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SMS opens a two-way dialogue between marketer and consumer: 360i

Text messaging is by far the most popular mobile activity after talking, and it is one of the most proven mobile marketing channels, according to digital marketing agency 360i.

SMS is the most universal, given that it is available on just about every mobile phone, from lower-end feature phones to the priciest smartphones. ComScore reports 65 percent of mobile subscribers send text messages, compared to about 30 percent using the browser and downloading applications.

?SMS is incredible in the sense that two-thirds of mobile users are using it,? said David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at 360i, New York. ?It is so simple in format but the things you can do with it are amazing.

?It is the most integrated marketing channel because you can tie it to anything you are doing both online and offline,? he said.

Teenagers are especially drawn to SMS. Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that American teens 12-17 contact peers daily via texting (54 percent) more than any other communication channel, including calling on mobile phones (38 percent), talking face to face (33 percent), instant messaging (24 percent) and email (11 percent).

But SMS? reach is by no means limited to just American teens. An April 2010 study by Merkle found that 63 percent of U.S. adults 30-39 text, as do 49 percent of adults 40-49.

According to 360i, there are several ways to engage in SMS marketing - branded short codes, shared short codes and in-SMS advertising.

Consumers can send a text message to either a shared or branded short code to get updates or engage with the marketer.

With either form of short code use, the biggest advantage is the integration potential.

SMS callouts can appear in out-of-home marketing, point-of-sale locations, TV, radio, print, online display, email and social marketing.

Marketers can also advertise on SMS ad networks by appending a brief message to content that consumers subscribe to, such as sports alerts from, say, NBC.

The ads can be used for a range of purposes, from building up the marketer?s own SMS opt-in list to driving traffic or engagement to the brand?s mobile Web site or application.

?SMS has the reach and if a marketer wants to do an ad campaign advertising can reach a lot of consumers via mobile and very quickly,? Mr. Berkowitz said.

?Building an opt-in list is key because it becomes a deeper discussion and can make it work for them on a long-term basis.

 ?Part of the power of SMS is getting consumers to opt-in to have an ongoing message,? he said. That?s where SMS takes a different turn.?

Marketers can use SMS to text content, such as product information, informative tips, polls or trivia questions to their opt-in list.

SMS communications can include links to mobile Web sites, maps for store locators and click-to-call links that lead consumers to retail stores or call centers.

A text message can also connect a consumer to a brand?s multimedia, such as images, videos or ringtones.

As of lately, many retailers ? such as Walmart ? have been using SMS to push coupons, driving consumers in-store for purchasing. 

?SMS resembles email in terms of the potential for a two-way dialogue, providing for a deeper experience,? Mr. Berkowitz said.

Final take
Giselle Tsirulnik, senior editor of Mobile Marketer, New York: