The Real American Idol Winner: TXT MSG Marketing

We started watching American Idol crown winners back in 2002 and many of the “idols” have gone on to enjoy successful careers in the music industry. But the real champion to emerge from the hit show is text message—aka SMS—marketing.

Millions of Idol viewers each week use the AT&T sponsored text message voting system. AT&T along with the television show itself then tap into that huge pool of text voters to build brand awareness and enthusiasm via marketing tools such as drawings and trivia contests.

Small Business Strategies

It’s easy to see how the Goliaths like AT&T can leverage text message marketing. They can afford advertising space on billboards, time on television shows and pages in magazines. Getting people to see their “Text BLAHBLAH to 54321” message easily falls within their marketing budgets. But what about the small business Davids? Are there ways they can take advantage of this marketing channel?

The main hurdle that needs to be cleared is getting the initial opt-in. For smaller businesses with tight marketing budgets probably the easiest and most cost effective strategy for achieving this is by using social media. Piggybacking text message marketing from a Facebook page can be extraordinarily effective.

Deliver Value

Consumers are very touchy about text message marketing when they feel like businesses are abusing it. A few years ago an unwanted American Idol promotional message from AT&T spurred a firestorm of nasty instant commentary in the microblogosphere. Reporting on the misstep, Marketing Vox cited a survey where 56 percent of the respondents said they consider a text message spam if it’s “just not interesting to me.” Value is critical.

Value to consumers can be things like discounts, useful information and rewards. One movie theater chain has a simple and effective social media-text message promotional strategy that many small businesses could adapt. Fans of these theaters’ Facebook page sign up to receive a weekly mobile coupon via text message for a snack bar discount. It reminds consumers of a weekend entertainment activity to consider and for those who were a bit undecided about attending, it’s often the incentive they need.

For service providers, a text message can direct clients to an especially informative blog post. The key here is that the blog can’t just be a puff piece that rehashes information clients already know—that’s the downside. The upside is that smart phone users depend on their devices for news and updates. If your blog delivers real industry news, you have a winner.

Case Studies

As advertising and marketing strategies get more diffuse it creates both confusion and opportunities for small businesses. The number of options is huge so finding the best is difficult. But at the same time, when the ideal channel combined with the right offer is uncovered, the effectiveness can be impressive.

It’s all about creative ideas and the best way to prime the mental pump is to see what others are doing by reviewing case studies. For example, Vincenzo Ravina reviews ways that mobile app developers can leverage text message marketing to get an edge in that crowded field—which is really what the goal is here.

Also meriting your scrutiny are the case studies at the Mobile Marketing Association’s website. Not all of the examples here are purely SMS based. You’ll have to do some exploring, but the way they have their case studies categorized is very helpful.

Once you have a general direction for a campaign that you believe will best serve your business, be prepared to do some tweaking until you are truly hitting the mark.

Consumers open text message within five minutes nearly 95 percent of the time, according to industry statistics. Is there any other way to get your customers’ attention that effectively?

Sounds like it could be time to text COUNT ME IN to SMS marketing.

Photo Credit:

“Obama Text Message Announcing Biden as his VP,” © 2008 Paulo Ordoveza, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license:

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

The following two tabs change content below. specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Chamber is focused on providing the latest business news, small business advice, and helpful tips and resources for small businesses, entrepreneurs and mid to enterprise level companies. Follow us on Twitter at @ChamberOnline.

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