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Content marketing was so 2018. This year, the hot trend appears to be “text marketing,” a new way for celebrities and influencers to connect with fans at scale. The premise and execution of text marketing is surprisingly simple: a celebrity posts a phone number where you can text them, you send them a message and enter some personal information, and all of a sudden, you’re getting messages directly from some of the most influential people in the world.
The business model behind text marketing
In many ways, it sounds too good to be true. Does anyone really believe that a top Hollywood celebrity or cultural superstar has the time or inclination to hang out all day, sending text messages back and forth with random fans all over the world? And, yet, top influencers with millions of followers like Jake Paul and Lele Pons are practically begging fans to text them back. All you have to do is give out some of your personal information (such as name, age, gender, location), and within minutes, you could be getting messages from them. So what gives?
It turns out that the “text marketing” trend can be traced back to a new company called Community, which claims to create “100% real” connections between fans and famous people. When a celebrity like Tony Hawk invites you to text with them, you’ll be directed to the Community website, where you’ll have to click on a link and enter your personal information. For its part, Community says it never shares this data with third parties, and simply collects all this information so that it can send the right automated response (“Would love to chat with you guys right now!”). It also needs this information to connect you with the team responsible for coordinating future responses.
Yes, the responses are “100% real,” but if you read the fine print, it sounds like you’re basically communicating with the PR team of the celebrity, and not the actual celebrity. Moreover, it’s hard to believe that all your personal information is not being entered into a massive marketing database of some kind.
The Hollywood connection
If this sounds like something cooked up in Hollywood, you’d be right. Community (formerly known as Shimmur) is the brainchild of Hollywood talent manager Guy Oseary and Hollywood B-list celebrity Ashton Kutcher (who actually has a pretty impressive record of investing in California startups before they hit it big). The company has soaked up at least $35 million from investors to make text marketing the Next Big Thing.
How text marketing leverages other social media trends
Text marketing is really an amalgamation of several different social media marketing trends. One of these, of course, is the chatbot trend, in which automated bots conduct conversations with humans on texting platforms like Facebook Messenger. All kinds of Hollywood celebs, musicians and other cultural influencers have bots of their own to interact with fans. (If you’re a big Katy Perry fan, for example, there’s a Katy Perry bot) Another trend is the whole content marketing trend, in which companies and brands generate as much content as they can across as many platforms and channels, all in the name of engagement. So add texting to the list of platforms and channels for digital marketers.
At the end of the day, the whole text marketing trend points to the importance of brands coming up with a mobile-centric marketing strategy that has the ability to scale. And that’s exactly what text marketing offers – a way to engage people directly on their smartphones, and in such a way that it’s scalable even if you have millions of fans or followers.