The Art of a Great Text: How to Craft a Killer SMS Campaign
March 25, 2022
Reading Time: 7 minutes
If you haven’t heard the term “textpert” yet, perhaps it’s because you’ve yet to come across one. They’re as rare as a traffic-free commute in L.A., more engaging than the latest TikTok challenge, and lucky for us, mostly found roaming the virtual halls of Postscript.
We decided to tap some of these elusive textperts, all of whom are SMS Strategists for Postscript Plus, to find out how to craft a truly out-of-this-world text.
We’d argue that texting is an actual art form. With a text, your brand will land somewhere on a phone between a note from Mom and a potential “U up?” text from someone, uh, special. And if you want it to really land, it’s got to be concise, compelling, and personal.
Here’s how to craft a great one.
Use the hamburger metaphor.
When Allie Davison, Messaging Strategist at Postscript, sits down to write a campaign for one of our merchants, she thinks about hamburgers—specifically as a metaphor for what a great text should include.
“I always start with the ‘top bun’ which is a great opening tagline,” she says. “The meat of the burger would be the offer or the content you’re serving. And no one likes a soggy bottom bun, so make sure you end with a really strong CTA.”
If you can nail those 3 things within a message, you’ve got the perfect formula for a solid text:
Top bun = Opening tagline
Meat = Content
Bottom bun = CTA
“And if we want to continue the burger metaphor, I often like to include a ‘P.S’ after the CTA—maybe with a reminder about free shipping,” she adds. “You can think of that as the pickle on the side.”
Look to your own inbox for inspiration.
Our strategists agreed that when it comes to finding inspiration for a campaign, look no further than your own inbox.
“When I get in a rut, I scroll through my own texts,” says Bryan Dickey, Messaging Strategist at Postscript. “I’m most persuasive when I’m texting my friends to try and get them to go somewhere. I look at the language I use, the abbreviations, even the emojis.”
By texting your subscribers the same way you text your friends, you’ll naturally project a tone that feels both authentic and authoritative.
Scroll through social media.
Social media captions work best when they’re quick, witty, and yes, even a little click-baity. It’s a great approach to a solid text, too.
“I’ll sometimes read comments on a social media post just to get inspiration on how people are actually communicating,” says Tyler Fernandez, Client Strategist at Postscript. “I’ll understand the dynamics of how people are interacting and I’ll try to repurpose that.”
Scroll through your brand’s channels and see how people react to your posts. Or, sit down and scroll through the folks you follow to see what you end up clicking on and reading. This may inspire your own creative direction.
Reference your own website.
Even if you’ve never sent out an SMS campaign, you’ve already got lots of copy ideas right on your website. You might just not know it yet.
“Anytime I’m working with a new client, I scroll through their website first to get a sense of tone and what type of content already exists,” says Liza Semenova, Messaging Strategist at Postscript.
“Blogs can perform super well as a text, but brands often have quizzes or guides to help educate customers about their product. These are great to repurpose into a Welcome Series or set up as a campaign,” she adds.
Know your audience.
SMS is meant to be a casual channel of communication, so even if you have a more serious, authoritative brand voice, you can still use SMS to be more playful.
But it’s also important to be authentic to your own brand identity. For example, if your audience isn’t on TikTok, you won’t want to make a joke about the “without telling me” challenge.
“Think about what might make your audience smile, whether it’s a throwback that would resonate with them or a particular quote,” says Davison. “It doesn’t have to be anything complicated.”
Repurpose your emails.
A really great exercise for any marketer is taking an email and trying to condense it into one sentence.
“Then send that as a text,” says Semenova. “SMS can be a great way to get past a cluttered email inbox. If you’re sending out a reminder that it’s the last day of a sale, and you really want to get that message out, SMS can be the way to do that.”
Create segments to send better messages.
If you’re new to SMS marketing, you’re still trying to figure out what your subscribers respond to best. This is where segmentation comes in.
“One thing I like to do leading up to a new product launch is to send a campaign with a keyword reply subscribers can text back if they want to be the first to know when the product is live,” says Semenova. “Everyone that uses the keyword gets segmented into a VIP list and gets a first look at what’s new.”
