The recent local government election thrust the ubiquitous SMS into the spotlight once more, as irate members of the public tweeted and retweeted furiously as to the right of political parties to send text messages – especially in the early hours of the morning, as some did.

Chris Balak, MD of bulk SMS provider PC2SMS, welcomes debate on the subject. “It highlights SMS messaging as still one of the most powerful, pervasive and cost effective means of reaching a widespread, yet highly targeted audience,” he says.
“Virtually every cell phone too is SMS-capable. This means a huge potential reach, compared with other mobile more sophisticated technologies such as mobile applications and mobile web, which only operate on Smartphones and where ownership is still relatively limited in South Africa,” Balak says.
The SMS’s unsung communicative power lies in the fact that it is read.  According to research undertaken by international research house Frost and Sullivan, 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of receipt, and 99% read over time.  These figures reinforce the advantages of SMS when information is time sensitive.
SMS is also a versatile medium, says Balak. Despite its lack of rich media features, SMS marketing can be used to run a variety of interactive mobile campaigns.
The future of SMS is in doubt, however, as smartphones with better multimedia capabilities increasingly move into the market.
“The SMS is a great low cost option for marketers just starting out with cellular marketing. It provides an opportunity to connect with customers on a mobile device for a low monthly cost. Unlike creating an app or mobile optimised site, there are no large upfront costs,” Balak says.
“SMS is essential to the multi channel approach because it does what it does well – provide marketers with the opportunity to push short, sharp messages to consumers that will be received and consumed instantly, with little cost or lead time involved,” he adds.