SMS Call to Action best practices

A keyword call to action (or text call to action) is when a promotion tells the viewer to text in. This takes the form of “Text KEYWORD to SHORTCODE”, where the short code is a 5-6 digit number that is statice and the keyword can be chosen and tracked to the promotion. If I were a marketer with the Cleveland Browns I might have a call to action that reads.

“To put your name down for 2020 season tickets, text BROWNS to 216216.” 

Let’s break down how all of this might work.

“To put your name down for 2019 season tickets,” Good calls to action are actionable. Good calls to action don’t say, “For more info…”. It’s required to have a specific reason that someone should text in. If people want more info, they already know what to do. Good calls to action are driving a specific action

For example, a newspaper I worked with wanted people to text in and join a database of sources for news stories. If the paper needed to speak with a doctor that was over 65 and in the past had helped a passenger on a plane, they would have a database of people to connect with.

When the paper’s call to action read, “Would you like to be a source? Text SOURCE to 12345”, no one texted in. When the paper ran a story about a dog attack and the call to action read, “Have you ever been attacked by a dog? Text DOG to 12345”, the results for this second call to action were great.

The most important aspect of the call to action is the reason that someone might text in. What is the motivation? Because SMS might be something new, organizations often get distracted by the technical aspects and might overlook the value for the user texting in.

Talking with hundreds of organizations about creating text message calls to action, a few best practices have emerged. If you’re developing a radio or TV ad, or will be on stage telling the audience to text in, these are the things to remember.

  1. Make the call to action clear. The call to action should avoid confusion. No one needs to remember the call to action for the future. If they are going to text in, they will do it immediately. So don’t get too cute. Make sure that the call to action doesn’t stop them from texting in.

  2. Repeat the call to action. This is true for any response channel - if you’re promoting a URL or phone number, it’s important to repeat it. This is especially true with text messaging where an SMS call to action may be new for viewers.

  3. Show and tell the call to action. Some people are more visual, and some people focus more on audio. No matter who the audience is, it’s best to do both. Show the words on screen - “Text JOIN to 12345” and say them at the same time. This will just get the best results. 

  4. Share a good reason to text. As mentioned before, the reason behind the call to action is the most important aspect. If it’s interesting and valuable, people will take action. If the promotion isn’t that interesting, getting any response will be an uphill battle. 

Last note, use calls to action to test different messaging, ads or media channels. Keywords naturally act as tracking codes, so you can measure and compare response for each keyword that’s promoted. 

If you have use of a messaging platform, give text message calls to action a try. The consistently produce better results than simply promoting the URL - especially from traditional or offline promotions.