Posted by: Bill von Achen | October 15, 2010

To Text or Not to Text?

The average 13-17 year old sends and receives 3339 texts a months, according to research conducted by the Nielson Company for the Wall Street Journal. If you have a teenager in your house, that’s probably old news to you, and the staggering number of sent and received texts may even seem on the low side.

If you think the trend toward texting applies only to those under 21, think again. The same research from Nielson also revealed that the average adult aged 45-54 sends and receives 323 texts a month (or more than 10 texts a day!), a 75% increase in just one year. At the same time, the average adult makes and receives only 188 mobile phone calls a month, down 25% over the past three years.

It’s not just kids, it seems, who are calling less and texting more.

In our Best Practices Boards group meetings this past week, we discussed the explosion in the use of social media tools by businesses to build brand awareness and increase communications with prospective customers and clients. Most of our group members acknowledged having business accounts for Facebook and Twitter, but also expressed skepticism about whether implementing formal marketing programs to exploit these social media tools could actually help them to build their business.

Then, one of our group members told a story in which his company had to rapidly communicate critical information to college students at a local school. The students were having problems using the company’s equipment based at the school due to some simple but critical misinformation. At first, the company contemplated flooding the campus with printed flyers providing the correct information. But then, an administrator at the school told the company that all the students used Twitter. Within an hour, the correct information was texted to all of the students. Problem solved!

The communication mediums available to us to connect with customers and clients are evolving more rapidly than we can grasp. Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter have their roots in facilitating social connections, but they’re being rapidly embraced by businesses of all sizes and for all kinds of reasons. And some companies are admittedly making some lame mistakes in their early efforts to incorporate these tools into their branding and marketing efforts. (After all, how many tweets do you really want to receive from Starbucks in a day?)

But sitting on the sidelines while you and your management team figure out how to use these methods of communication will only guarantee that 1) your company messaging programs will increasingly appear outdated and old-fashioned, 2) you’ll miss the opportunity to connect with existing customers in a fresh and innovative way, and 3) you’ll fail to reach a new group of prospects who interact with the world primarily through the filter provided by these new mediums.

To get started, small experiments work best. As an example, I began our Best Practices for Business blog in late 2009, blissfully unaware of the amount of work required to generate fresh (and, hopefully, worthwhile) content each and every week. But the experiment has provided mostly positive surprises and will help me to make a more informed decision about the next steps to take. (Hint: It will probably be another small experiment!)
Get off the sidelines! Start with small experiments to promote your business using social medial tools. Expect some setbacks, and surprises (both bad and good). Build on what you learn, and keep experimenting. You’ll be glad you did!

p.s. For those who are interested in reading the complete text of the Wall Street Journal, “Y U Luv Texts, H8 Calls,” which references the Nielson research mentioned above, go to the resources page of our blog ( and click on the link under the heading “Social Media.”

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