The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Can SMS Save Our Souls? September 22, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Australia,Business of Arts,Marketing Ideas — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:59 am

While in Australia, I had a few conversations with folks there about how they are using SMS messaging to get bums in seats.

One gal I met at one of my workshops said “If I get a text message from a friend to come and see their show, I will probably go.”

Here are some quick statistics about our use of text messaging:

  • In September 2009, Canadians sent approximately 100 million text messages per day.
  • In total, Canadians sent 3 billion text messages in September 2009.
  • For the first nine months of the year, a total of 24.7 billion text messages were sent (from January 2009 to September 2009).
    This is up significantly from the previous year, when a total of 20.8 billion text messages were sent in 2008.
  • Text message volumes have been doubling every year since text messaging was introduced in 2002.

Statistics provided by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (from January 2010)

And one more thing: while most people I know text, we all know that it skews to the younger demographic.

We don’t use SMS campaigns to market our work here in Canada, but maybe we should start. I had a conversation with John Paul one day while we were on a plane about how they have used SMS to market shows. I’ve summed it up here.

1. You first need to sign up with an SMS gateway provider. I’ll include some links to some at the end. This gets you a phone number that people can respond back to, but you don’t get any messages on your phone. All of the work you do goes through a website interface where you can write and schedule your messages, collect data, and respond back to people’s texts.

2. You need to collect data and mobile numbers. There are a couple of options for this. First, you can ask the people involved in your show if they would mind giving up the contents of their mobile’s phone book. Second, you can create a data input page (for example, if you already have an e-newsletter sign-up, mobile number can be one of the input fields) that is connected to your website or blog. Third, put the word out using social networking that you are collecting mobile numbers for an SMS campaign (it may help to tease with discount or value-added offers), and link to your data input page. Finally, you can put the number on any hard-copy propaganda you have out there: posters, postcards, etc.

A screenshot from TextMagic

3. Build your campaign. If you are using someone else’s phone numbers (and here is where it gets a bit dodgy), you need to segment your list to just that person’s contacts, and send those contacts a text that references the person you got their number from. For example:

Liz Sidle wants you to know about her new show, Dreamweaver, October 28-31, at Performance Works!

You also have to give them an out. So, you need to say something like

To stop recieving messages like this, reply with "STOP"

The tricky bit is that you only have 160 characters to work with.

You should not overwhelm the person with messages. And with SMS, the effect is more immediate than with email. So, for example, you could do a “day-of special” where you could send a text message saying that you are offering them a special discount that is only good for tonight or tomorrow night. They simply reply with the amount of tickets they want. You can phone them, or request their email address to close the sale.

While in Australia, I met a really cool guy named Craig Lambie, who is working on a SMS program specifically for the arts. I can’t tell you too much about it because it is currently in progress, but I’ve been invited to beta test (nerdgasm!), and will certainly let you know when it’s launched.

Has anyone out there had success using SMS campaigns? I’d love to hear from you.


How to Set Up an SMS Campaign


5 Responses to “Can SMS Save Our Souls?”

  1. Susan Weiss Says:

    This is great Rebecca!

    The next step is a Bluetooth campaign, which is just AWESOME!



  2. Andrea Loewen Says:

    While this seems potentially awesome, I am a little skeptical about it – mostly because of the possibility for abuse, and the fact that I already get unreasonably annoyed when I receive anything on my phone that isn’t from a friend directly to me.

    The potential dangers are obvious, and I wonder if the best fix isn’t to just give up a little bit of the control as a publicist and instead of sending out the messages ourselves, texting cast members with a message and asking them to forward it on to their contacts. This way the message actually comes from a friend (as opposed to me pretending to be a friend) and the actor can decide who to send it to (and thus avoid it accidentally going to an ex, former boss, or that friend they don’t really talk to anymore – people who might consider it spam).

    Like I said, we give up a lot of control with this, but might end up getting better results with less potential for abuse/annoyance. Or maybe not – we’d really have to try it to find out!

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with Andrea on the need for the texts to come from a friend before I’ll really pay attention.

  4. I agree that it could rapidly devolve into the area of being spammy. But I think it’s a really interesting idea, and I’d love to experiment with it a bit and play around and see what happens. 🙂

  5. Susan Weiss Says:


    The Bluetooth campaign PEPSI did was just awesome and it was based on text messages – this was BEFORE Twitter – yes there was a BEFORE TWITTER in Mexico….!!!!

    Just another thought about selling tix to theatre events et al that has to do with the ARTS; and of course one has to remember that for every good Tweet, however well intentioned it is, there are the other TWEET TWITS out there who are not well intentioned!!!

    Worth a try, I say!



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