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Dec 08, 2003
How To

Six Best Practices for Text Messaging Campaigns: Warner Bros. Tests IM, SMS and Email

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Text messaging is on the rise in the US , with a reported 2.4 billion messages being sent every month (compared to 1 billion per day in Europe) -- and 80% of US text messaging comes from 12-30 year-olds.

So when Warner Bros. wanted a marketing campaign for the blockbuster movie Terminator 3, a perfect fit for that young adult demographic, executives decided to run a multi-channel campaign that included mobile messaging.

The campaign was an interactive trivia game made up of nine questions played out over the course of three weeks. For each correct answer, players were entered into a drawing to win a private screening of the movie for themselves and 200 friends.

We talked with Steve Petrofsky, VP Professional Services m-Qube (the company that worked with Warner Bros.) about best practices used in a mobile campaign. Perhaps not surprisingly, Petrofsky has found that many of the hard-and-fast rules for email hold true.

-> Best practice #1. Offer multiple response channels

Banners on the T3 Web site, AOL's entertainment section, and elsewhere throughout AOL drove to the game's landing page. Once there, users were offered three choices for how they wanted to be contacted:
o SMS (short messaging service), the common denominator across mobile carriers for text messaging
o IM (instant messaging)
o email

Though he couldn't give out specific numbers, Petrofsky says IM was a popular choice. "If it wasn't the first choice, it was close to the first choice."

According to m-Qube's senior VP of Biz Dev during his talk at AD:TECH, a little less than a third of the 53,000 players who participated chose SMS.

-> Best practice #2. Spread the campaign over time

Petrofsky and his team structured the game to keep players' interest high over a period of three weeks to encourage multiple branded experiences. This is especially important for an entertainment brand that people might only purchase on a weekend.You want multiple weekends.

Players could only receive three questions per week, for a total of nine questions over three weeks. "If you responded to first one, you'd get the second, then the third," he explains. "But then you wouldn't get any more until the next week."

-> Best practice #3. Target the time users are most likely to play

Just as with email, it's important to consider when you send your multi-channel campaign. For IM, the best time to send is obviously when a user is online.

Petrofsky's team created a bot that woke up automatically to send the questions when the user went online.

For text messaging, the team made sure to send the message in the afternoon or early evening. "People do respond at night, or at 1:00 in the morning," says Petrofsky. "That's okay, if they're responding to us. You really don't want to disturb people early in the morning."

-> Best practice #4. Be succinct rather than clever

SMS is limited to 160 characters, but in reality, that limit is somewhat lower because "there's an overhead required by the operators in each message," Petrofsky explains. "We generally use 140 characters, so the challenge is to fit all the questions and multiple choice answers in that."

To make that work, Petrofsky had to choose words very carefully, and abbreviate in places.

For example:
"For" is abbreviated to "4"
"You" is abbreviated to "U"
"Two" is abbreviated to "2"

"We use a dictionary and have a system where you can write a phrase and it will abbreviate it for you," he says. "It's do-able." But don't try to be too clever. "People sometimes don't know if you're abbreviating or misspelling."

-> Best practice #5. Offer opt-outs for SMS and IM as well as email

No matter the channel, users must be offered the opportunity to get off the list, says Petrofsky. For both SMS and IM, the short and sweet get-off message for the T3 campaign read, "Reply end to stop play."

-> Best practice #6. Short subject line

Again, shorter is better. "If you have a small screen on the phone, you don't know what you're getting" because you can't see the whole subject line at a glance, Petrofsky says.

His team crafted the subject heading to read simply, "T3 Trivia."

m-Qube won AD:TECH's Best Wireless Campaign Award, 2003. For information about the 2004 awards
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