Keyword replies are great for a number of different sending strategies. If you’re a skincare brand, you can set up segments based on skin concerns. Food and beverage brands can set up segments based on favorite flavors.
You could even take it a step further and find out what customers don’t want to receive from you and offer opportunities throughout the year for them to opt-out of things like holiday promotions or daily flash sales. This can help reduce unsubscribes.
But whether you leverage keywords or not, you’ll definitely want to create a segment of highly engaged subscribers to treat as VIPs. This could be based on criteria like how many orders they’ve made, the date of their last order, or the total dollar amount they’ve spent. Throughout the year, reward them with exclusive sneak peeks or VIP-only sales.
Not only does this create brand loyalty, but it also makes those phone pings a little more exciting.
Send a text just because.
It’s very rare to see a brand send an email campaign that sound like this:
“Happy Valentine’s Day! Are you SINGLE, MARRIED or TAKEN? Reply back and we’ll give you a playlist based on your V-day status.”
“It’s National Love Your Dog Day! First 25 people to send us a selfie with their dog will receive a $10 gift card to shop with us. Let’s see those fur babies!”
The point is, not every text needs to have a sale or a new product launch attached to it.
“You’re ending up in a personal space where messages from friends and family go, so the last thing you want is to sound like spam,” says Davison.
Just be mindful that if you do send an open-ended text, you want to make sure you’re ready to respond.
Check in on your subscribers. Say hello just because you want to. Respect their inbox, and they’ll love you back.
It is not easy to be open and real on social media where everyone can see what you post. But when brands send a conversational text to their customers, it can open a floodgate of emotions.
Davison recalls silicone ring brand QALO sending a simple text asking customers why they loved silicone rings. They were amazed by the responses they got back, including one from a Black Hawk pilot who shared a super personal story.
“Everyone can see a social tweet, but not everyone can see a text. It feels so much more personal and people are more willing to open up,” says Davison.
Be sure to make it personal on your brand’s end, too. Founder messages that come directly from the brand are a great way to humanize a campaign.
Live within your memes.
There’s a time and a place for a graphic. According to Davison, you’ll want to consider what the goal of the campaign is before you determine whether you want a graphic or GIF.
“Is teasing what a new product looks like enough to drive a click through? Or is it such an important launch that they need to actually see it before they buy it?” says Davison.
For brands with younger audiences who use memes all the time with their friends, finding the right one could make a message more appealing—and thus, more effective.
Davison always writes her campaign ideas right within the Postscript dashboard so she can get a preview of what it will look like on a subscriber’s phone before she schedules it to send.
Remember that SMS is the “fun” marketing channel.
Consider SMS to be the fun uncle at Thanksgiving—the one who sneaks you a piece of pie before the turkey is carved.
SMS still gets a bad rap for being “spammy.” This is why it’s so crucial to have fun with the channel. It isn’t meant to be filled with sale-only alerts and promotional or transactional messages.
“Just talk to them like they’re your friends,” says Dickey. “Your messages are winding up in the most personal space of your phone, so you want them to enjoy what they’re reading.”
Semenova encourages brands to let down their guard and have fun. “Use abbreviations. You don’t need to use perfect grammar. A text is meant to be casual and light-hearted,” she says.
Even if you don’t have a specific campaign planned, Fernandez likes to think about what’s happening in pop culture and on TikTok when sending a text. “You can even have fun with your automations. I saw a post-purchase automation that had a ‘While we ship your stuff, listen to this playlist and get those summer vibes going’ and I thought it was so smart.”
And when in doubt, don’t forget the burger.
Learn more about our Postscript Plus team here, and if you’re in the mood for more campaign inspiration, head on over to Fantastic Texts.
Senior Content Marketing Manager
Laura is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Postscript. She has spent the past decade working in ecommerce. When she isn't writing about her favorite topic (marketing) or listening to podcasts about her other favorite topic (ecommerce), she's hanging out with her two sons on an island off the coast of Maine.