The invention of the mobile phone – and then again the smartphone – has changed human life in so many ways. While some people may argue that face-to-face communication has suffered as a result, the world’s population is undoubtedly better connected than it ever has been before. It’s more than just a case of one person contacting another, however; businesses are also getting in on the action.

Mobile marketing on the whole: it makes perfect sense

It’s easy to see why marketers are targeting potential customers through their mobile phones – it’s now so normal to see people of all ages glued to their screens, but what exactly are they doing? Well, according to data from Pew Research, texting and internet access are by far the most common activities – the latter including social media time.

So as a business looking to boost brand awareness and get your product in front of the right people, which is the best way to go – social or SMS? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of each.

The art of texting for business

Texting is certainly nothing new. Most mobile phone owners will be extremely familiar with how the messaging system works and should be comfortable using it. This is one reason why it’s still proving popular among the expanding selection of internet-based alternatives, such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.

The SMS revolution has also hit most corners of the globe. While social giants like Facebook and Google are investing heavily in projects to make the web – and, of course, their own services – accessible in remote parts of Africa, South America and Asia, feature phones still reign in these markets. So, if you’re operating on an international level, your text-ready audience is huge.

What good is having an audience, though, if its members aren’t reading your messages? Thankfully, this isn’t something SMS marketers have to worry about. It’s reported that 98 per cent of all text messages are opened by the recipient, with 83 per cent read within three minutes of arriving.

These stats are even more impressive when compared to their social equivalents: 84 per cent of News Feed posts are said to be ignored by Facebook users, whilst 71 per cent of Tweets go unread and 88 per cent of all emails are never opened. So, if you want to make sure your message is read, texting is the way to go.

The social side of things

Social media has revolutionised the way in which consumers interact not only with businesses but also each other. According to data published at the end of 2013, 25 per cent of the world’s population now regularly use sites such as Twitter and Facebook. This figure may be dwarfed by texters, but its growing quickly as internet access becomes cheaper and more widely available.

Many of the boundaries faced by text marketers simply don’t exist on social media. As well as short pieces of text, it’s possible to communicate using imagery, audio clips and even videos. Being instantly accessible, visual content often generates a better consumer reaction than words alone, making these formats invaluable.

Even in today’s business environment, word of mouth is by far the most effective form of marketing. However much is spent on a single campaign, it will never quite match up to a recommendation from a loved and trusted friend or relative. This is why reliability is so important when it comes to content creation, and social media supports this extremely well. A message can spread across the main social networks like wildfire, with most users eager to share anything they find useful or entertaining with their contacts and followers. This simply doesn’t happen when SMS is used; text offers may be forwarded onto a friend but messages rarely make it beyond a handful of people.

Businesses are constantly trying to meet their customers’ needs, and as the importance of data begins to rise, social monitoring is really gathering momentum. Marketers and sales teams should be analysing their audiences’ behaviour online, but it’s difficult to make the most of the opportunities available without having a decent presence across all of the most popular social sites. Only when this is established will it be possible to truly see how your brand comes across in the eyes of your audience.

The verdict – SMS Vs Social Media – who wins?

While the popularity of social media has grown massively in recent years – and this growth will no doubt continue – it’s hard to see it ever being a match for SMS in terms of global reach and, more importantly, effectiveness.

Social media is a bit like trawling, in that you may be able to reach a huge audience quickly and without investing too much time or thought, but this is rarely the most efficient way to market a product, brand or service.

SMS, however, is a little more like line fishing. With the right information to hand, you’re in a position to target individuals or, at the very least, much smaller groups of potential customers. This way, you’re likely to generate plenty of valuable leads – just be sure to develop a real understanding of your target market before trying to capitalise on this massive opportunity.