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R U Txt msgN? : Text messaging is easier, cheaper, and more effective than you may think

January 1, 2009

By Amy DuBose, RCE, e-pro, association executive with the San Marcos Area Board of REALTORS®, Texas.

REALTORS® are professionals on the move, so it makes sense to communicate with them wherever they are—on their cell phones. Yesterday, that might have meant a phone call. Today, it means sending a text message.

It’s true, Americans are texting more than they’re calling, according to a Nielsen Company study of mobile phone users. As of mid-2008, text messaging was up 450 percent from just two years ago. The typical U.S. mobile subscriber sends or receives 357 text messages per month, compared to placing or -receiving 204 phone calls, the study found. At an average of $0.10 per text, text messaging might even be called economical. Considering that nearly all cell phones today are text-message enabled and most are e-mail and Internet ready, it’s most definitely practical.

Time-crunched and on the go, today’s professionals, REALTORS® among them, are favoring this new wave of communication for its short, sweet and instantaneous abilities.

REALTORS® Text

According to the NAR 2008 technology survey, REALTORS® are especially savvy texters, with 35 percent of them messaging on a daily basis.

So, who are REALTORS® texting, and why? They use the method to stay in touch with clients, to network, and even to generate leads. For example, property ads and for-sale signs often include a text message code (e.g. “text 555 Main to 25827”), which prospects can dial to have photos, pricing, and additional information sent directly to their mobile phone. Not only does the prospect get the information he or she needs, but the listing agent gets the prospect’s phone number, which is useful for follow-up.

REALTORS® who text are not necessarily of the younger generation, says Tricia Chirco, marketing and communications director for the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island. “It’s a mix of ages, but they’re all the tech-savvy ones who are doing a majority of their work from their BlackBerries and phones.”

Francisco Aguilar, CEO of the Corpus Christi -Association of REALTORS®, Texas, agrees. “Many of our members prefer this method of quick commu-nication to let them know that there is something they should read on their e-mail or simply a re-minder to an event,” he says.

According to Chirco, their research has shown that mobile phone marketing is one of the newest ways businesses are communicating and marketing to their customers. With that in mind, Chirco launched a mobile marketing plan in January. Since its launch, nearly 300 REALTORS® have subscribed to receive short text announcements from the MLS regarding new products and services.

“There’s a sense of immediacy when this information comes to your phone,” notes Chirco, whose expansion plans include texting billing alerts, special education opportunities, and association news.

Texting is a two-way

street

Becoming a texting-savvy association means more than sending mass text messages to members about events, market updates, and classes. It means also offering services via text.

“We had several classes on texting and needed to have a solution in place for members to communicate directly with association staff and vice versa,” says Steve Volkodav, CIO for the North Shore--Barrington Association of REALTORS®, Ill. The association started using a service called Red Oxygen to route text messages from members to an association e-mail box.

If a member is out in the field and needs assistance, he or she can text message a dedicated number and association staff will receive the message in their e-mail. “We share the responsibilities for monitoring the e-mail account and the members get a response back to their cell phone,” says Volkodav. Typical requests via text message are: “I can’t update my smartcard, help,” “I can’t open my lockbox,” “What’s my password to get into the Web site?” There have even been some text messages for class registration. North Shore receives about 6 to 10 messages a month and is just starting to get more members involved with this method of communication. Gauging from the positive response, Volkodav plans to launch a text message marketing program.

Costs and

considerations

A growing number of free services allow you to send a text to any phone from your computer. If you want to send bulk messages, though, the typical monthly fee for 1,000 text messages is around $40 to $60.

“We researched a few mobile text companies and decided to go with Club Texting. The cost is only $50 per month for up to 2,000 phone numbers, making it really a no-brainer,” says Chirco. “Texting fills a marketing niche—we’re communicating with a group that we wouldn’t otherwise be reaching—but it doesn’t replace any of our other vehicles.”

Survey your membership to see how receptive they would be to text message communications from your association. Through your own efforts and research, you can see what will work best for your membership. Txt msgN mA not mAk senS 4 U nw, bt W8.

Amy DuBose, RCE, e-pro, is the association executive with the San Marcos Area Board of REALTORS®, Texas. She can be reached at 512/396-5478 or amy@smabor.com.