In terms of storytelling, SMS text messaging is probably as far removed from long-form, direct-action copywriting as you could be. The latter requires a highly skilled ability to transport the reader into a world of the writer’s choosing, in order to get them to take a valuable action. The former requires an infinitely simpler approach, but once again with the objective of triggering an instant action. The copywriter may spend years perfecting his or her art and frequently work with no real limit as far as the length of copy is concerned. However, the SMS marketing writer can still learn a lot of lessons here with regard to overall approach, content and composition.
When The Pressure Is On
A very successful text message doesn’t just need a swift punch in between the eyes in order to facilitate action. There is so much noise in the marketplace today that sometimes even the most outrageous offer or discount can be ignored. A truly outstanding message will use the right words, in the right sequence to get people into a motivated frame of mind. You may only have 160 characters (or 456 if you’re using fastsms), but you’ve got to use them more wisely than ever.
The Most Important Element
Any successful, long-form copywriter will tell you that writing ability is only a part of the picture. Certainly, many of these copywriters have spent years developing content and writing across a broad range of subjects. Many of them have journalistic experience, as well. Yet these same, experienced wordsmiths will tell you that research is at the heart of the matter. Copywriters can take days or even weeks to research the marketplace, the competition, the offer and buying habits, before even putting pen to paper.
The same approach needs to be taken by the text marketer. They need to go beyond the “I know my customer” stance. They need to gather as much information about the prospect as possible through market research and proper analytics so that they know the desires and wants of the customers on an intimate basis. They’ve got to know how behaviour patterns are likely to affect a buying decision, especially an impulse one, and their message can then be tailored very specifically to targeted audiences.
Every Word Versus Every Letter
While the long-form copywriter will tell you that every single word of the copy has its own importance, this philosophy has to be magnified considerably when it comes to those short text messages, especially with business SMS. The message has to be able to grab attention but do so in such a way that it speaks directly, clearly and without controversy to the reader. This calls for a good degree of creativity, but it also has to be tempered with realism and once again, a knowledge of the target consumer. It could be that humour is the best way to grab attention, but this could be counter-productive as well.
What Did You Say?!
One of the biggest problems with the written word is its two-dimensional nature. The English language is also, very definitely, full of nuances. Consequently, it’s difficult to convey a particular tone in a text message. It’s also difficult to determine whether someone is being humorous or sarcastic. This can be especially problematic when it comes to the traditional “British” style of humour, which can be very dry and frequently go right over the head of other nationalities.
You cannot always assume that the reader is going to receive your communication as if it is positive, or at the worst neutral.
It also may be tempting to use as much shorthand as possible, in order to convey more of a message in less space. Once again, it’s important to know your particular market. If you’re trying to reach a specific subsection that may be highly educated or more mature, then any attempt at shorthand could be detrimental to the objective. If this particular market segment is somewhat critical of technology, or the “younger” approach to communication, then they may view your organisation as being run by a tech-savvy teenager instead.
It’s best to only abbreviate words that are very obvious and that may already be abbreviated quite commonly in other, real-world situations. For example, “messages” could be abbreviated to “msgs” without the likelihood of confusion. Under most circumstances, you will want to avoid something like “ur” in place of “you are” to that type of market.
The aforementioned long-form copywriter may use 5,000 words in order to develop a position, but they always have one – and only one – objective in mind. It may appear to be obvious, but many text marketers are still trying to fit far too much into that one message. It doesn’t matter how many widgets you may have to sell, you have to focus just on one objective per message.
Don't Rinse and Repeat
You may be tempted to agree to the last point on the basis that marketing messages can be sent instantaneously and often. This is one way to kill conversions across the entire business, however, as this approach could be viewed as being highly intrusive.
Calls To Action That Aren't
You’ve got to have a strong call to action, though, come what may. Some marketers make the mistake of simply including a short URL by itself, without any text in order to tell readers exactly what to do. Some action words have to be linked to the CTA, even if you might think they are taking up valuable real estate on the screen.
In the broader marketing world, it’s crucial for an organisation to maintain its brand. The brand is, in turn, composed of a number of different elements including visual imagery, colour schemes, slogans and phraseology. Before any campaign is signed off it’s important to develop a mini, SMS-centric branding position, that can be used across all campaigns in the future. This may include the choice of specific words to be used in place of others that have a similar meaning. It will also include a selection of words that convey the right amount of professionalism and the same overall effect as though the reader were looking at the organisation’s home page.
Given the right amount of preparation, research and understanding of the marketplace, an SMS text campaign writer can certainly achieve the same goals as their more verbose copywriter cousins.