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Text Message Marketing for Radio Stations -- Interactivity on a New Frequency

Aug 17, 2007
There are three things that we never leave home without any more--your keys, wallet, and mobile phone.

Note that we no longer have a need for a watch. Those of us who still wear watches do so only because it's a nice piece of jewelry; it's no longer a functional item with a cell phone in your pocket.

There were 157 billion text messages sent in the United States last year! That's up 61% over the 98 billion text messages sent in 2005! There are now more cell phones in the United States than there are internet connections.

And, if you're trying to reach teens and young adults with email, that is just so yesterday. Text messaging represents 48% of all written communication by 15 to 24-year-olds. Remember pen and paper? Only 5% of 15 to 24-year-olds written communication is done the old fashioned way.

But, perhaps the greatest advantage of text message marketing is that you can reach your audience anytime, anywhere, any place. 84% of all consumers keep their cell phone on and with them 24 hours per day and 94% of all text messages are opened and read. That's why The New York Times called mobile marketing "the most powerful advertising medium of all time."

We all know teens love to text; 29% of teens send more than ten texts per day. But, if you think text messaging is just for teens, think again. 39% of active text message users (those sending more than ten messages per week) are over the age of 35. Even Grandma does it now--8% of those over the age of 70 are now considered active text messagers. All told, 95 million Americans are in this elite group of active text messagers today.

Another invention going the way of the typewriter is the landline phone. 15% of all cell phone owners don't bother to have a landline phone anymore and 31% are considering giving up their home phone in the next three years.

If you're a radio station executive and you're not offering text messaging by now, you may still be living in the Marconi era. The beauty of text messaging to radio listeners is that since so much of radio listening is done outside of access to general media, text may be the only medium available. If they're in their car, on the beach, or at the office, there's probably no competition from television or internet. Hence, radio and the cell phone are the means to reaching your target audience.

What do radio listeners want to do with text messaging? According to the Pew Study, they want to request songs, enter contests, and obtain station play lists. It's not surprising then that the top text message applications for radio stations to date have been contests, song requests and dedications, vote lines, station play lists, and enhanced advertising.

Enhanced advertising is where the game is starting to change for radio stations. What was once a promotional tool has now become a sales tool. What was once a cost center for a radio station has now become a revenue center.

94% of all text messages are opened and read. No other medium can make that claim, not even radio. That's why forward looking radio station sales teams are now up-selling their customers with text programs. And, it's working because the advertising works. It's no longer just a spot buy when you add an interactive text promotion to the on-air commercial. Some account executives are getting in on buys in demos where they were once shutout. Others are gaining additional market share on the buy by bundling spot buys with a station text message campaign. Mobile marketing offers the sales team a weapon that others in the market simply don't have.

Here's how it works. Next time the radio station plans to give away tickets to a concert, why have 999 frustrated callers reaching busy signals and one lucky winner? With text messaging, all 1000 listeners get through to the station. There's still only one lucky winner, but all the entrants receive the station advertiser's marketing message. More importantly, the station now has a database of 1000 opt-in P-1 listeners.

Next time the station has breaking news or a pre-sale buy of concert tickets, it will want to notify the opt-in database, thus providing another opportunity to put your advertiser's message into the palm of the hands of your loyal station listeners. Your advertiser's message gets through and your P-1's feel like VIP's.

According to Forrester Research, 43% of US marketers will be using mobile marketing within the next year. Mobile marketing is projected to generate $4.8 billion in revenue in 2011.

Radio needs to jump on the mobile marketing train. If it doesn't, somebody else will.
About the Author
Bob Bentz is co-owner of Spark Network Services . Spark Network Services has been providing non-traditional revenue services to radio stations through its MatchLink dating products since 1993. Bob sent and received 1478 text messages last month.
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