Mass texting could be a valuable asset to your business.
But before you jump into it, you want to understand it.
What exactly is mass texting? What’s SMS/MMS? What are keywords and short codes and “smart replies” and all these other terms, as they relate to texting?
Here are some quick answers to all these terms and what they mean.
That way, you can understand what’s being discussed—so that you can make the most informed decisions about how to move forward with SMS.
Mass texting is sending text messages to large numbers of people, typically for business purposes (such as marketing, updates, or reminders). It differs from “group texting” in that recipients aren’t able to see the other contacts that received the message.
Other terms for a “mass text” include:
Mass texting is accomplished by means of an SMS platform or an SMS API. With an SMS platform, the user has an out-of-the box solution that allows them to manage and send texts. With an SMS API, the user can programmatically set up and send mass texts based on their individual needs.
SMS stands for “short message service” and, simply put, is a text message.
It’s essentially the “official” term for a text. An SMS technically can only be 160 characters long and cannot contain media (such as images).
If your text message needs to be more than 160 characters, it will be sent out as 2 or more texts. (However, these days most phones are “smart” enough to recognize that the longer text was meant to be a single unit, so they will display the split message as a single block—otherwise known as “concatenating” the messages.)
MMS stands for “multimedia messaging service” and is a text message that has the capabilities to include media (such as images).
In addition to being able to include media within the text message, MMS also allows for longer messages (MMS sent through the Mobile Text Alerts platform can contain up to 1,550 characters).
When using a texting platform, sending your messages as MMS typically uses up more credits in your plan’s allotment than SMS. With Mobile Text Alerts, MMS count as 3 messaging credits per recipient.
Messaging credits are how many messages you’re able to send on your designated plan.
Note that each recipient for your message counts as at least 1 messaging credit. (So, for example, a message sent to 500 recipients would count as 500 messages.)
Sending an SMS containing more than 160 characters will count as 2 or more messaging credits per recipient, and sending an MMS will count as 3 messaging credits per recipient (see “What Is MMS?” above).
Inbound messages are text messages that people send in to your phone number.
In other words, when someone sends you a text message (for example, when they reply to one of your texts), this is an inbound message.
Inbound messages are included for free in all Mobile Text Alerts plans and do not count against your message allotment.
These messages can be viewed within the platform under the “Inbox” tab (see “What Is the ‘Inbox’?” below).
If you don’t use up all of the messages allotted to you in your plan, those unused messages will rollover so that you can use them at a later time.
For example, if your plan allows for 2,000 messages per month, and you only send 1,600 in a given month, you will have 2,400 messages available in the subsequent month.
If you’re on a monthly plan, your unused messages will rollover for 1 month and then expire if unused.
If you’re on an annual plan, your unused messages will continue to rollover and accumulate indefinitely.
The “Inbox” is the page where you can view and manage 2-way conversations that you have with your recipients.
From there you can see your recipients’ replies to your texts, and you can message them back and forth.
You can also assign conversations to specific users, and view which conversations are assigned to you. You can view which conversations aren’t assigned to any users, as well as which conversations have been “archived” (removed from the main Inbox view).
Furthermore, you can search through conversations, and start new individual conversations.
Throughput is how quickly your messages can be sent. For example, if your throughput were 500 messages per second, that means it would take 10 seconds for your message to be fully sent to 5,000 recipients.
Throughput is especially important to consider if you send texts to large quantities of recipients at a time. If you’re concerned about throughput issues, contact sales and let them know your expected messaging traffic. They’ll be able to tell you if you need to take throughput into consideration.
Mobile surveys allow you to send multiple-choice questions to your audience. They can reply with the option of their choice, and their response will be automatically tallied for you.
This allows you to view and compare your question’s response totals at a glance.
For example, you could ask the question, “What is your favorite color?” And you could list the response options as “Red,” “Yellow,” and “Blue.”
The system will send your recipients a text saying:
What is your favorite color? Reply 1 for ‘Red,’ 2 for ‘Yellow,’ 3 for ‘Blue’
When the recipient replies with one of the designated response choices, their response will be tallied and displayed in your dashboard.
Phone Alerts are an add-on feature to the Mobile Text Alerts platform that allows you to record and send voice calls to your subscribers.
You record the message ahead of time and select when you’d like the call to go out. It will then ring your subscriber’s phone, and if they answer, it will play back your recording. If the subscriber doesn’t answer, the recording will leave a voicemail.
For example, if you run a local pharmacy, you could record a voice message regarding a prescription being ready ahead of time. Then you could send out the call to customers once their prescription is available.
If the customer you’re calling doesn’t answer their phone, they’ll still be able to listen to the voicemail so that they can know to pick up their prescription.
API in general is a way that programmers can connect different software. They can programmatically use an API to accomplish whatever tasks are laid out in the API documentation for the API that they’re using.
SMS API, then, allows programmers to send text messages and accomplish other SMS-related tasks, including managing your contact list. The flexibility of an API means that you can set up your own integrations with current services that you use (such as a CRM or opt-in tool) and can build your own automations.
API allows you to accomplish tasks such as:
When it comes to SMS platforms, keywords are words that you can set up in order to give your audience an easy way to join your subscriber list by simply sending in a text message.
You can designate a particular word that people can text in. When they text that word to your account’s phone number, they’ll automatically receive a confirmation text and will be added into a specific segment on your account (so that you can organize your subscribers easily).
The ability to set up these keywords means that you can advertise instructions such as, “Text [word] to [phone number] to be added to our text list.”
