Social media giant Twitter makes it impossible for even the wordiest of Tweets to exceed 140 characters. Likewise, the most thought-provoking text message cannot go beyond 160 characters. Some of the most ubiquitous communication technologies we use today are constrained by these sorts of restrictions. Short and concise is the new ‘black’.
This obviously has massive implications for companies looking to conduct mobile surveys – and send out invites via the most appropriate channel, SMS. Just how do you fit in a compelling invitation, a call to action and a working link to your online survey all in one text message, with such limited screen real estate?
With only 160 characters at your disposal for an SMS, it’s essential that you not only make every word, but every character, count.
In an earlier edition of Mobile Matters, we discussed why SMS is the most effective medium through which to invite respondents to your mobile survey. In this edition, we take the next logical step and explore how to get around the problem of the character limitations of SMS.
SMS Character limits: A matter of practicality and design
The most glaring reason why you need to truncate your SMS survey invites is clear – there just isn’t enough room to write a long-winded invitation. Taking into account the fact that you need to include a URL to your survey in the same body of invite text, you simply don’t have a lot of characters to play around with, and this limits the scope of your invites from the very start.
However, practical limitations aside, research suggests that keeping SMS messages and other forms of ‘micro’ content as short as possible is simply best practice. In fact, just because you have 160 (or however many) characters to work with does not necessarily mean you should be using them all and filling your message to the brim.
This was highlighted in a study by Buddy Media, which looked at tweet length and whether there was an optimal number of characters that led to higher reader engagement. The study found that, even with the existing confines of 140 characters, the most effective SMS needed less than three quarters of these characters. Tweets that featured 100 characters or fewer had 17 per cent higher engagement, according to the study.
Certainly, this could have similar implications for SMS messages and survey invites, and the most engaging ones may not always be the ones that are exactly 160 characters long. That said, making sure that the characters you do end up using aren’t spent on unnecessarily long survey URLs is good practice – and this is where URL shorteners come in.
URL shorteners: A mobile invite’s best friend
You’ve likely seen them all around the Twittersphere and in promotional SMS messages – incredibly short and seemingly meaningless URLs that nonetheless link to a critical resource or website.
These truncated links are the product of URL shortening services, now one of the most widely used tools by mobile marketers. Offering the ability to cut down even the longest URLs into a bite-sized version you can copy and paste anywhere, they allow you to free up room in your SMS invite to fit in other compelling content.
There is a huge range of URL shortening websites available now, so it is useful to have a look around for one you like the feel of. TinyURL.com stands out as one of the first and most well-known shorteners – it has kept its layout clean and simplistic, making it a great reference point for when you need to shorten a URL in a hurry. Bit.ly is another big player in the URL shortening game, while internet giant Google recently expanded its ever-increasing web reach by offering a service of its own, Goo.gl.
However in an ideal world, when you often need to send individualised survey links to specific SMS accounts, sending the same survey link to multiple SMS accounts may not cut it. Thankfully, the better mobile optimised survey solutions do offer a solution to this.
PeoplePulse, for example, has an inbuilt URL shortener (survey.qa) that allows for short respondent-specific links and masks. Importantly, you don’t have to export survey links to an external link shortening service and lose transparency over survey open rates, who to send reminders to, etc.
With the need to keep SMS survey invites as short but as engaging as possible, URL shorteners are a valuable resource to keep in the tool kit to help maximise your mobile performance.
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