There’s been a lot of ballyhoo amongst affiliate marketers regarding mobile marketing and the riches that affiliates are supposedly going to be able to make.  I can assure you that most of it is false or trumped up by supposed “gurus” who have plans on selling unsuspecting affiliate marketers their course on how to make money with mobile.

Short Message Service (SMS) communications are an ideal way to reach/engage an audience.  There’s a big BUT and an even bigger IF that needs to be attached to that statement.

To really understand how to engineer a relevant and profitable SMS campaign you have to understand the relationship between the end user and their phone.  Specifically how they see their phone being used by you to contact them.

98% of text messages get read, and some additional astronomical number of those that get read, get responded to.  Compared to direct mail or even email, SMS messaging is the holy grail of marketing communication.

So the BUT I mentioned earlier attached to SMS being able to reach/engage and audience is this: BUT they have to actually tell you they want to hear from you.  In the online space most users (99%) never read the Privacy Policy or Terms & Conditions when signing up for a newsletter or some other communications.  They never read how the information they share on a website will be shared with every 3rd party they can solicit to send you email, track your movements online, send you junk mail and call your home at all hours of the day.

But in the SMS world, the end user is asking you to send them something, and if they don’t like it, every message comes with its own permanent unsubscribe message attached to the end of it.  Because a phone is a much more personal device than say a PC or a laptop, users tend to feel very selective about which messages they WANT to receive.  Thus, if you are thinking you will buy a list of SMS numbers from a broker and start blasting, expect that you probably will have some large number of legal and financial troubles for the next several years.

And you don’t even have to buy the list.  If you think collecting mobile numbers on your site and then sending anyone you collect an SMS message to their phone is ok, then you probably will join the list buyers in financial and legal woes for a few years.

The lesson to learn in SMS, is to attract your audience with something short term that they want.  This means you have to further understand circumstances that an SMS campaign is being brought into service for.  In some cases it is branding (not often) but it most cases it is a time sensitive contest or poll that the user is then able to gain financially from or receive feedback on participation.  This is the engagement factor.  The key to a successful SMS campaign is then taking that engagement and turning it into action.

The IF I mentioned is this: IF you have the right content your audience will respond the way you want them to.  This involves getting them to raise their hand and tell you what they want.  Using short codes achieves this nicely.  A short code is simply when you ask your audience to text back a series of letters or numbers to a specific number.  For example, the recent voting for the NBA All Star Game was conducted via an SMS campaign.  All you had to do was text back the last name of the player (the short code) to a specific SMS number.  Such as Rose to 97999.  This automatically entered your vote for Derek Rose.

A short code is how you establish relevance.  From an affiliate’s perspective, this is where you now have the ability to send very relevant messages to your audience who opts in to receive SMS text messages from you.

For instance, an affiliate can give their audience several short code choices which indicate their preference for certain communications.  Someone who owns a site dedicated to gardening, can then use short codes to “bucket” the audience and send out relevant SMS messages.  For instance, the affiliate could use the following short codes:

  • Hydro (short for hydroponics)
  • Veggie
  • Flowers
  • Deals

Each short code then has an associated message theme that runs through the text messages sent.  For example, the Veggies messages all center around growing your own organic food, so the test messages would send tips and links to relevant information on growing vegetables.  A best practice is to not send out too many messages that have any type of offer in them.

By sending out content-based messages and watching the number of opt out requests, a marketer can gauge if the content is hitting home with their audience.  By sending out SMS messages once in awhile that have a great deal or a discount on seeds or other gardening items, then users will appreciate that you have built up a level of trust that they will not opt out the minute they think all their subscription is doing is helping pay your bills.