Shout Blog

Best Practices for Using SMS to Grow Your Following

Good marketing puts people at the center of everything, and that's exactly what an online community does. Learn how to grow your community via SMS marketing.

Regardless of the sort of company you operate, or the type of content you create, and no matter what stage you’re in, building and maintaining a community is a must. Your people, your tribe, all come together around your products and content because they believe in something.

Whether that's your brand's quality, company culture, quality messaging, or something else, your followers all identify with something that either you or your brand embodies.

But what happens if you're brand new and don't have a tribe? Or, what if you're established, but your community building and engagement methods aren't providing the results you want?

In that case, you need to start thinking about building a bustling tribe through the power of an SMS marketing platform like Shout. In just a moment, we'll discuss precisely what you must do to create a community that's both engaging and thriving.

First, though, bear with us for a moment as we get some basics out of the way. But get excited because we're going to lay out the best practices for starting a great community. And, with the advice below, we believe you're sure to begin seeing success.

What Is An SMS Marketing Platform?

An SMS marketing platform is an online service that allows users to send and receive messages with other users. You can use this type of platform for various purposes, such as promoting sales, customer service, or just staying in touch.

SMS platforms come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so it's essential to choose one that satisfies the needs of your business. To make SMS marketing simple while building your community, there are a variety of tools you can use, including those featured in Shout's suite of options.

But why use an SMS platform at all?

For starters, consider what Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, had to say about the potential of SMS platforms. "Mobile use is growing faster than all of Google's internal predictions."

The time has literally never been better for businesses to start using text messaging as a marketing strategy. Texts are read 11 times more than traditional email, and the average open rate is 98%!

Growing Your Community Using SMS

Let's say you're already familiar with SMS platforms like Shout, and you're sold on the enormous potential they have to aid your community-building efforts.

Great, but how do you start?

SMS marketing has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, with more than six billion text messages sent each day. This is mostly because of its relatively low cost of entry, instant delivery rates, and ability to target groups of people based on specific location or demographic information.

When you use an SMS platform to build your community, you can connect with your subscribers instantly. You can have one-on-one conversations with each customer at scale, create an authentic tone for your business, and engage customers in real-time to keep them coming back again and again.

Moreover, your customers get to communicate directly with you. This two-way communication builds trust and strengthens customer relationships in a way that is frankly challenging when using email or social media.

Start By Getting Subscribers

The very first step in building your community is to get subscribers. No subscribers, no community, right?

Start off by inviting people to opt-in to your list. This is an essential step and is required by law. There are many ways to allow customers to opt-in. One of the most common is by having them text a keyword like "Start" or "Join."

When inviting potential subscribers, you should use your marketing number and give people a way to opt-out of your marketing communications at the same time.

You can do that by having them text "STOP" to your marketing number.

Ensure that you honor people's requests to stop receiving messages and make it easy for them to unsubscribe if they change their minds after joining your list.

Once they are subscribed, it's time for you to start using SMS to drive real growth and to create the community you want. You can experiment with different content and messaging strategies to find what works best for your followers. Keep track of what engages them and continue providing value through your texts so that they remain loyal customers.

Continually Touch Base With Your Audience

As you build your list and overall community, remember that familiarity breeds trust (or at least preference) in the eyes of your followers. When it comes to making a purchase or hitting the “follow” button, individuals are likely to go with brands they know and are comfortable with. That's true, even if other, seemingly better options are available.

This is why you must build brand awareness and increase customer familiarity. At the end of the day, your community-building efforts are about making real connections and helping your business to become more trustworthy in the eyes of potential buyers.

Staying top of mind through the use of an excellent SMS platform and marketing strategy is a crucial part of growing your organization in 2022.

Obviously, we believe Shout is one of the most powerful community-building tools out there. Once people subscribe to become a part of your audience, you can stay in frequent contact with them and engage them in two-way conversations.

Sending texts and notifications (even Facebook or Instagram messages) directly to the palm of their hand is an easy way to keep them updated on new products, sales, or just general company news. Plus, Shout's group chat feature makes it easy to talk to dozens or even hundreds of people at once so that you can better understand your tribe and cultivate genuine relationships.

By utilizing all the tools available to you through a texting app, you can show your customers that you're listening to what they have to say and are interested in engaging with them as people, not just customers.

Make It Personal

Part of making real connections is ensuring that your SMS communications are personalized. No one wants to feel like they're number 5,000 in an SMS marketing blast.

Don't you agree it sucks when you get a text from somebody you don't know, there's nothing to identify them, they don't address you by name, and there's just a bunch of hyper salesy junk on the screen?

If you're like us, you might want to throw up a little in your mouth at the thought. It is vital to avoid the appearance of treating your customers as if they're just another brick in the wall.

Plus, complex data backs up the importance of personalization, so it's not just a matter of preventing queasy feelings in the pit of your stomach.

There's objective evidence, which shows that when businesses use personalization tactics, they see a significant improvement in key performance indicators such as increased conversion rates, higher average order values, and more engaged customers.

