Thursday, 20 March 2014

Can I send images via SMS Express?

We get asked this a bit, and the short answer is NO, as the system is text (SMS means 'short message service').

Sending images is called MMS, and you no doubt would have MMS'd a picture to somebody, like when you take a photo of a nice dessert and send it to your friend (yes I have done that...)

A few reasons why we think SMS is better for your marketing to customers or staff is:
1) MMS is expensive to send (50c each when I last looked at prices)
2) It may cost your recipient to download...not good when your customers may be charged to view your image!
3) You can't embed a link so people can't click through on the actual image
4) Some phones simply will not display images. This can be a problem with pre-paid accounts. I had this problem myself trying to send images from my personal handset (Telstra) to my partner who was then on Vodafone...he simply never got my pictures.

So what if you DO want to share images? Best way is to send out a plain old text message but include a LINK (URL) to a webpage or your website where people can view the image themselves if they wish to.

The beauty of that is, they have the choice, AND you can track the clicks (we have an earlier blog post that covers tracking link clicks in SMS). You also encourage people to click through to your website where they can take further action, like buy something, or comment..whatever your call to action may be.

If you want help setting up a clickable link, just call us on 1300 668 287

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Australian Privacy Principles

The upgraded Privacy Act came into force on 12 March 2014 in Australia, and we have updated our Privacy Policy which you are welcome to view at anytime on the SMS Express website, or of course just contact us and we'll send you the link or any APP info.

As you are in business, or handling your customers' or personal data, even though you may not be subject to the APPs, it's probably a good idea to use these as a guideline anyway.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website has all the info on the new APPs, so please click here to visit the website. There's fact sheets and guides for you to read.

SMS Express privacy policy with our customers (you) is, and always has been a matter of strict policy within our company. If you have any queries, we welcome your call: 1300 668 287

...further to this, here's an excellent article on Lifehacker about Cloud Computing and Privacy:

How to tell if people respond to your SMS message?

Traditionally email has been very good at tracking how many people viewed your email, and clicked on the link to your website. This is called "tracking clickthroughs". It can give you some interesting statistics on your campaigns too.

Say if you sent 1000 emails and 100 people actually clicked through to your website and did something, that's a 10% response rate...that may be good or bad, depending on your expectations.

So how can you do this on SMS given that it's a text message with no links?

You really cannot tell how many people "looked" at your SMS, as that would be a bit invasive. However, I'm going to give you a few ideas of how you can track responses:

If you purely want to send an informational text message, you can typically track responses by REPLIES you get back, for example "yes" or "please book me in"...or "STOP".

Of course all REPLIES can be viewed in your account at anytime (and we encourage you to always look), or you have the option of replies being CC'd to your email address (free) or mobile phone handset (1 credit). You may not even care to track these, but you can!

If you are running a promotion to drive people into your store, the easiest way is to encourage your customers to show or mention the text message to your staff when they arrive. Train your staff to track how many people do this.

For example if you are running a sale, you can text something like "Show this message to our staff for 50% off. Sale ends Tuesday".

And if you have a decent retail system or database, you can even track who responds to your SMS messages, and when, allowing you to identify your loyal customers....and of course a mobile number is a totally unique identifier so easy to match the data.

Now here's where it gets interesting and we can track clicks! Say you want to send an SMS and push people through to your website browsing your wonderful wares.

This is a common scenario now, as so many people are on their phones and can easily click a link from your SMS and their phone will open up a browser, and blammo, they are at your website.

So, you send an SMS, customer reads your SMS and then clicks through to your website.. Nice and simple.

Here's a way you can tell how many people clicked through to your site...and it costs nothing extra!

1) First make sure your website looks nice on a mobile phone (both iPhone and Android). If it looks clunky, ask your web designer to do a mobile version OR a cheaper way is check out companies like

2) Open an account with . Bitly is a URL shortener that crunches long website names (URLs) down into a short link. The extra beauty of Bitly is, you can TRACK THE CLICKS!

As you only have limited space on SMS, you don't want your website taking up all that valuable text space, so a URL shortener is a great space-saving solution.

3) Login to your SMS Express account, click on Bulk Messages, select your Group, create your text message, including your URL.

For example: "Dear VIP Clients, we have a new range in store now. Check it out here Pop in B4 Friday for a 20% discount. See u soon! 2optout rply STOP.".

Or if you have an ecommerce site, even better...hopefully they may buy on the spot!

4) Once your message has been tested and sent out, go to your REPLIES section and/or Bitly account and check out both replies AND how many people did actually click the link in your SMS.

If you want to create a mobile website on the fly just for one campaign, Instapage is great for this, and will also allow you to track clicks.

If you don't want to bother with Bitly or Instapage, another cheap way to track visits is to create a unique page on your website specifically for your SMS campaigns.