All that your audience has to do is follow those instructions, and you’ll be able to see all of those phone numbers that added themselves to your text list.
Smart replies are similar to keywords (see “What Are Keywords?” above).
You can designate a particular word that people can text in, and you can designate a specific response to send to that recipient automatically.
Thus you can build a “library” of words that people can text in and receive corresponding automated replies.
For example, you could set up HOURS as a “smart reply” trigger word. And you could set it up so that when your subscriber texts in HOURS, they receive a message letting them know your business hours.
The difference between smart replies and keywords is that smart replies won’t add the recipient to a particular “segment” (“group”) within your account.
An auto-reply is an automatic response that’s sent to someone whenever they send a text to your account’s phone number (as long as the content of their text doesn’t fall under the category of “keyword” or “smart reply”—see the 2 sections above).
Auto-replies can be customized according to whether the recipient is a “new subscriber” who wasn’t already a part of your text list, or whether they were already a part of in your texting subscriber list.
One common scenario in which businesses use auto-replies are when they don't have the bandwidth to monitor the replies people send in to their SMS blasts. If that's the case, they may set up an auto-reply that says something along the lines of, “Replies are not monitored,” to let people know their response isn't going to be seen.
Auto-replies can also be set up to only send within a specified timeframe (for example, you can set it to send outside of business hours, or only in the afternoons).
A drip campaign is a sequence of messages that “drips” out to recipients over a specified period of time.
With a drip campaign, you can create a workflow of messages and delays, so that your text messages go out automatically according to when the recipients are added into the flow.
For example, you could create a series that looks something like:
Zapier is an integration website that allows you to integrate different pieces of software, without any coding work required.
Within Zapier’s flow, each software has a pre-set list of actions that are available for integrating. You can select the action you’d like to perform and the platform will walk you through each step of setting up the connection.
Mobile Text Alerts is supported on Zapier and can integrate with thousands of other apps and software tools via the Zapier platform.
10DLC stands for “10-digit long code.”
A 10DLC is the type of phone number you are used to seeing when you call or text your friends or family. It’s simply a 10-digit phone number with a regular geographical area code.
In the current mass texting climate, 10DLCs are generally the most viable option for organizations wanting to send mass texts. The time it takes to register them with mobile carriers (for the best delivery) is short, which makes them ideal for people wanting to ramp up their SMS efforts quickly.
(The downside of 10DLCs is that there may be a $15 per month provisioning fee for a small number of accounts.)
Text-enabled toll-free numbers (TETFs) are 10-digit numbers with a “toll-free” area code (for example, 800 or 833).
These numbers are offered for free, so you don’t have to worry about paying extra fees. The downside is that they can take several weeks to fully register them with mobile carriers, and you may experience delivery issues in the meantime as you wait.
Text-enabled toll-free numbers are a viable option as long as you don’t mind waiting a few weeks for the phone number to get fully up and functional.
Short codes are short phone numbers (typically 5- or 6- digits) that organizations use to send out mass texts.
Short codes used to be the normal sending method for mass texting, because mobile carriers allowed them to be “shared” across multiple brands. The “shared” nature of these short codes meant that the costs were low (or free for most marketers, as the SMS platforms typically ate any costs they incurred).
However, since shared short codes have been discontinued by mobile carriers, the only short code option now available is the dedicated short code option.
Short codes are convenient and easy numbers, so they are desirable. Their downsides (now that shared short codes are no longer available) are that they have substantial fees to set up and provision, and it takes several weeks for mobile carriers to process their registration.
The SMS platform allows you to generate and send shareable contact cards, similar to the process of sharing a contact on your smartphone.
You can input the information that you’d like to be included in the contact card. Then you can send out a text message containing the contact card.
The recipient will be able to tap on the card and easily save your contact information directly in their phone.
Some of the information that you can include in your contact card are your company logo, business name, and a brief description of your business.
That way, whenever you send messages, your recipient can have your contact information saved on their phone, so they will know right away who sent the message.
“Opt-ins” are people who have opted in to receive your text messages via one of several methods, including text-to-join, web forms, and QR codes.
Once people opt in, they’ll receive a confirmation text message which you can customize.
They’ll also be listed in your subscriber database and you’ll be able to send them texts. You can also manage and edit their information directly within the platform.
“Opt-outs” are people who have opted out of your text list by replying with the word STOP to any of your messages.
Once people reply STOP, they are automatically removed from your text list, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally texting them again.
You can also view all subscribers who have opted out under the Opt-Out List tab.
Subscribers are the people who are currently opted in to your text list and are able to be sent text from within the platform.
Another way to refer to “subscribers” could be “contacts.”
There is no limit to the number of subscribers that can be stored in your database.
As mentioned in the “Keywords” section above, “text-to-join” is an opt-in method that allows your audience to join your text alert subscriber list simply by sending a text to your account’s phone number.
Anyone in your audience can text any content into your account’s phone number and they’ll be automatically added to your text list.
Your subscriber will also receive an automatic text response upon texting in (this response can be customized according to whatever you’d like it to say).
“Text-to-join” is the most widely used method of collecting subscribers for your text alerts.
“Groups” are different segments of subscribers within your account (see “What Are Subscribers?” above).
Groups allow you to organize your subscribers into more targeted subsets so that you can send more relevant messages.
You can either sort your subscriber list into groups manually, or you can allow your subscribers to add themselves to groups via keywords (see “What Are Keywords?” above) or via a web sign-up form.
Users are separate logins you can create for your account in order to give more people access to send messages from your account.
Users can have different permission levels:
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