There’s a release by TXT4info about the use of text messaging as a marketing tool. Apparently it great that the firm did the research, because no one was really sure if customers liked being charged a lot of money. And they were a bit sketchy on if the customers liked being spamed. From the report:

Commenting on the report, Mr. Brendan Foley, Sales and Marketing Director for TXT4info said, “This comes as no surprise that users do not like premium charge SMS. We have built a business and a reputation on putting the customer first by working with brands and Ad agencies to create campaigns that are on FreeTXT or LowTXT. That way everyone wins.” He cited the Crisis Pregnancy Agency as a perfect example where TXT4info had provided a FreeTXT service. Already 58,000 requests for information have been received on this service in the last 12 months.

Mr. Foley went on to say, “Charging the consumer to interact with a brand through SMS is like charging them to look at an outdoor poster or listen to the ad on the radio. The consumer just won’t buy into that, yet some people think they will buy into premium rate SMS marketing!”.

Okay, good. Seemed rather obvious to me, but sometimes that happens. It takes quite a while to sync up. But now that at least some of us are apparently thinking in the same directions, let me lay down a few follow on thoughts that I’ve had kicking around for a while.

First of all, lets take a brief look at how the SMS systems are structured in terms of cost. For the basic SMS exchange, one mobile user sending a message to another mobile user, both the sender of the message and the recipient are charged. Nothing surprizing there, both use the network. However, the same is true for service providers. If I run Freshmeat, a software release information site, and I would like to add the ability for users of the site to get SMS messages when updates are posted for their watched software, I can’t do it. At least not without some major changes. Freshmeat would have to pay to send messages to each of the users who wanted to get messages. Freshmeat isn’t a pay site. There’s a problem here, of course. Depending on your outlook you might think this is a “feature” more than a problem, but I disagree.

I contest that having great content has nothing to do with being willing to pay for people to be able to access it. Think of all the internet fads that go around - cute email messages, funny images that get forwarded all over, dancing-* movies sites, the “weapons of mass destruction” joke error page, etc. The low cost of publishing on the Internet is what makes it the revolutionary medium it is. I think that SMS would benefit greatly from being able to share in this. There should be peer-to-peer style messaging between entities on the SMS network an the Internet. Errecting a false barrier (in terms of a service charge to send a message from the Internet out to an SMS handheld) only serves to restrict the usefulness of the SMS network. Sure, the phone companies would lose some money per-transaction if they’re only charging half the fee on some exchanges. But I think they would more than make up the difference in volume.

The common issue that gets brought up here is spam. If there is no charge for sending into the SMS network then the volume of spam sent to cell phones will be unbearable. I don’t buy it, that’s a lame excuse. Some one can solve that issue. It might take some work, investment, in order to do so. But it’s not rocket science. And that might go so far as keeping an “allowed senders” list for each phone number on the cell network. That is NOT an unbearable service to run. Telcos already have all sorts of equiptment to allow for call blocking and call forwarding and tracking and reporting. No one can tell me that having a filter list for SMS is a crippling requirement.

So there it is, how to drive SMS usage through the roof. It’ll work. It’ll just take more planning to get right than has gone into the haphazard deployment of cell networks so far. If you run a cell network, feel free to use that idea. Please, please, feel free to use this idea.