For example (and if you have a short enough domain name you can use the whole thing in your text if you want)

Only use that page for your SMS promotions, and you should see all visitors to that page by date and time in your webstats, and this will be easy to match with your SMS broadcast times....remember that most people do respond to an SMS within minutes, but we have seen some slow pokes dribble in a week later!

1 SMS = 160 characters including spaces...this is universal. But there is nothing stopping you from sending more than 160 characters, as most phones will join them into 1 message now (unlike the old days!).

Just be aware that it costs you an extra credit. But if you get a good response, it's still very cheap and quick marketing in anyone's currency!

...and of course, always obey the Spam Act and put who you are and an optout in all promotional messages..the SMS Express system will automatically remove any people who reply STOP or REMOVE (and you can also see these too).

If you need to get your head around this, call me, Kerryn, anytime on 1300 668 287 and I will be happy to help you set this up.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Back up your lists and groups!

Sorry if I sound Captain Obvious, but it's easy to overlook this if you are busy.

The SMS Express server is as secure and hosted on a robust platform, but even Google and Facebook go offline occasionally!

In the event of a disaster such as us going offline or some other catastrophe, please ensure that you always back up your Groups...don't even have just 1 copy of soemthing as important as your client list just sitting in 1 place.

The same principle would apply to your website, your laptop..or anything really. Always have a backup...2 backups are better.

If you only store your Groups (lists/databases) on SMS Express, then I recommend regularly exporting your groups to a file on your PC...I'd also copy to second backup place such as Dropbox or OneDrive or a USB stick.

So what happens after you send an SMS from the system?

Many clients have told us that they didn’t realise that they could view information about their SMS broadcast, such as how many were sent…how many text messages were NOT sent…also replies and optouts, so we created a video which covers little tips and tricks that you can do after your broadcast.

Also shows you how to get a FREE copy of any replies CCd to your email address.

Check out the YouTube video here:

Why is SMS only 160 characters?

We get asked this question all the time…when I send a bulk SMS, how come I can only send 160 characters in a text message?

SMS means Short Message Service, and was a Franco-German effort, developed in 1984 by Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert.

Part of Freidhelm’s job was to work out how many characters a text message should be. And his method was stunningly simple…he analysed postcards and telex (remember those?) messages.

His observations found that on average, most were around 150 characters, and Fred successfully argued that 160 characters was sufficient to express most text messages succinctly (source: Wikipedia).

Disaster SMS Campaign Using iMessage To Send Bulk SMS – Big No No!

A business owner called us recently in a bit of a pickle….let’s called him John.

John was new to the world of SMS, as most people are, and decided to send a text message to his client database .

All good so far. He had his iPhone, and someone told him that he could send free SMS via Apple’s iMessage program.

Cheap way to do a marketing campaign…….you’d think.

Except for 2 things:

you can only use this with other people who have iMessage and an iPhone (a lot of of people use Android phones these days so you may miss many customers).
iMessage is meant to be used as a Group Conversation…my 18 year old niece loves it as all of her friends keep up with the gossip of the day.
So John carefully composes his first ever SMS message to his loyal customers promoting his weekly specials, and BLASTED it out to 600 people on the Group setting.

Luckily for John, at least half of his customers also had iMessage installed.

Unluckily for John, when a lovely client replied to his message asking him what time he closed, the other 599 people also got this message.

Then an angry person replied WHO IS THIS?

The other 599 people also got this…then other people started replying…and everyone got multiple messages and got caught in this loop….you can imagine the chaos!

John called us in a flat panic as a few very very angry customers had called him with some choice words.

He needed to send an urgent apology from a proper bulk messaging platform, which we were happy to do, and got the message out in 15 minutes after setting him up with an account.

We monitored the replies, and got a lot of STOP requests, which we expected. John also received replies from upset customers whose phones seized up trying to cope with 599 messages coming in every 10 seconds.

It finally died down around 2am! A few people were also angry that their privacy may have been breached as their email addresses also show up on iMessage.

We used to see this in the early days of email marketing when you plop a bunch of email addresses into the TO: or CC: address bar and press SEND…not realising that everybody else can see your other clients’ email addresses…a bit of a privacy oops.

Free programs like iMessage are great, but they are not geared for bulk SMS. They are for a bunch of friends or colleagues…certainly not for 600 of your customers!

John lost a few customers but now he uses the bulk text platform to send his weekly specials. The system manages opt-outs automatically, plus he gets replies forwarded to his email address for free, so if he can’t login to view the Replies, he has a copy sent to his email, so he does not miss any customer queries or complaints.

Can my business name appear as the sender on an SMS Text Message?

Yes it can by setting up a SENDER ID, which allows 11 characters including spaces. For example you can have the SENDER ID as ACME CO, and this will show up on the recipient’s phone as FROM ACME CO instead of the system’s mobile number.

