How Is SMS Used for Engagement?

(Note: This article was originally written for healthcare payers. However, the marketing strategies and tactics discussed can be applied by multiple types of organizations in different industries.) 

 

Today’s consumers are used to having all information they need at their fingertips—when and where they want it. Mobile devices make it easier than ever to do so. That’s why as health plans are looking for ways to improve engagement, they’re turning to SMS marketing, or short message service, to reach their members by text messaging.

Mobile devices are the most personal piece of technology members own. According to Business Trends, Americans spend about 2 hours and 20 minutes a day on their phones, which means the reach of an SMS campaign can stretch very far. SMS campaigns can easily engage the audience and allow for inbound and outbound communications.

Compared to other marketing mediums, SMS is immediate—text messages are delivered instantly to members’ personal devices. As consumers are bombarded with noise from emails, direct mail, and voicemails, text messaging allows for a quick, simple, and personal way to communicate.

Open rates for SMS are extremely high at 98%—and 90% of the time they’re read within three minutes of receiving.

This creates a valuable opportunity to connect. More than 91% of adults in the U.S. own a mobile phone, and more than 81% of mobile phone users send or receive text messages. Cost efficiency is another major selling point. Few resources are needed to create an SMS campaign, and there’s a nominal fee to execute, which is charged per text message to the health plan. Compared to other marketing avenues, SMS campaigns are extremely affordable.

With an SMS campaign, health plans can engage members by sending text messages that help them play an active role in managing their health. For example, this may include healthy tips that lead to healthier behaviors. Text messages can also be used to send appointment reminders, medication expiration notices, appointment openings, and reminders about disease management programs.

 

What Should Health Plans Consider When Creating an SMS Campaign?

Health plans should begin by identifying a problem they want to address with members and the goals or steps necessary to solve it. Having specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-specific (SMART) goals will assure the SMS campaign is successful. This campaign will likely impact many parts of an organization, so communicating these goals across all key team players is vital to the campaign’s success.

With the campaign goals in mind, consider the type of message to send. SMS offers a small amount of space for text—only 160 characters. Multimedia messages (MMS) are also available. MMS engages your audience outside of standard text with video, images, or audio, and offers more real estate with a character limit of 1,000.

Next, consider list segmentation. It’s important to segment lists into various target audiences and cater the message to each audience’s lifestyle and needs—the more personalized the message, the more likely the audience is to respond. Similar to email marketing, members must first opt-in to communications, and they must have an easy way to opt-out if desired.

Texts should include a strong call to action that encourages members to improve their health. When needed, health plans should drive members to a landing page or other resource for more info. These site visits can be tracked and measured to provide additional value to both members and health plans (e.g., which call to action led to the most click throughs, what information is most valuable to members, etc.)

Timing is equally important, so organizations should be mindful of the days and times messages are sent to ensure optimal open rates.

Consider these additional factors when engaging members with text or multimedia messages:
  • Needs and preferences of the audience•
  • System interface (e.g., EHR, Excel spreadsheet)•
  • Preferred type of messaging (e.g., one way, two way, or two way with customized responses)•
  • Data to collect (e.g., stats such as the number of messages sent/received, bounce rate, times sent; responses that are closed-ended or texted by member)•
  • Keywords for message•
  • Privacy and security issues (e.g., HIPAA/HITECH compliance
  • Type of number used (Shortcodes can be either “dedicated” or “shared” and are leased from either an SMS gateway provider or through the U.S. administrator CSCA. Long codes are dedicated phone numbers.)

 

Why Should Health Plans Use Graphcom for Their SMS Marketing Campaigns?

At Graphcom, we believe the best results are achieved in a collaborative environment where passion, innovation, and creative expression unite. We’re experienced in creating, implementing, and measuring SMS campaigns.

We can work with health plans to develop protocols for outreach and provide secure text messaging programs that comply with HIPAA/HITECH requirements and other guidelines. As a HIPAA/HITECH-compliant marketing firm, our systems are robust and secure.

Our SMS marketing capabilities include:

 

Does Graphcom sound like a good fit for your organization? Let’s talk. Give us a call at 800-669-1664 or email us at sales@graphcom.com to get started.

 

Click here to read more about increasing member engagement with an SMS marketing campaign.
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