E-mail might be students’ preferred medium for talking with their parents, but text messaging is what they use to talk with their friends. So how are you taking advantage of this phenomenon? Campuses are using text messages for emergency notifications, but your union or activities department could be using them to promote bookstore sales, advertise upcoming events, send news updates, and invite students to participate in programs.
This kind of text messaging is typically called “bulk SMS.” SMS stands for “Short Message Service,” referring to the 160-character limit for most text messages. Some companies provide bulk messaging options as part of a more comprehensive marketing software package or customer relationship management program. However, options also abound at various price ranges for campuses looking for a standalone service.
One obvious challenge for jumping into their marketing medium is how to identify students’ mobile phone numbers and receive permission to text them, which you legally must do. Luckily, several services offer opt-in and texting services.
Spark Network Services provides a variety of web-based text-messaging options. TXTLaunchPad.com is used for many emergency notifications, prices for which range from 500 messages for $70 to 10,000 messages for $499. PromoTXT.com is a marketing service that nightclubs, newspapers, athletic venues, and others use to send text messages to their customers. Pricing is subscription-based, calculated in terms of the number of messages sent per month (from $79 for 500 messages to $499 for 10,000). Roll-over opportunities are available. With both TXTLaunchPad and PromoTXT, you can load a large database of phone numbers via a .csv file, the service records a history of the messages you have sent, and you can monitor your messages in real time or review weekly reports. PromoTXT also provides an opt-in service to capture new mobile numbers (e.g., “Text SUBWAY NOW to 84444”).
Another opt-in and text messaging service is Gold-Mobile.com’s Message Goblin. Message Goblin allows users to text a keyword thereby opting in to receive further messages from you. You can then send SMS messages or pre-recorded voice messages or schedule these messages. Another of this company’s services is Shout Goblin, which might be most attractive to campus programming boards. Shout Goblin can be used at concerts and public venues to allow people to give shout-outs to their friends by texting a message to a designated number. Alternatively, they can text the answer to a trivia question you might have asked or you can use the service to filter questions during a public speaking event.
Similar to ShoutGoblin, Trumpia.com serves retail stores, promoters, schools, and churches with its phone number collection service. Like voting on American Idol, people can text a keyword to a designated number and receive an automated response you’ve created. Mobile keyword-only pricing plans ranges from 500 messages for $79 to 2,000 messages for $199 per month with rollover opportunities. Or, you can purchase mobile keyword messaging credits in blocks from 1,000 for $100 to 100,000 for $4,500.
If you already have permission to text a list of numbers, then opt-in capability might not be a criterion for selecting a service provider. In this instance, you have more companies available to you.
If you’re looking for a low-key way to see whether sending messages to groups is an appropriate marketing platform for your organization, Joopz.com might be a service worth exploring. It is free to schedule messages and to send up to 50 of them per month from your PC or Mac or you can choose an unlimited package for $19.95 per year. The downside is that you have to enter them 10 at a time. Note whether you want to send messages in Broadcast or Chat mode (the latter enables recipients to respond to all recipients).
A more comprehensive service, Message-Media.com offers software- and web-based solutions that allow you to import phone lists to send messages to up to 5,000 numbers simultaneously. The program interfaces with Outlook to save messages that are sent/received, and you can enable SMS replies to go to your inbox. The service works with all U.S. mobile carriers and has international coverage. Message Media’s website also boasts a guarantee of service quality and customer support including a dedicated phone line for customer assistance, which was not uniformly offered by other service providers. Custom pricing quotes are available online.
Australian company RedOxygen.com interfaces not only with Outlook but also with Lotus Notes, and you can choose to have replies sent to your e-mail. Messages are tracked and recorded, they can be scheduled, and a “mail merge”-type option enables message personalization. Monthly pricing varies according to the number of messages you want to send and how many users you want to have access to send messages. Alternatively, you can purchase message credits in increments from 500 ($54) to 10,000 ($504).
A similar service, BulkSMS.com, has web-to-text, e-mail-to-text, and desktop-to-text options. Like many other services, you can upload phone numbers, schedule messages, view message history, control the sender ID, and personalize messages with name merge. However, Sprint and Nextel are not supported carriers. Pricing ranges from $10.60 for 200 messages to $920 for 20,000 messages.
With BizMobile, you can schedule or immediately send text messages from your PC; reporting capabilities and message personalization are supported. A distinguishing feature of this particular company is that you can customize your phone book into frequently used distribution groups. Pricing is available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each institution is unique and will differ in how it wants to use text messaging. These are by no means the only solutions out there, and you will want to do your own investigation to determine what service-provider is the best fit for your needs. However, if you’re not using all the marketing opportunities available to you, you could be overlooked. So maybe it’s time you considered text messaging.