Dotdigital blog

Our solution for the unwelcome SMS guest

Plus, 5 ways to use SMS!

If you’ve never heard of Unicode, you’re in good company. Many of the world’s best marketers live in ignorant bliss, oblivious to what Unicode is.

But if you use SMS in your business or plan to bring it into your toolkit soon, I’m here to tell you that Unicode should be on your radar. Why? Because it can lead to gross overspend on your SMS campaigns if it’s not handled with care. But don’t worry, the spoiler alert is Dotdigital can help.

Read on to find out how.

What is Unicode?

Unicode is basically any character that is not a standard number or Latin character like, for example, Greek or Arabic. Sadly, emojis are also Unicode .

If emojis are Unicode, how can Unicode be bad?

Unicode isn’t bad per se. It’s just that in the world of SMS, where length matters, it can cause issues. The thing about Unicode is that it takes up more of your character count than normal characters do.

In the SMS world, one message is 160 characters long. It’s short, but if you’re an amazing marketer (and no doubt you are) you can battle through and craft an on-point message within the limit . But if you drop just one emoji into that message to liven it up, suddenly, you’ve only got 70 characters to play with. The reason for this is that just one Unicode character in a message converts the whole message to Unicode.

So, if I’m not too heavy handed on the emojis, I’ll be fine?

If only the world were that simple. The thing is, Unicode can be like an unwelcome guest who double-dips in the hummus, ending up in your messages whether you invited it to be there or not. If you write your campaigns in programs like Microsoft Word to do a spell check before copying and pasting them into your SMS editor, characters like apostrophes can inadvertently be converted to Unicode. This can be easily missed, and you can send out an SMS campaign to 100,000 people that you thought would be 100,000 messages but was actually 200,000. Imagine breaking that news to your manager?

What can I do about it?

Unicode is just a fact of life, and we can’t prevent it creating a shorter character limit for SMS. But, with our new Unicode alert, we can make sure that it never sneaks into your SMS campaigns without your knowledge. If you have Unicode in your SMS campaign, we’ll not only let you know it’s there, but we’ll also tell you exactly which characters are the culprits, to give you the power to decide whether or not to keep them. Because after all, perhaps some emojis are worth a thousand words?

Sold. You’ve got me thinking more about how I can use SMS as a brand…

Great! With a 98% open rate within the first five minutes of receipt and close to 8% click-to-delivered rates, SMS is a marketing channel that can cut through the noise. Here are five of our favorite ways our customers are using SMS to get better results for their marketing campaigns:

1. Events marketing is hard enough without having to guess how many people will be attending. In a busy world, even if customers or prospects have time to check their email, they often forget to RSVP.  Luckily, SMS can be used as an effective reminder to RSVP to an event. Our customers have found that SMS reminders have not only increased attendance rates, but have also allowed them to better prepare as they know exactly how many people will be attending on the day.

2. Thanks to its unbeatable open rate, our customers find that SMS works great for snap sales, like one-day-only promos where customers need to read and act fast.

3. Text-to-join campaigns and competitions are one of the best ways to get customers in store to sign up to your email or SMS list.

4. Because there is a guarantee they will be read on a mobile phone, SMS campaigns are one of the most effective ways to encourage customers to download your app. As Dotdigital also lets you shorten and track SMS links easily, you’ll be able to measure the engagement rates of SMS campaigns versus others.

5. Rolling subscriptions are a consistent cash generator for many of our customers. Many of them have found that SMS is by far the best channel to encourage customers to re-join when their subscription is about to run out.


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