SMS Copy: The good, the bad, and the ugly

SMS Copy: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Over the years, we stumbled upon many different SMS campaigns. While many of them were great, some needed improvement or a complete makeover.

To help you understand the differences, which can be very subtle sometimes, we broke down the examples we found into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It can be subjective, but we separated them based on how valuable we think they are to their recipients.

We used real-world examples, but we changed some of the details so that the senders remained anonymous. The core copy remains intact. Enjoy!

The Good

Good doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re perfect. Many good SMS campaigns could still use some improvements.

If that’s the case, what makes them different from the bad?

We differentiate the two categories by how much value they can provide to the people that receive them. Good SMS campaigns spark interest, joy, and action more times than not.

The sender more or less hits a home run on this SMS marketing campaign. They offered an exclusive deal that their mobile subscribers can take advantage of before the promotion goes public, making their recipients feel valued. Here’s what they did well:

  • Identified themselves immediately
  • Had an opt-out mechanism
  • Had a clear call-to-action
  • Spaced out their content well for ease of reading

We would, however, shorten the copy. This campaign is 327 characters long and requires three concatenated text messages per customer, which increases the spend per customer to deliver the message fully.

They can reduce the length so that it fits into two text messages, helping them save money and making it easier for customers to read.

Below, we reduced it to 274 characters, and it now fits nicely into two SMS messages.

Revised Version

Just like the Optical 101 example, Rough Dirt almost hits a home run. Their 10% discount may or may not be a great offer (only their subscribers would know), but we find it interesting because they pair it with #throwbackthursday, a popular internet trend.

They can also shorten their copy and coupon code and use our tracked link shortener for brevity. Here, we trimmed it down from 284 characters to exactly 160 characters (one message).

Revised Version

The Bad

If good SMS campaigns spark interest, joy, and action, what do the bad ones do? We think it makes people feel indifferent. It doesn’t add value nor does it take it away.

The mood of this SMS campaign is much different from the ones above. It has some of the elements of a good SMS campaign, but it’s not exciting. Here’s why:

  • Too many abbreviated words and acronyms
  • Unclear prize and promotion
  • Weak call-to-action

Revised Version

We recommend a campaign that looks more like this (156 characters):

This SMS marketing campaign was very close, yet really far. It lacks an opt-out, which is very important to remain spam compliant for these types of campaigns. We had no choice but to put it into the bad category even though the rest of it is good.

Revised Version

The Ugly

SMS campaigns usually end up in the ugly category when there’s a clear lack of effort or care. They end up frustrating the people who receive them.

The sender probably sent this as an email and then decided to use their send SMS option through a CRM. Although it alerted people about the cancelled games, it’s not a joy to read. Aside from the poor spacing in the message, the opt-out is also very complicated.

Does this SMS campaign look legitimate? We can’t tell. If we have to ask, it’s probably not a good thing. We recommend senders to use a greeting like ‘Hey’ or ‘Hi’ if a first name follows. Also, the choice of words and improper spacing shows a lack of care and makes the offer seem too good to be true.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you must ask whether or not your SMS campaign adds value to your recipients. If you’re unsure, get in touch with us before you send it.

In the meantime, make sure to:

  • Identify who you are either in the Sender ID or within the SMS copy
  • Have an easy opt-out
  • Have a clear call to action
  • Keep the copy concise
  • Avoid acronyms
  • Use a tracked link whenever possible to help you shorten your message and track your click-through rates
  • Add exclusivity or urgency. For example, use words or phrases like “Limited Time”. “Limited Quantity”, “Available for 24 hours only”, “Valid now until [Date]”, “Free”, “Sale”, “Last Chance”.

Need more ideas or inspiration? Check out our list of SMS templates.