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The Chat Bubble

The Chat Bubble is a show about Messaging. We discuss messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, iMessage and WhatsApp - especially as a way for brands to communication with customers. A secondary focus is brand messaging, the psychology of the pitch and best practices around sales and marketing. The show combines interviews with shows discussing news and announcements about messaging channels and other companies in the space.
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Mar 10, 2019

To review, a keyword call to action (or text call to action) is when a promotion tells the viewer to text in. This takes the form of “Text KEYWORD to SHORTCODE”, where the short code is a 5-6 digit number that is statice and the keyword can be chosen and tracked to the promotion. If I were a marketer with the Cleveland Browns I might have a call to action that reads.

“To put your name down for 2019 season tickets, text BROWNS to 216216.”

Let’s break down how all of this might work.

“To put your name down for 2019 season tickets,” Good calls to action don’t say, “For more info…”. There is a specific reason that someone should text in. If people want more info, they already know what to do. A newspaper I worked with wanted people to text in and join a database of sources for stories. If the paper needed to speak with a doctor that was over 65 and ever delivered a baby on a plane, they would have a database of people to connect with.

When they paper’s call to action read, “Would you like to be a source? Text SOURCE to 12345”, no one texted in. When the paper ran a story about a dog attack and the call to action read, “Have you been attacked or almost attacked by a dog? Text DOG to 12345”, the results were great.

The reason that someone might text in is the most important aspect of a call to action although sometimes it’s overlooked if the organization is focusing on the more technical aspects. The keyword and shortcode part of the CTA should be kept simple.


Helping hundreds of organizations understand text message calls to action, I’ve developed a few best practices.

  1. Make the call to action clear. The call to action should avoid confusion. No one needs to remember the call to action. If they are going to text in, they will do it immediately. Make sure that the call to action doesn’t stop them from texting in.
  2. Repeat the call to action. This is true for any response channel - if you’re promoting a URL or phone number, it’s important to repeat it. This is especially true with text messaging where an SMS call to action may be new for viewers.
  3. Show and tell the call to action. Some people are more visual, and some people focus more on audio. No matter who the audience is, it’s best to do both. Show the words on screen - “Text JOIN to 12345” and say them at the same time. This will just get the best results.
  4. Share a good reason to text. As mentioned before, the reason behind the call to action is the most important aspect. If it’s interesting and valuable, people will take action. If the promotion isn’t that interesting, any response will be an uphill battle.

Last note, use calls to action to test different messaging, ads or media channels. Keywords naturally act as tracking codes, so you can measure and compare response for each keyword that’s promoted.

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