Authors have been indoctrinated over the years to have an email list but that’s only one marketing tool. Today, there are SMS apps that can help you stay in touch with readers via text messaging. Now for those of you not familiar with texting, SMS stands for short message service while MMS stands for multimedia messaging service and they’re both two feathers of the same bird. So far, I’ve seen indie authors in the romance genre use texting to stay in touch with their readers but most authors don’t bother and I think this could be a mistake.
If you’re marketing to digital natives, (Those born after 2000) then you should have a text list because email just won’t do. Let’s be honest, most young people don’t even have an email account and use social media or texting as their main form of communication. So the burden is on us to reach those readers where they’re at.
According to the Nielsen stats, the average person spends nearly four hours on their smartphone daily and for teens, that number is nearly double. In fact, 69% of children in the U.S. have a smartphone by the age of 12. Today, people live on their phones and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Now I know you’re probably asking, “how effective is it?” Well according to the numbers, text messages offer a 98% open rate according to Textly (an SMS marketing service) while email offers around a 22% open rate according to MailChimp. The click-through rates are even higher with text marketing at 29% versus the 2% you normally get from emails.
How To Market Your Book Using Texts
The average text message is around 160 characters and this shouldn’t be a problem for those who used Twitter back in the day. Remember Twitter’s 140 character limit? Well if you managed that, SMS marketing shouldn’t be a problem. So how do you market with just a 160 character message? Well, you could text your readers:
- hold giveaways
- Announce new books or merch
- Ask for beta readers
- Send them to your store
- Get reviews
- Give your appreciation
- Share links to free content
As with email marketing, you can automate messages so you can send a welcome text as soon as a reader signs up to your list or you can send a thank you after someone buys your book. This is important if you want to maintain a rapport. I’ll explain why later on in the post but here is a list of the most popular SMS marketing services:
- Superphone (paid)
- Simple Texting (30 day trial)
- EZ Texting (paid)
- Slick Text (14 day free trial)
- Textedly (14 day free trail)
- ManyChat (International and free for up to 1,000 contacts)
- PostScript (integrates into Shopify with a 30 day free trial)
As with email marketing, there is a lot to learn, and to get you started, I listed some free online courses you can take to learn the gist of SMS marketing.
As with email marketing, there are laws that marketers must obey to avoid fines. SMS marketing is permission-based marketing and like with email, you must get permission to contact someone by phone.
This is often called: opting-in where someone replies yes during the boarding sequence or welcome phase. In the U.S. there is a law called TCPA: Telephone Consumer Protection Act if you want to read the entire thing, you can at the FCC’s website here. It would be wise to familiarize yourself with it, before beginning any sort of SMS marketing campaign. Noncompliance can score you a fine anywhere between $500 to $1,500 per violation.
How Do I Get People To Sign Up?
Just like with the signup link to your email list, you need to let people know about your signup number. That means shouting it from the rooftops and placing it in the most visible locations such as:
- Social media accounts (especially on your banners)
- Back and front of book matter
Don’t forget to tell people in your social media posts as well as your email newsletters and blog posts. Yes, this is work but it could pay off when you have access to an established audience rather than having to build one every single time you launch a new book.
A Well-Done Text Campaign
As I was studying SMS marketing, I came across a campaign by pop star Miley Cyrus. In 2019, Miley launched her album: Black Mirror, where she debuted a hotline and posted that number on her Instagram account as well as on billboards all over the world. When fans called the number, they were treated to a song by Miley, and then after the service hangs up, a text is sent. Here is her boarding sequence strategy:
After you click the link, you are taken to a sign up form:
Once you sign up you’re given a free song and asked for feedback.
Now I know what you’re thinking, Rachel, Miley Cyrus has professionals helping her as well as a million-dollar marketing budget and that’s true but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from her.
P.S. If you’re wondering, no, I didn’t listen to the new song nor did I give any feedback. LOL!
Poor Marketing Practices By Authors
For this blog post, I signed up with three authors who had text lists and was underwhelmed by the experience. Not naming names but all I got when I signed up was a thank you and then, crickets. 100% of those authors missed an opportunity to sell me a book! Don’t make this mistake, always have free content or a book to sell after a reader completes the signup process. In fact, it would be wise to create exclusive content for both email and text subscribers.
Wrapping Things Up
As I said earlier, SMS marketing shouldn’t be ignored by authors marketing to teens and young adults. According to marketers, they’re the hardest to reach and one of the reasons is lack of education about that demographic. Anyways, I hope this helped you make sense of yet another marketing tool and if you have an SMS list of your own, let us know about in the comments section.
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