iMessage has made the leap into something brand new: a killer SMS marketing platform.
With the rapid pace of mobile operating system updates, it’s hard to find time to adjust to a new version before another follows closely behind in its tracks. In some cases, updating is little more than a cosmetic shift, but in others, a new OS means significant untapped potential for SMS marketing around the world.
Apple’s iPhone is among the most popular smartphones on the market, comprising 43% of the market share in Great Britain alone. And now, with the recent changes to iOS and iMessage, the available opportunities just keep getting better. With link preview for iMessage, the art of text message marketing is on a whole new level.
iOS 10 and the Rise of iMessage
The launch of iOS 10 in September 2016 coincided with the debut of the iPhone 7, Apple’s latest and greatest tech toy. While the operating system has some notable perks, the changes to iMessage presents the biggest impact for mobile marketers. With the launch of link preview, sending messages via SMS is far more meaningful than ever before.
Instead of simple text-based messages and static images, iPhone users can send emojis (currently 6 million are sent a day!), share gifs, design their own stickers, jot off handwritten messages, and even add special effects, like birthday balloons. For marketers willing to think outside the box, making a statement in a way that grabs audience attention is fun, fast, and easy. After all, 86% of Irish adults have smartphone access, providing an enormous market to target via text.
What Is Link Preview?
Prior to iOS 10, sending a link in iMessage showed up as a basic underlined hyperlink that, when clicked, took the reader to the Safari app. The latest update, however, changes everything.
When a link is sent correctly through iMessage in iOS 10, the hyperlink is no longer visible. Instead, users get a preview image with a clip of text, often featuring a page title or short summary. And, as marketers quickly realised, the possibilities here are limitless.
Rather than sending a boring URL that could go anywhere or be anything, SMS marketers now have the chance to custom design a text message ad that offers the added bonus of visual content. Instead of advertising a sale for a must-have accessory through text, marketers can include an image via link preview that is far more likely to resonate with readers. A link can be easily ignored, but a great picture leaves a lasting impression. A branded image also lends credibility, creating a clean, professional look that seems less spammy and more sophisticated than a shortened link alone.
The new iMessage’s potential doesn’t stop with pretty pictures, however; there’s a lot more in store for tech-savvy marketers. Some messaged media can actually be experienced within the messaging platform itself without requiring a trip to another app. YouTube videos, for example, can be previewed right in the body of a message, while innovative mobile apps, like Nordstrom’s redesigned app, allow for shopping and sharing without switching screens. Fandango, on the other hand, has made it easier to catch a flick with a friend, with mobile ticket purchasing in a few easy taps. For consumers with the latest iPhone and an updated iOS, there’s tons of opportunity to capitalise on the power of previews.
Making the Most of iMessage
Apple’s iMessage link preview has some major perks, but navigating the best way to utilise them can take a balance of careful planning and creativity.
Know the Rules
Tossing a URL anywhere in your message isn’t going to deliver the results you’re looking for. Instead, focus on placement. Be sure to follow the rules: start all URLs with http:// or https:// and position them at the very beginning or very end of your text. Anything else will stay in hyperlink form and you’ll lose your message.
Getting the right image to show up is a big part of a successful message, but it takes a little more effort than simply pressing Send. The Open Graph Protocol can help here, allowing you to assign an image to a particular website page using an og tag. Images can match website content or be customised to include extras like promo codes, allowing marketers to effectively optimise results.
Keep an eye on image size as well; vertical images with shorter page titles should be no larger than 400 x 542 pixels while those with longer titles should stop at 400 x 497 pixels. Keep horizontal images at 560 x 292 pixels or 1,200 x 628 pixels to ensure your image appears as desired.
The preview feature can be a huge perk for promotions. With increased ease in sending content, companies can more effectively communicate, driving conversions through in-app features that were never available before. To make the biggest splash, focus on sending shared content through mobile apps and websites, and reach out to your own SMS message base with sales, promo codes, and branded content that can be accessed exclusively within iMessage.
Take, for example, Deliveroo’s referral promotion. With the app, users can send their friends referral links directly through iMessage, providing a voucher via link preview that is immediately accessible.
A lesser-used but still promising feature hidden away within iMessage, the waterfall options can add a little creativity to your marketing methodology. While not fully functional for brand use, a few bonus tidbits can be harnessed under the right circumstances. For example, when you send “happy birthday!” to a customer, colourful balloons will fill the screen. Additionally, there’s a way to “like” messages similar liking posts to on social media, giving you an extra way to encourage interaction in exchange for customer perks.
Kickstart Your Own Campaign
With a background knowledge in link preview and what it means for SMS marketing, it’s easy to get started on your own campaign. By curating images, creating a brand persona, and designing easily accessible promotions that expand on what iOS has to offer, it’s possible to effectively reach a very large audience in Ireland, Great Britain and the rest of the world.