what is an SMS keyword and how to get an SMS keyword

What Is An SMS Keyword and How To Get One For Your Business: Create a Text Message Keyword Campaign in 4 Easy Steps

If you need to get up and running with a unique SMS keyword with the goal of easy text message opt-ins and growing an SMS subscriber list, you’re in the right place.

Text message marketing campaigns are increasingly popular because SMS is the most preferred way for billions of people to interact with one another.

  • SMS open rates are 82.1%
  • 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes of delivery
  • More than 65% of marketers say that SMS texting is “very effective”

In this article, you’ll learn what SMS keywords are, how to quickly obtain your own SMS keyword, and where to find expert SMS marketing advice on how to run effective SMS keyword campaigns.

What is an SMS keyword?

An SMS keyword is a word or phrase that people text to either a phone number or an SMS short code using their mobile phone. These SMS keywords are used to interact with your business through a dedicated phone number or 5 to 6 digit short code (e.g. 12121) that corresponds to a specific text messaging campaign.

For example, if a concert hall asks you to text MUSIC to 1-800-MUSIC to enter into a free ticket giveaway, the SMS keyword is MUSIC.

How are keywords used in SMS marketing?

When we’re talking about SMS in general, there are three ways that someone can opt-in to an SMS marketing campaign: 

  1. Mobile phone by sending a text message
  2. On a website, such as a web form or pop-up form  
  3. In-store, such as at a point of sale system

The first of the three is where SMS keyword marketing comes into play, and the process is fairly straightforward. First, the keyword is texted to opt-in to a mobile messaging campaign. Then, as a result of the opt-in, the subscriber will receive an automated text message response.

Examples of how to use an SMS keyword

You can use an SMS keyword in a number of ways. For example, you can invite customers and prospects to text a keyword to:

  • Receive a coupon for your product or service
  • Get notifications of upcoming events
  • Enter into a giveaway or contest

Additionally, using auto-responders in your keyword confirmation message, you can also share exclusive offers, discounts, or even a simple thank you for subscribing.

How to set up an SMS keyword campaign using Customers.ai

  1. Claim your Free Edition of Customers.ai
  2. Activate SMS tools (requires PRO or another subscription plan)
  3. Create a keyword to let people sign up for SMS updates
  4. Add text and media content widgets to the SMS opt-in confirmation message

Step 1: Sign up for a Free Edition of Customers.ai

Take 2 minutes to claim your free Customers.ai account and get started with your first SMS marketing bot. 

Step 2: Activate SMS tools

Once you’re in your Customers.ai account, navigate to the menu on the left-hand side, and click on SMS. 

Then click on the “Activate SMS” button to get a free phone number to start sending SMS messages to your customers and prospects.

This requires upgrading to the PRO version or another subscription plan.

Step 3: Create a keyword to let people opt-in to SMS updates

Now that you’ve activated SMS in Customers.ai, it’s time to create a keyword to allow people to opt-in to your SMS updates.

Choose the option at the top-left, as shown in the image below.

For our example, we’re using the word “UNICORN” as our keyword. But how do you choose a good SMS keyword?

Follow these SMS keyword tips, and you’ll be in good shape. Choose a keyword that is:

  • Specific to your SMS marketing campaign
  • Easy to remember
  • Simple to spell
  • Has as few characters as possible

Step 4: Add text and media content widgets to the SMS opt-in confirmation message

You can add both text (SMS) and rich media (MMS) to your Customers.ai SMS keyword campaign by clicking the plus sign and selecting your preferred content widgets.

SMS is short for “short message service”. SMS is commonly called a “text” or “text message”. MMS is the abbreviation for “multimedia messages”, and is used to send pictures or other media to a recipient’s text message mobile app.

Here’s an example of one of our calls-to-action where we’re using a dedicated phone number and the keyword “UNICORN”: Join my Unicorn Marketing Club for news and updates once a week by texting “UNICORN” to 1-309-740-3151.

When you text UNICORN to that phone number, you’ll receive a text message that reads:

Hi, this is Larry Kim. Thank you for joining my unicorn marketer’s text message club. I’ll send new marketing hacks — once or sometimes twice a week. You can type STOP at any time to unsubscribe. ???? be a unicorn in a sea of donkeys.”

Go ahead and test it out for yourself to receive marketing news and updates from Larry Kim!

Pro tips for SMS engagement and SMS marketing rules (in the US)

As you can see from our confirmation example above as well as in the promo text, we always make sure to follow these guidelines to increase our SMS marketing campaign engagement rates.

  • Include an opt-out message by telling people that they can type “STOP” or “UNSUBSCRIBE” at any time.
  • When people sign up, let them know how often to expect updates.
  • Let people know what kind of content they’ll be getting.

How to get started with SMS marketing campaigns

Now that you’re all set to go with your first SMS keyword, it’s time to learn how to run great SMS marketing campaigns.

So, take a look at these two articles of “SMS Marketing Examples” and “How To Send a Text Message Blast.”

Or, watch our video on “How To Do Text Message Marketing.”

SMS marketing is the fastest way to reach the more than 5 billion people that send and receive text messages around the world. And that’s because it’s instant, convenient, and universal.

And if you still want to better understand the effectiveness of SMS marketing? Check out these 60 SMS marketing statistics that will change your mind about text message marketing.

When you’re ready to execute your own SMS marketing campaigns, opt-in programs, and text message blasts, use Customers.ai’s suite of SMS marketing tools.

Have questions? Customers.ai’s SMS FAQs help doc has answers.

Important next steps

  • Get started with SMS marketing campaigns by building a free Customers.ai OmniChat™ chatbot. Get Customers.ai for free today.
  • Talk and learn about chatbots with other enthusiasts. Join Customers.ai Island, a Facebook group of over 35k marketers and entrepreneurs that are ready to support you.
  • Advance your marketing performance with Chatbot University, a free chatbot tutorial and training area for chat marketers.

See all the tools in Customers.ai’s multi-channel chatbot platform by getting started with Customers.ai for free.

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