Engage In Authentic Conversations

While you'll obviously use automation from time to time with pre-written communications, giving your customers a way to speak with you directly (i.e., instead of with a conversation bot) is all part of the advantages you can realize when using an SMS platform.

Remember, customer experience overtakes price and product as the key differentiator for brands, which means that it's more essential than ever for you to be aware of how customers are feeling about their interactions with your brand.

Specific Tactics You Can Use

All the things we've spoken about up to this point are essentially a high-level overview of the process and importance of growing a community using an SMS platform.

Now, let's dive deeper and examine some specific tactics that can make a community growth campaign successful, shall we?

Offer Incentives

Remember how the first step of the process is all about gaining subscribers to your list? Well, one of the greatest ways to do that is by offering followers an incentive to join.

If you run a business, consider offering them coupons or deals to join your list. Not only can this make them feel like they are part of some VIP club, but it also lets their friends know that they have the inside scoop on all sorts of fantastic offers.

By tempting customers with coupons or deals, you can see a significant increase in subscribers while also seeing a potential immediate return on investment in the form of increased sales.

Include Invites To Subscribe On Product Inserts

Here’s another idea for small business owners: including a product insert with a keyword and invitation is an easy way to increase engagement with your brand and drive customers to subscribe to future messages.

Be sure to test different keywords and track the results so that you can continue to improve your strategy.

A sample invitation might be something like:

"We hope you're happy with your new makeup set! Text "FOUNDATION" to (800) 123-4567 to join our empowered women's community for tips on inner and outer beauty and personal growth!"

Collect Phone Numbers

A specific tactic you can use to gain subscribers is using an online form. Instead of having someone text you to confirm the subscription, you can have them sign up via a landing page.

Once they enter their phone number, it will automatically send an opt-in confirmation message to confirm their subscription. As soon as that occurs, you can start sending messages (remember to always include a way for that customer to opt-out too).

Keep Your Messages Short

With such a short time frame to capture someone's attention, it's essential to make sure your message is valuable and relevant. Using SMS messaging correctly can create an intimate connection with your customers that drives sales and increases loyalty.

Encourage Your Audience Members

Okay, so you don't have to be Tony Robbins here. But, if you have followers who are really enthusiastic about what you do, a simple "way to go" or "keep it up!" is often all they need to keep engaging with you.

For example, some creators send out birthday texts that include an offer on a gift card—and you can bet these creators definitely have tons of loyal customers.

Get Subscribers To Click On Your Links

Many of those who subscribe and join your community already know something about you, your brand, and your offerings. Still, it's a good idea to include links in any automated reply that goes out once someone has subscribed.

This simple step can help you connect further while encouraging new subscribers to more fully explore all that your business has to offer.

Use Texts To Engage On Social Media

Recall that you have only a limited amount of characters to work with when sending out SMS messages. Good communications are, therefore, short and to the point.

A great way to communicate with your community further and in a way that allows longer, more in-depth conversations is to use text messages to encourage subscribers to follow you on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or YouTube.

Additionally, you can use texts to encourage people to subscribe to your blog or email list too! (Not only can you do this, but you should.)

Send Out Surveys

The way people think and make decisions can be a powerful tool for you to use in your marketing strategy. This is why it's important to know how customers behave at different stages of the purchase process and what they want from you as part of your tribe.

That's why using SMS messages to send out customized surveys is such a great tactic. You can get feedback on everything from what people like about your product or service to what they'd like you to change.

Plus, by segmenting your audience according to where they are in the purchase process and sending them different surveys accordingly, you can learn even more about how they think and make decisions.

Follow Up Emails With Texts

Email marketing remains one of the most efficient options for driving sales. But, if you want to get more engagement and response rates from your customers these days, we recommend following up with a text message after sending out emails.

Remember that in 2022 more text messages get opened than emails. So, by following up with a text message after sending out an email, you're almost guaranteed to get more engagement and response rates from your customers.

Create A Sense Of Urgency

You may have heard that adding an expiration date or a countdown timer on a landing page or form leads people to respond faster, but did you know that there are other ways you can use time pressure?

Try adding urgency by sending out a text letting your tribe know they only have X number of days left before their special offer expires!

Use Text Messages To Build Your Community

Many content creators and business owners alike are using text messaging platforms like Shout as their management tool to build a strong community of followers. Remember that you can take advantage of many features to utilize your texts as both a distribution channel for your content and a way to engage individual members of your tribe one-on-one.

As you set out to build your community, remember to:

  • Use text messages to share breaking news and urgent updates with your followers
  • Send time-sensitive offers that expire in a certain number of days to create urgency
  • Urge people to take specific actions by including a clear call to action
  • Treat your subscribers like family and not as a list of contacts
  • Pinpoint ways that you can add value to your subscribers' lives and the way they do business

Finally, remember that good marketing puts people at the center of everything, and that's exactly what an online community does. Done right, you'll build lasting relationships with your customers and discover brand new sources of growth for your business!