Thursday, December 29, 2011

We Like Twitter - But It Can't Replace SMS

We often get asked the question, "Why can't I just use Twitter instead of text messaging for what I want to do?"  The answer, at least in some cases, is - you can.

Twitter is a great tool and we think it's terrific for what it does.  In fact, we have a very active Twitter account that provides tips, tricks, hints, links and updates for our customers and prospects.  Whenever carriers or aggregators plan maintenance or schedule downtime, or if there's an unplanned outage on one of the carrier networks, we tweet it right away and the customers that "follow" us so that they're aware of it as soon as we are.

That said, Twitter is designed to do one thing very well - distribute information to a group of people that subscribe to your tweets (i.e., "follow you").  In order to get your information to people you want via Twitter there are several requirements.  People who you want to follow you will need:

  1. A Twitter account (they're free, but you still need to register through a Twitter app on your phone or via their web-based signup page)
  2. Internet access all the time, otherwise you won't be able to depend on them getting your messages.
  3. A smartphone - without it they won't be able to get a Twitter app.  Anyone with a standard "flip" phone or "feature" phone is, by definition, unable to use Twitter from their phone.  SMS works universally on every phone. 
  4. The Twitter app will have to running, or active, and be set up with push notifications for them to receive it in realtime on their phones.
  5. A data plan - this usually costs between $15-$30/month for a fixed amount of data (there are high costs if you exceed your limit) in addition to the phone's other services (calls, SMS, etc.) and may not be something that everyone has.  
  6. Finally, they'll need to constantly check Twitter to see if there's something of note for them.  Text messaging, on the other hand, is much more targeted and the information is always "pushed" to the recipient.  
There are a few other limitations, too, that are just inherent in the differences between Twitter and text messaging.  For example:
  • Twitter doesn't support interactive processes.  You can't get people to reply in a structured way and thus would have to constantly check your own Twitter account for replies, direct messages, etc., and have to count them if you needed a tally of votes, attendees or anything else.  
  • Most SMS services (including ours) offer an easy way to see who has replied to what and how many yes/no or attend/won't attend messages you get when sending a question.  
  • 95% of SMS messages are read within 3 minutes.  That's never going to happen with Twitter.
  • Some corporate networks or internal networks may block Twitter (in addition to other "non-work-related" web sites).
  • SMS is secure - you know who's opting in and out, you can control which groups see which messages, etc.  Twitter is an all-or-nothing broadcast tool.
There are many more differences but they're more nuanced depending on what your particular application is.  While it's true that text messaging does cost (although anyone using it more than casually probably already has one of the aforementioned unlimited/flat-rate plans) it is more secure, more effective and more useful to more people.

If you have questions you should email (sales at TextPower dot com) or call us (888.818.1808).