SMS Marketing Best Practices

5 Tips for Selecting The Best SMS Keyword

SMS Keyword Example

Every SMS marketing campaign has a unique SMS keyword. Before starting an SMS marketing campaign, it’s critical that you select the right SMS keyword. Why? The SMS keyword acts as the entry point for customers to join your campaign, so if not selecting with care, customers may not be able to join your SMS marketing campaign. If your customers are unable to join your SMS campaign, you’ll be unable to grow your SMS subscribers, which can have a significant impact on the overall success of your campaign.

This week, Derek discusses the five keys to selecting a good SMS keyword. But before we get into that, lets first cover the basics…


What is an SMS Keyword?

There’re three different ways that a consumer can opt in to an SMS marketing campaign. One is via their mobile phone, one is on a website, like a web form, and then the third option is in-store, at like a point of sale system.

So, the first option is where SMS keywords come into play. So, an SMS keyword is a word, and it can be really anything, it can be a word plus numbers, it can be just a word itself, and the consumer would text that word to a short code. A short code is a five- to six-digit phone number that is used by the brand to communicate, you know, text messages and MMS messages back and forth.

So, the brand will advertise, let’s say, in-store, or on a billboard, or on television, or radio.They would say, “Text the keyword to the short code.” So, it would be something like this, “Text the word ‘Join’,” ‘Join’ being the keyword, “to the short code 1-2-3-4-5 to opt in to our text messaging program.” So, you can see how I used ‘Join’ as the keyword, and then the short code was 1-2-3-4-5.

For more information on SMS keywords, check out this post.


How to Select SMS Keywords

I spend  a lot of time with clients at Tatango helping them come up with the perfect SMS keyword for their campaign. When discussing options with a client, we go through the basics that everyone in the industry knows when picking an SMS keyword.

While it may seem like you can randomly select any keyword for consumers to text in to your short code, the reality is that some SMS keywords perform better than others.

The best text keywords allow brands to gain as many subscribers as possible to generate more revenue from their SMS marketing program.

So, what keywords should you choose? What should you stay away from? Below are five tips for selecting an SMS keyword for your text message marketing campaigns:

1. Make Them Easy to Remember

A simple word related to your brand makes it easy for people to recall. If people see your SMS keyword on a billboard or commercial, then try to remember to text into it later, it’s far easier if the keyword (and short code) is simple. Try to stay away from SMS keywords that have numbers and letters. For example, “Text PIZZA45674 to 12345” is a lot of numbers. “Text PIZZA to 12345” is much cleaner.

SMS Keyword Mistake Example - Make Them Easy to Remember

2. Don’t Be too Clever

A business owner may realize that the keyword PIZZA is already taken, then try to be clever and replace the “Z’s” in pizza with “S’s”. But a lot of times, customers end up misspelling this creative spelling, so we suggest just finding a new SMS keyword altogether, like “SAUCY” or “YUM”.

SMS Keyword Mistake Example - Don’t Be too Clever

3. Don’t Use Special Characters

Essentially, you don’t want to make it any harder for someone to understand or remember your SMS keyword. Special characters like $, %, &, and ! confuse people and make it harder to remember your text keyword. An example of a bad SMS keyword that has special characters would be “Text PI$$A to 12345”.

SMS Keyword Mistake Example - Don’t Use Special Characters

4. Stick With One Word

To make things simple, try to find a text keyword that is one word. If you must have an SMS keyword that is two words (e,g, LAS VEGAS), we would suggest reserving two keywords, one without the space between the two words (i.e. LASVEGAS) and the other with the space between the two words (i.e LAS VEGAS) just in case people text in a mix of both. Remember, SMS keywords have to be exact, so if a subscriber texts a keyword without the space, it’s considered a different SMS keyword. Reserving both text keywords (with and without a space) gives you security that you won’t miss out on any subscribers if they text in different formats of the keyword.

SMS Keyword Mistake Example - Stick With One Word

5. Keep it Short

Let’s face it, the longer the word, the more opportunities for people to misspell or incorrectly type that word into their phone. An example of a bad SMS keyword that is way too long would be “Text MISSISSIPPI to 12345”.

SMS Keyword Mistake Example - Keep it Short

6. Plan for the Auto Correct

That’s right, I’m talking about the same auto correct that has given us so many funny SMS examples in the past. Now think about your SMS campaign, could an auto correct failure happen just as easily? The answer is yes, most certainly. When an auto correct failure happens between two people it’s usually something that can be fixed with a simple explanation. Unfortunately though, when an auto correct failure happens while a customer is trying to opt-in to an SMS campaign, it can easily result in a lost subscriber.

For example, take the following SMS campaign that is using the SMS keyword “BEEBES”.

SMS Keyword Mistake Example - Auto Correct

Looks like a good SMS keyword right? Not really if you factor in auto correct. Check out what my iPhone below auto corrects the SMS keyword “BEEBES” to. If a subscriber isn’t careful they will be texting “NERVES” to the SMS short code 12345 and this yogurt shop will be losing a potential SMS subscriber. So what the heck can you do to take into account the auto correct factor when selecting an SMS keyword?

There are four things I do when planning for the auto correct when selecting an SMS keyword.

  1. Test different operating systems – Any SMS provider worth their weight should have multiple mobile phones, with multiple operating systems to test the chance of auto correct with SMS keywords.
  2. Append a number – I know above I said to avoid SMS keywords with a number appended to the end, but usually a number added to the end of an SMS keyword will stop the auto correct.
  3. Claim the auto correct SMS keyword – If you can’t live without a certain SMS keyword, make sure to claim the different versions of auto corrects.
  4. Change your SMS keyword – Sometimes instead of appending a number to the SMS keyword or claiming all the different variations of that SMS keyword, it’s just easier to pick one that doesn’t auto correct. As a rule of thumb, most words in the dictionary don’t auto correct, but I’m still surprised when I find words that defy that logic. Remember to always test, especially when it comes to auto correct.


What to Do Once You Select an SMS Keyword

Once you have selected a text keyword for your SMS marketing campaign, the next step is to advertise your mobile keyword so that people begin opting into your text message marketing program, and acting on your promotions!

If you would like help setting up your mobile marketing campaigns, or finding out how you can grow them even faster to make your SMS marketing campaigns as profitable as possible, schedule a talk with one of our friendly text message marketing experts.

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