Best Practices for Successful SMS Campaigns, Part 2

In the first installment of this three-part series, I shared best practices for attracting and retaining SMS subscribers. In this second part, I will concentrate on best practices in creating posts that maximize engagement and minimize opt-outs. The third and final post will deal with tailoring and adjusting your SMS campaign to make sure you’re sending the right message to the right customer at the right time.

Don’t Send Anonymous-Looking Texts

Have you ever received an SMS sent by 64567 or some other meaningless set of numbers. It’s a bit creepy, don’t you think? Is that what you want your customers to think about you and your text messages? Don’t you want them to see who sent the SMS?

SMS routers let marketers select the sender name. Even if it costs a bit more, that’s money well-spent. In some countries, specific opt-in or sender name rules apply, so if your SMS router advises you to use alphanumeric or numeric sender, follow their advice.

Let Your Customers Select SMS Topics of Interest

The golden rule of successful marketing is that it has to be about what serves your customer. Never forget that your customer may not agree with you about what’s important enough to interrupt her dinner date or business meeting. If you insist on sending content that your customer doesn’t accept as important, she WILL get the last word by opting out. Thus, only send SMS messages to say things that your customers will find important.

You can certainly send things based on your customer knowledge, including:

However, give your customer full control over what content you send them via SMS. Let them select topics of interest and location (if you send localized SMS offers) and let them update these selections, because their situation may change over time.

For example, if you’re a sports equipment brand, one of your customers living in Paris may only want local offers and news from your Paris shop. Then, when they move, they may only want to receive local content from your Versailles shop. Then, after they’ve gone from occasional runner to avid enthusiast, they might want you to stop sending them offers for consumer-level running shoes and now only send offers for pro-level shoes.

Keep Text Messages Short and Sweet

SMS allows up to 160 characters. This means that if you send 160 characters via SMS, it will go out and arrive as a single message. What it does not mean is that it’s a good idea to send such long texts as part of your SMS campaign.

Another thing you could do in your SMS campaign that would be a bad idea is sending out multiple texts. Don’t do this. People don’t like reading novels on their phone (I’m sure you don’t either). Moreover, the longer the SMS you send, the greater your customers’ fury if the content is inaccurate, since you’ve wasted more of their time reading it.

I can already hear the next bright idea some of you may have, “I’ll just use abbreviations to cram more information in a shorter text!” You can guess my response to this “stroke of genius.” People are busy and have a lot on their minds. The shorter and clearer your message, the better. If you send something like “SWYD! HOS 2Day only!” most recipients won’t have a clue that you just invited them to stop what they’re doing so they can come to your half-off sale today only. You may also cause many to opt out.

One exception to that rule is that you should shorten links using a URL shortener such as,, etc.

If you want to add personalization fields, conditional content, etc., figuring out the maximum number of characters you can still use gets complicated and requires testing. To avoid testing, send no more than 100 characters and you should be fine.

To Use Capital Letters or Not

Using all-caps catches attention. It’s the digital equivalent of shouting. Does this mean you should use all-caps in your text messages?


It depends on your audience, your brand’s style, and the content. If you’re sending an SMS to youngsters, they may like seeing lots of capital letters. If your brand tends to use lots of big images with flashy discount offers on your website and in your emails, using all-caps is the SMS equivalent. Finally, as I mentioned in the previous post, you need to make it easy for users to know how to unsubscribe, so you should include “Reply STOP to unsubscribe.” That’s a perfect example of content where all-caps will be appreciated by most recipients.

Segment and Personalize

Segmenting and personalizing makes any marketing more effective. Doubly so with SMS. SMS is so intrusive that you have to personalize your text messages as much as possible. Never send “blind” messages that may have no relevance to the recipient or she’ll opt out on the spot.

It’s also important for measurement (see the final installment of the series for more on that). If you send a coupon, make it personal so it won’t leak to the Internet. Each coupon code should only work for its intended recipient, and only once. That way you can track conversion on a one-to-one basis.

Takeaway on Creating Effective Text Messages

People are busy, and your SMS interrupts what they’re doing. Respect this by following the above best practices. Make it easy to see the texts are from you, let the customer control what content they receive, keep your SMS messages short and clear, and personalize them as much as possible. Doing all this will make your SMS campaign more engaging and minimize customer upsets that lead to opt-outs.

In the third and final installment of this series I will go into best practices of sending the right SMS to the right person at the right time to maximize engagement and ROI.