If you haven’t noticed from your own use of text messaging, it’s a pretty attention-grabbing channel.

We expect that people sending us text messages are contacts in our phone or people we’ve explicitly given our number to because we want them to text us (no, not call, because who answers unknown numbers anymore?!).

Businesses have realized that also. If you’re like me and hate answering the phone, you’ve actually been disappointed when your veterinarian or hair salon doesn’t provide text reminders. So, what does that mean for businesses, since texting is just one of many ways to communicate? Let’s not forget about emails and push notifications from apps on your phone.

The Numbers

SMS Email Push
98% open rate 21% open rate 2-4% open rate
36% engagement rate 2.6% click through rate 2.45% engagement rate

It’s all about ROI

I’m having a moment of silence for email. OK, now back to the magic of SMS… of course every business wants this kind of engagement with their communications, but SMS is a more complicated channel to adopt. The requirements for opt-in and opt-out management alone are enough to make a startup’s seasoned Director of Marketing throw his hands up (I know, because I was there).

There’s also the fact that you can’t measure open rates and sometimes even delivery rates via SMS depending on the phone number you’re texting from, so how do you even begin to measure return on investment (ROI)? One more fun fact: text messages are billed by segment, and each segment is only 160 characters. Sending 161? That’s double the cost, so it’s critical that messages are short in order to get the best ROI.

Your marketing team wants to prove their worth and the best way to do that is to ACTUALLY show how effective they are at generating engagement or, even better, tracking that engagement all the way through the sale. SMS makes that incredibly difficult if you don’t use tracked links.

But many tracked links with UTM parameters are loooooong. Like, sitting through an unnecessary and unproductive meeting long. And that takes up valuable space in your 160 character message.

The answer? Link shorteners like Bitly. (Not to be dramatic, but if you’re a marketer and you haven’t been utilizing link shorteners or link tracking, I am about to change your life.) More than likely though, you’re already using tracked links, but are you using them in your SMS messages to measure engagement?

You should be.

There are a ton of public (i.e. free) link shorteners out there and Bitly is definitely leading the pack, but I’m much more likely to click on a link that I recognize. Branded links are an excellent alternative that replace the generic domain (i.e., bit.ly) with something brand-recognizable (i.e., ESPN uses es.pn, Nike uses swoo.sh, and New York Times uses nyti.ms).

I highly recommend using custom domains even on shortened links, because it lets your consumers know you are pointing them to your site. Sure, my bank says my account was compromised and I need to click this link urgently, but how do I know that phone number belongs to my bank?

I am 100% more likely to click on a tracked link if it seems like it’s related to the business’ domain. This simple change is an easy way to show consumers they can identify the brand behind the message and can trust the link provided.

Using a custom domain to improve UX

Using a custom domain to incorporate your brand into a shortened URL can help you do the following:

Reinforce your sender identity
It’s all about those brand impressions, and sending via SMS means you’re probably not in their contact list. Adding your branded link to the message (as well as including your business name), reinforces the company identity behind the message.

Build consumer trust and confidence to click
Identifying yourself in your link shows consumers that you have gone the extra step to earn their trust, giving them confidence to click a shortened link.

Improve ROI through better engagement
Just by giving consumers more confidence, you’ve already improved ROI. Clicks mean engagement, and that means your brand is occupying valuable space in that consumer’s brain. Don’t waste it. Measure the engagement of your links and work to improve upon it like any good data-driven marketer.

These benefits boil down to one major result: improved user experience (UX) with your brand. Yes, I’m telling you that improving UX can be THIS simple! It won’t fix all your product hurdles, but working to elevate the user’s interactions with your brand communications is the low-hanging fruit of any good marketing strategy.