A young man considers the advantages and disadvantages of opting in to an SMS alert system for public health updates

By definition, an alert is important and, more often than not, urgent. We may wish to be alerted to opportunities, such as a flash sale or pop-up event, or to significant changes in circumstances, such as a business opening new locations or closing down old ones. In emergency situations, being promptly alerted to danger helps us stay safe.

To be effective, an alert needs to be fast and to the point, and it needs to be reliable. This is why SMS alerts have become increasingly relied upon over the years—few other options can rival the efficiency and reach of a straightforward text blast.

Of course, no method of communication is completely perfect. Being aware of the various SMS alert advantages and disadvantages can help you make the best choices regarding when and how to effectively implement text alerts into your marketing and communications.

SMS Alert Advantages

SMS alerts offer several impressive advantages over other means of reaching a large audience:

  • Speed. An SMS alert takes seconds to send, and will typically be read by most of your audience within three minutes or less. 
  • Price. SMS alerts cost only pennies per message, making them one of the most cost-effective options for reaching out to large groups of people at once.
  • Wide reach. As many as 96% of Americans own cell phones of some kind, but about 15% of the population are still using older phones without internet access. SMS texts, which do not require an internet connection to send or receive, allow you to reliably reach both smartphone and flip phone users alike and with ease.
  • Reliability. People are far more likely to miss radio or television announcements or misplace print materials, such as flyers or brochures, than lose or forget to check their cell phones. Even emails only get opened by about two out of ten recipients, whereas SMS alerts have a 98% chance of being read.
  • Efficiency. Compared to a phone call—even an automated one—an SMS alert uses far less of a phone’s battery life, which can be a critical consideration during a crisis.

A text may not be the ideal method to get every kind of message across. However, if you need to make a point, and you need to make it now, an SMS alert is almost always your best option.

SMS Alert Disadvantages

Despite the many benefits of SMS alerts, here are a few potential disadvantages to be taken into consideration, as well as how to overcome them:

  • Authentication. Anyone can send a text, which means that readers may have reason to doubt the veracity of your messages if, for example, they forget to save your number after opting-in to text alerts. This can be easily avoided by always including an indication of your company’s identity when sending an alert.
  • Cell tower congestion. During an emergency, cell towers can sometimes become overwhelmed by the sheer number of messages being sent back and forth as people try to contact loved ones and sources of support. To minimize delays, try to send crisis alerts as early as possible. If you need to send multiple alerts, make sure all of the most important information is included in the very first one.
  • Character limit. While you can break an SMS alert into multiple texts, it’s not ideal—especially not during emergencies. To avoid annoying customers with multiple notifications or confusing them with multi-part texts received out of order, keep SMS alerts as concise as possible and save lengthier explanations for later. It is also worth mentioning that some innovative SMS platforms allow for increased character limits over the standard 160. That extra space could be crucial in times of emergency. 

In comparing these SMS alert advantages and disadvantages, it becomes clear that the benefits far outweigh the potential problems—most of which can be avoided or mitigated by following a few simple best practices.

SMS Alert Advantages and Disadvantages: Optimizing Your Approach

When weighing SMS alert advantages and disadvantages, it is important to keep in mind that texting is never your only option for reaching people. Knowing which kinds of messages are best suited to this format is key to optimizing your strategy.

Newsletters, staff letters, and other lengthier communications are all still best sent by email or other long-form methods. Personal, individual conversations may warrant 1:1 online chats or phone calls. SMS alerts, on the other hand, are best used when you need to share straightforward, time-sensitive information quickly with many people at once. New products, limited-time offers, and emergency updates are all ideal examples.

Another important consideration is the platform you use to send your SMS alerts. Look for one that offers useful features like auto-responders, user group segmentation, and unlimited sending. The more user-friendly, flexible, and reliable your text marketing service is, the simpler it will be to reach who you need to when you need to, every time.

NorthText is a seasoned and innovative provider of text marketing solutions. Our robust, intuitive platform can help you easily navigate the advantages and disadvantages of SMS alerts to optimize customer and employee engagement. To learn more, call or text us at (312) 869-9070 today!