Social media vs SMS – Why SMS wins every time

SMS marketing is still very much a cornerstone of digital advertising – even though newer options like social media have stolen some of its limelight in recent years.

It’s not that SMS is less effective at driving engagement than social media. It just paradoxically sounds like old news. Mobile users could send texts even before they had colour screens, at a time when Facebook existed only in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room.

However, whilst social media has now evolved to become a full marketing service, businesses of all sizes have continued to invest in SMS advertising and have found few reasons to shift their spend to other platforms.

There are lots of reasons why SMS marketing is a more powerful way of connecting with an audience than through the social media portals of Google+ and Facebook, but here’s a brief overview of the facts…

Instance access to audiences

Forget spam filters, follow lists, postage or even an internet connection – when you send an SMS to a customer on your ‘opt-in list’, your brand message goes straight to their pocket. Studies from Frost & Sullivan, among others, prove that texts are read as much as 97 per cent of the time; brands that continue to invest in the platform are clearly enjoying an industry-leading click-through rate.

Admittedly social media can also access millions of potential customers through the release of bite-sized brand messages, though its effect is not nearly as immediate. Marketers must first have success with their first hundred or so messages before they can build up a big enough audience. From there, creativity must help to highlight their ads. What if half of the 50 or so followers then decide not to check their social media accounts that day? A big story could break, forcing a brand’s big marketing push off the page and into the ‘150 new updates’ folder. Facebook claims that on average, 16 per cent of an individual’s or brand’s fan list will see a non-sponsored post. That’s 97 per cent for SMS on 16 per cent for social media – a landslide victory.

No account holders needed

Businesses looking to target or at least consider older consumers will stay as far away from social media as possible. Stats from Pew Research show that more over-50s are getting into social media, yet in 2010, only one in ten held a Twitter account. Older folks or people without a lot of knowledge in technology are far more likely to stick to the basic functions of ‘call’ and ‘text’, should they buy a phone.

The lesson here is that social media requires an audience to sign up, download an app or sustain a level of interest. Texting is a function built into every single phone, which means every message delivers.

Quick set-up

With SMS, the time to market is immediate. No waiting for ad copy to be proofed, weeks for new plans to be designed; it’s set-up and be seen. Social media is a little similar to SMS in that ‘followers’ or ‘fans’ of a page have to sign up to receive updates, although the maintenance of a Twitter or Facebook account is highly time consuming.

Social marketers often stress the importance of delivering a regular stream of content to encourage consumer engagement. This requires someone to update the page a few times per day, check for comments and respond accordingly. Literally within the space of minutes (potentially seconds in a list containing hashtags) a post or tweet is relegated to the bottom of a comment list, which means the production of fresh content, over and over again, is a must.

In other words, it’s the job of a dedicated worker who knows a thing or two about customer service. SMS requires a far less maintenance, with fans talking back by snapping up the deal or discount on offer.

Simple but effective

Lastly, text marketing delivers a simple message with no filler. Advertisers can directly give the customer what they want, and measure the response. Social media provides a profile, a picture, sometimes hyperlinks and hashtags – all of which can make a 100-character response hard to decipher. SMS marketers will know of ways to explain everything in the simplest of formats, leaving no consumer second-guessing what’s on offer.

Ultimately, this is what SMS stands for. Achievements are based on the offer at hand, with little standing in the way of the target. It’s simple, effective and should fit snugly into any multi-channel campaign.