Recently, a blog post in the New York Times advanced the notion that text messaging is on a “steep decline.” Based on a purported decline in year-over-year SMS traffic for Christmas Day 2011, the Times extrapolated to find a declining trend in the popularity of text messaging worldwide, noting that alternative services, like Facebook and Twitter, or free messaging features like Blackberry Messenger and Apple’s iMessage, have attributed to the decline of text messages among cell phone users.

Now, to be sure, like the telegraph or the telex before it, SMS will someday peak and then fade away. But at Blackboard Connect, we think reports of the death of texting are greatly exaggerated. Here’s why. When we cherry-pick the number of text messages sent on a single day, we have only the narrowest of data points.  If you step back and examines the broader trend, the evidence is clear: SMS traffic still enjoys double-digit growth every year.  According to Nielsen, mobile users in the US continue to drive significant growth in SMS usage. From 2009 to 2011, the number of SMS sent or received by women increased by 35 percent, and among men it increased 44 percent.

Even in more “mature” markets like the UK, SMS grew 24 percent in 2010, the most recent year on record, according to telecoms regulator Ofcom. British mobile users sent 129 billion SMS that year – 5 messages a day for every man, woman and child in the country.

That’s the experience we’ve found at Blackboard Connect too.  Our users continue to double their use of SMS every year. In 2011, our users increased the amount of text messages sent through our multi-modal service by roughly 124 percent compared to 2010.

What then of the holiday data from Hong Kong or Finland? No doubt, the SMS subject most vulnerable to substitution by social media may very well be the ’traditional’ mass text to friends, wishing ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy New Year.’ Such messages may be the most vulnerable to social media substitution, while day-to-day messages continue to grow unabated. If you think about it, a Facebook status update is a far less intrusive way to spread well-wishes and holiday cheer than SMS, especially during a time reserved for family and close friends.

Thinking more broadly, at the recent Let’s talk about txt conference in Edinburgh, one of our clients – Brian Hipkin of Regents Collegemade the argument that we should expand our definition of text messaging to include not just SMS, but ’tweets’, Facebook status updates and IP-based messages as well.   And there’s a lot of sense there, as those messages share a lot in common with SMS:

  • they’re immediate;
  • they’re conversational;
  • they’re limited in character length to one degree or another; and
  • they’re confined to a single subject on which a recipient can act or respond without complexity.

No matter how you define texting, there’s one easy way you can future-proof your communications strategy: having a multi-modal mass notification service. At Blackboard Connect, we help our customers reach their audience across a wide range of channels, and we’re always attuned to emerging communications technologies.  We added SMS to our toolkit back in 2008, and in 2010 we added Facebook and Twitter integrations.  Sending short bits of text is here to stay – and no matter what route those messages take, Blackboard Connect will be there to help you send them.

Want to make sure your communications strategy is on top of the latest tech trends? Visit our website to learn more about how Blackboard Connect™ can help you build a text strategy that works.

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