SMS Marketing: How To Write an Effective Message In 160 Characters

text speakMobile phone users have developed a sort of shorthand to overcome the 160-character limit in personal text messages (“LOL u r gr8 @ shrt txts). Unfortunately this approach isn’t appropriate for business. Luckily there are a few language tricks that can keep your messages within the limits of a normal SMS while maintaining your credibility as a business. Here are five tips for writing an effective message via text:

Lead with the call to action

Traditionally the call to action is placed at the end or to the side of a document, allowing prospects to review information before urging them to make a final decision. But with little space to spare, you can often only communicate what’s essential: your call to action. Feel free to send single messages that are just calls to action: (i.e. “Use coupon code APP1218 today for a free appetizer!”). The brevity can also create the effect of urgency, hopefully encouraging more customers to take advantage of your offer sooner.


Just the facts

SMS marketing isn’t the place for introductions or details. When you only have two sentences (max) to work with, you can only give your customers the bare bones of your message. Don’t worry about sounding rude; text users are used to that tone. Much like the first point, the terseness can create a sense of urgency that should hopefully spark more action.

Read news headlines

Your marketing messages don’t have to sound like breaking news from The Daily Herald but newspaper headlines have made conciseness an art form. Take a look at headlines and photo cutlines and note which common words (typically extra articles and pronouns) are excluded. Headlines also make great use of descriptive adjectives and action verbs, creating a picture in the fewest words possible.

Use links

Have a message that is so important that you can’t risk abbreviating it? Place it somewhere else on the internet and text a link to the message. Maybe in the strictest sense of the word it could be considered “cheating,” but we promise we won’t judge. Use a link shortener like so you can track clicks and save character space.

Reread, reread, reread

When you read something to yourself over and over again—be it a novel or a text message—you instinctively think of ways to make the writing shorter and more concise. Maybe it’s because the mind gets tired of reading the same words; maybe the extra time allows for more sparks of inspiration. But spending a few more minutes with your messages before sending them or scheduling can be all it takes to turn 170 characters into 140.

No symbols, no dropped vowels, no abbreviations, no “textspeak.” Conciseness in SMS marketing is usually a simple matter of cleaning the clutter from your messages. Try all these tips to see which ones work best for you.

Eric Duncan

Eric Duncan writes about Marketing for TextMarks--The industry leading SMS Marking & Communications platform.

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