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Written by
Katy Ratican
27 Apr 2021
5 minutes
Sending the right message: What is SMS texting?
What is SMS texting and is it still relevant today? No matter how many texts you've sent, you might not know the answer. Check out our guide to find out!
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You might have been sending SMS texts all of your adult life, but did you know that SMS texting is a useful tool for business messaging as well? Step aside email, you've got a new boss!

Even though there are many other messaging services for personal use, such as WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Signal, WeChat (in China), and Line (in Japan), when it comes to business, plain old SMS remains the most popular of all.

Read on to find out exactly what SMS texting is and why it is still a useful and relevant tool today.

What is the history behind SMS texting?

SMS stands for ‘short messaging service’ and it was created as a telecommunication technique in the 1980s. Engineer Neil Papworth sent the first-ever text, which simply said "Merry Christmas".

Since its conception, SMS texting has remained humbly straightforward. It does exactly what it says on the tin, allowing the exchange of short plain text messages of 160 characters or less, primarily between mobile devices.

In the past, longer messages would be cut up into chunks, sometimes arriving out of order. Thankfully, this is a problem of the past due to the truncation notation to the metadata (also known as computer science wizardry!).

There are many different kinds of SMS texting, some of which you might have heard of:

  • P2P SMS - this is person-to-person SMS, more commonly known as text messaging

  • MMS - this is a multimedia messaging service, which allows pictures, videos, audio, and other multimedia in addition to text

  • A2P SMS - this is an application-to-person messaging service, which is most commonly used in business messaging

  • Toll-free SMS - this allows you to use the same toll-free number for calls and mobiles, and is best used for person-to-person SMS

  • Short Code - these are short 5-6 digit numbers used for sending a high volume of messages

  • 10DLC - these are 10 digital local phone numbers that allow application-to-person messaging and a high volume throughput of messages, with the benefit of presenting a lower risk of spam than short code messages

Benefits of SMS texting

Speediness

The reason SMS texting is so popular is because of its speediness. Thanks to their small size and the way they are transmitted, they arrive within a matter of seconds. This is especially valuable when you are in a rush to get a message across, but the phone lines are jammed, busy, or down. Think Christmas or Black Friday sales.

Reliability

Another reason that SMS texting is used so voraciously is reliability. Unlike voice calls, emails, or social media, SMS doesn’t rely on receivers being in range or checking certain platforms. The message simply arrives on their mobile phone as soon as they have a cellular signal. All your receiver has to do is glance at the time and they’ll see your message waiting.

Accessibility

Text messages can be received by anyone who has a mobile phone, even if it isn’t a smartphone. Almost everyone has a mobile, and 98% of mobiles can receive SMS. There’s no need for internet access. This is great for businesses who worry about getting access to all of those customers who don't have email or social media.

Some other advantages to consider:

  1. It's more private and less intrusive - you can send a text message to a client without intruding upon their personal space and time. They can read it whenever they are ready for it. Interestingly, though, most text messages are read in a manner of minutes.

  2. The person you are sending the text to doesn't have to be available for them to receive it - it's a store-and-forward service, which means it will be stored until your customer's phone service until they can receive it.

  3. SMS texting can be used to send messages to a large number of phone numbers. This is known as mass texting, and many businesses are using it to their advantage today.

SMS texting is evolving as time goes on

Instead of becoming outdated and being thrown out of the running, the usefulness of SMS texting continues to evolve as it finds a new place within the landscape of technology.

In particular, SMS texting is gaining a huge foothold in business services. The current marketing climate is highly competitive.

Other channels such as Instagram, Facebook, and email are overcrowded and noisy, meaning most customers are burnt out from advertising-overload. Try as they might, many businesses find that customers increasingly ignore their attempts to connect in these spaces.

Enter the hero of instant reach — SMS texting. Because SMS texts are read so quickly, it's a great way to send time-sensitive information to customers and potential clients.

Banks use SMS texting to send information about the person's accounts and services. Grocery stores are using SMS to send coupons and promotional deals to the person's phone directly. In fact, there are many different use-cases and reasons that businesses should be using SMS text blasts.

SMS can also come in handy for mass texting. A particularly wild success story is the time that SMS texting enabled 1.5 million Libyans to register to vote through SMS in a never-seen-before scenario. It just goes to show that as long as you know how to write an effective mass text message, the possibilities are endless.

SMS guidelines and regulations

As SMS texting for businesses and services becomes more popular, the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) has come up with stricter regulations and rules for how SMS texting will work for consumers and potential customers.

If you are a business that's looking to send SMS texting to your customers, or leads, you need to ensure that you are being compliant. Like spam services in email, poor etiquette with SMS messaging could leave a black mark on your business.

Consent is usually given by clicking an opt-in button when subscribing to a website, through text, or verbally. Whether you’re sending a promotional message or an informational message, this consent is imperative.

Final thoughts

As time goes on, SMS texting will continue to evolve and change. For the time being, it certainly has a stronghold in human-to-human and business-to-customer communication.

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