BUT, there are 2 reasons why SENDER ID is not recommended. Some telcos may block messages that have no proper “reply path” (i.e. a return mobile number) because this is what spammers do….so you cannot trace the number! So your message may never even get to your recipients. Also your recipients cannot reply to a SENDER ID. They can only reply to a number (reply path).

If you really want to use SENDER ID, you can. But if you are sending a commercial message (ad, promotion), ensure you do stay within the Spam Act by adding an Opt Out. The SMS Express ONLINE system (not the app) now has an OptOut placeholder that you can add to your message, which shows up as a URL (website link) in recipients’ messages, and they click to be automatically removed from your list.

We have a video on our YouTube channel which shows you how to do this..or just call us on 1300 668 287

Do I have to pay for replies?

To view replies in your account online, or have them forwarded to an email address or URL is FREE.

However, if you forward replies to a mobile number (e.g. your own phone) that will be charged at 1 credit per reply.

Takeaway store in US Boosts SMS Campaign Participation By 900%

Here’s a really interesting article about a US takeway restaurant doing some interesting SMS campaigns via their Point of Sale software and marketing to their customers during sporting events:

(SMS Express system has an API and can work with POS systems and websites..ask your IT tech to contact us):

How many characters can I use in a text message?

160 characters including spaces. This is a worldwide 'rule' with text messaging and has been since day 1. (Twitter is 140).

You can send more than 160 characters though, but this will equal 2 SMS’s and be charged at 2 credits. Your recipients will also receive 2 messages, but most smartphones will join them up so they should appear as 1 message on their phones.

Reports on SMS Express and what they mean

So when you open a SENT/QUEUED report, what do the various status reports mean? The main ones are:

DELIVERED – was successfully sent out.
UNDELIVERED – was not successful. Usually is a wrong number , so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on these and clean out the dead numbers (if you need assistance with this, let us know).
EXPIRED – I wish we could guarantee 100% delivery but nobody on the planet can.. Normally deliverability is pretty good, but what lets us all down is the telcos (Vodafone especially is a problem in non-metro areas), or if a customer’s phone is switched off or out of range for an extended period. These sorts of errors are reflected in your reports as EXPIRED. This means the system has tried to send and has given up.
SUBMITTED – means the message has been sent to that person’s telco and out system is waiting for confirmation (called a delivery report). If you check back in a little while, this is normally updated to DELIVERED.
Other reports – You also have access to other reports such as:

Date Range Report – this is a downloaded or emailed report that goes back over the last 2 months. It is fairly detailed and includes the network of the mobile number it was sent to (in the ZIP file this is the Line Item report). You can customise what fields you want. It may take a few minutes to generate for download so please be patient.

Number Lookup Report- this will generate a zipped spreadsheet report, and is handy to view the history of a mobile number. The report will show Group Summary and Sent Items. You could use this report if you suspect a mobile number may not be getting texts. A history of UNDELIVERED would indicate the number is disconnected and needs investigating

SMS Sending Report – this is an on screen report (or you can download Excel report)that shows you a chart and a summary of what SMSs have been sent. Like all the reports, you can select the date range.
Summary Report. This will generate a zipped Excel report and you can get a detailed report of the messages, number of replies and optouts, the cost etc.

97% of SMS messages read!

Interesting statistic on Mobitize on SMS versus Email Marketing:

On average, out of 100 marketing emails sent out, only 22% are actually read, with a response rate of less than 2%.

But with SMS messages, 97% are read within a few minutes of receiving, and with an approximate 23%+ response rate.

Occassionally clients ask us to do their bulk SMS broadcast for them, and we monitor the replies...and we can tell you that the SMS' are responded to very quickly, whereas email can sit there for days, or go into a junk filter where it may never get read!

What Does Opt In Mean?

Quite often I get asked what an “opt in” list means. Or what “spam compliant” is all about. It is a very important question because if you don’t know, and you have been sending out SMS to people you have plucked out of a newspaper or business card, then you may land in hot water and risk a fine from ACMA (communications authority)…and an annoyed public!

Spam compliant means you have consent from a person to send them marketing messages like emails and SMS. A compliant list is an ‘opt in’ list. The key is to ASK people if you can add them to your list.

Common ways to do this include, simply asking customers when they call or visit, a website form, from your shop via a card. And of course, make sure you give them a chance to opt OUT if they want. Best way is to use our OptOut button when you compose your message, or add text into your SMS like Rply STOP to optout when you create your message on SMS Express.

Most people know what that means nowadays. Please ask if you have questions about the Spam Act or visit

Welcome to the new SMS Express blogger blog!

Hi everyone,
After much deliberation we have decided to create a blog on the excellent Blogger platform. Many of these posts are imported from our facebook archive and published earlier but we wanted to keep everything in the same spot..but we will continue to publish news and tips here (and on Facebook) as they come to hand.
Talk soon! Cheers Kerryn