Sending SMS text messages to phone numbers in the United States and Canada is easy with the right tools and services. As a marketing professional with over 10 years of experience in digital communications, I have tested various SMS providers and methods for reaching mobile users effectively. In this comprehensive guide, I will explain the different options available and provide actionable tips to set up SMS messaging at scale.
Table of Contents
Getting a SMS-Enabled Phone Number
The first step is acquiring a phone number enabled for SMS messaging. There are a few options:
- Virtual mobile numbers: Services like Twilio and Zipwhip provide virtual phone numbers specifically for SMS messaging at scale. These numbers work just like regular mobile numbers to send and receive text messages.
- Dedicated business phone numbers: Many business phone services like Grasshopper and RingCentral provide local phone numbers with SMS capabilities. Porting your existing business number to these services can enable text messaging.
- Personal mobile numbers: You can also use your personal cell phone number for lower volume SMS needs. However, this may not be ideal for larger messaging campaigns.
I recommend virtual mobile numbers from Twilio or Zipwhip as they provide the most flexibility and scale for SMS messaging. The process to get set up is quick and numbers are ready instantly.
Selecting a SMS Provider
With a phone number ready, next choose a platform to send and manage SMS messages:
For most use cases, I recommend choosing a reliable SMS aggregator like Twilio to get started. The extensive documentation and APIs available make integration seamless. Costs are very reasonable at under 1 cent per message sent.
Integrating the SMS API
Modern SMS platforms provide developer-friendly APIs to automate your messaging needs:
- API libraries: Languages like Python, Java, Node.js and Ruby have pre-built libraries to easily access the SMS API functions. These handle authentication, connections and error handling for you.
- Code samples: Most platforms provide plenty of code samples showing integration with common web frameworks like Django and Flask (Python) or Laravel and CodeIgniter (PHP). You can just plug these in to get up and running quickly.
- Webhooks: SMS platforms provide webhooks to post data about message delivery status, replies received and other events to the URL of your choice. Setting these up takes minutes and keeps your systems in sync.
- REST API: Platforms have REST APIs that expose all account, messaging and phone number functions via simple HTTPS requests. These APIs have great documentation and sandbox environments for testing.
I recommend using the pre-built API libraries if available. Referring to the code samples also helps build the integration smoothly.
Composing and Sending SMS Messages
Once your integration is set up, it’s time to test out sending actual SMS messages.
The SMS API allows specifying all parameters like the phone number, message body and type – promotional or transactional. Most platforms give you options like:
- Short codes: Using short codes instead of full phone numbers allows consumers to directly text your business. Useful in advertising and customer engagement campaigns.
- Two-way messaging: Receive as well as respond to messages from your users to enable conversations over SMS.
- MMS: Send multi-media messages having images, documents and other attachments.
- Sender ID: Change the name or business texting as instead of the phone number to improve deliverability.
I recommend trying out a simple text blast to start. Upload phone numbers in a CSV file and integrate the API to send a short promotional message. Once delivered successfully, consider adding more advanced features like two-way messaging.
Analyzing Results and Troubleshooting Issues
Like any marketing channel, keep track of key metrics to determine SMS campaign performance:
Deliverability rate: Percentage of messages successfully reaching the recipient’s device out of all attempts. Shoot for above 90%.
Engagement rate: % of recipients who interact with the message by clicking links, responding or other actions. Varies highly based on content and industry.
Click-through rate: Ratio of unique clicks on any links in the SMS copy to number of messages delivered. Useful for promotional content and special offers.
Opt-out rate: % of subscribers replying back to unsubscribe from future messages. Keep below 2% to avoid issues.
Latency: Time taken for messages get to from your platform to recipients’ devices across mobile networks. This varies by carriers and should be less than 10 minutes typically.
Troubleshooting message delivery issues involves:
- Checking carrier rejections and blacklisting if a particular network has low deliverability
- Optimizing opt-out flows to identify and resolve subscriber complaints
- Testing message rendering across different phones to confirm compatibility
- Validating sender IDs and registering short codes for better visibility
I suggest setting up historical tracking of these metrics to spot trends. Alerting on deliverability drops or increasing opt-outs also helps stay on top of SMS campaign performance.
I hope this guide gives you a good overview of core concepts around sending SMS messages at scale along with tangible recommendations.
The most important takeaway is choosing a reliable platform like Twilio to handle messaging routing and deliverability. Integrating the SMS API needs some initial effort but pays dividends through extensive automation capabilities.