One of our customers, a zoo based in Colorado Springs, uses our SMS capabilities to provide information about daily zoo programs and activities. They use signage within the park to promote the keyword visitors can text to get a truncated zoo program schedule texted back to them. This is handy if you want information about show times and don’t want to take and carry around a brochure, and it saves the zoo the cost of printing expensive materials (plus: it helps conserve paper, which is also critical to the zoo’s mission). A win-win for everyone!

The zoo created this program using our SMS auto-responder capabilities. With their Signal account, the zoo configures the response to be automatically deployed when someone texts for information. This response is a “set and forget” feature that deploys whenever someone texts your short code with the keyword for info. (To prove how awesome I am, I recently set up my own: text katherineraz to 75309 and see what you get. Message and data rates may apply.)

Auto-responders are a useful tool marketers can use to provide immediate information to customers to take with them and reference on the go. However, there’s an important thing to note about auto-responders. The contact information you collect when customers text your short code for an auto-response cannot be used again for marketing purposes.

This means the zoo can’t contact visitors who text to receive the show schedule. And it means if you texted katherineraz to 75309 a minute ago, I can’t contact your mobile number again with marketing messages pertaining to Katherine Raz. The one-time response is it — the last you’ll hear from me.

These auto-responders, and similarly contest and sweepstakes entries, are considered one-time communications by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA). One-time message programs result in one or two messages being sent to the consumer at the time the interaction is initiated, but no further communication is permitted because the one-time message is not considered an opt-in. Why? Because the appropriate opt-in language is not included in the one-time message.

What does this mean for you?

If you want to set up an auto response to be deployed when users text your keyword, but you also want to use those mobile numbers later for marketing purposes, you must include all appropriate opt-in language up front. And instead of setting up an auto-responder, you’ll set up a timed message in Signal to be deployed once someone opts in to your list.

Let’s say you’re a film producer promoting an independent film and you want to provide information about showtimes to people in different cities and festivals. You can take two approaches:

To be able to use the numbers later for marketing purposes, the CTA would look something like:

For Sundance showtimes and to sign up for future alerts about OUR FILM, text SUNDANCE to 75309. (Up to 3 messages/month, message and data rates may apply, text STOP to quit, more info:

For one-time uses, meaning the film producer could not use the numbers again for marketing purposes, the CTA would be a bit cleaner:

For OUR FILM showtimes at Sundance, text SUNDANCE to 75309. (Message and data rates may apply.)

The advantage with a one-time message is that you can quickly and effectively communicate with customers via their preferred device. The drawback: you can’t use the numbers again. However, because customers aren’t joining a list there are fewer steps and less bulky legalese to include in providing your marketing information. Because of that, you may get more responses. (And that doesn’t mean you couldn’t ask someone to subscribe to your marketing list later.)

To summarize, one-time messages and recurring messages are two very different animals, even though they’re both communicated through SMS. The two communications tools serve different purposes and it’s important to remember that even though you can’t use the SMS numbers collected through a one-time message program, sometimes a one-time message program is the right tool for the job.

photo credit: ucumari via photopin cc

Katherine is the Community Manager at Signal.

Posted in Mobile Marketing