they sleep at night. With SMS, 83% of text messages are read within the first 3 minutes of receipt, and the open rate for texts is 98%. Sending a text directly to a mobile phone nearly guarantees it will be seen. Providing a link in a text opens the door for users to quickly and easily engage with a social media page. With the smartphone adoption rate recently vaulting past 50%, the cell phone is quickly becoming the mode that most customers use to browse social sites like Facebook and Twitter during any point in the day.

2. Familiarity

SMS is not new; users are well versed in text messaging and find it comfortable and easy to use. Coors Light paired SMS with a social media promotion because its target audience (young adults) finds texting particularly fun.

So, given these benefits, what are some engaging ways to gain even more social media subscribers via SMS? Whether you have a small, or even nonexistent, SMS subscriber base, you can still use SMS to promote your social media pages. Here are a few ideas that will dramatically increase your followers:

(a) Viral SMS – Offer a prize for users who refer a certain amount of friends via a unique code or URL, or offer a prize to the person with the top number of referrals. SMS allows customers to quickly and easily promote the social media URL to their friends.

(b) Click to Tweet or Post – Create a URL that pre-populates a Twitter message or Facebook post with content. When customers only have to text in to a keyword and click a URL to create a post, they are much more likely to engage with a brand. Offer a prize drawing to make the incentive sweeter and see more customer interaction.

(c) Interactive Quiz – Set up a daily or weekly SMS quiz that incentivizes customers with a prize. Ask a question about a link posted on Twitter a few weeks back or a question about a photo in an album on Facebook. New or existing followers can join in the quiz at any time and will find the answer by exploring online content. This type of program makes it fun for customers to engage with your brand.

Using these tactics, brands can dramatically increase their social following. Then, once an SMS subscriber base is amassed, what do you do with them? Simple: promote social media pages, news, or information about products. At a loss for content? Send your SMS list your latest tweet.

From a financial standpoint, SMS is an incredibly inexpensive direct marketing tool. Compared to pay per impression online ads, where visibility isn't guaranteed, visibility-guaranteed SMS messages are an ideal tool for growing a social media following.

Above all, the audience that is receptive to social media doubles as an expert at SMS. Pair the channels together and see the results.

What are some of your tips for marketing with SMS? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Jessica Gaynor is an Account Manager at Waterfall Mobile, a leading software provider for mobile marketing and CRM. She provides mobile marketing strategy for brands and agencies such as Prudential, Guthy-Renker, and The Integer Group. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaAGaynor.