Category Archives: Text Messaging Tips

4 Ways Text Messaging Can Improve Your Patron Communications

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A recent Pew study revealed that 80 percent of American cell phone owners use text messaging as a means of communication, sending or receiving an average of 41.5 text messages per day. For the 18-24 age group, 97 percent of cell phone owners text, sending or receiving an average of 109.5 texts per day.

One look at these numbers and you know instantly how to reach a majority of your current library patrons and an even greater majority of tomorrow’s library patrons: via text.

Text messaging is a fast and efficient means of communicating with your library patrons and there are many ways in which you can use text messaging to improve your patron communications. Here are just a few types of messages you can communicate to your patrons via text:

1. Circulation Notices Such as Holds and Overdues.

Emails today convey much less of a sense of urgency than they did a few years ago, especially to younger library patrons. To catch your users’ attention with important circulation notices, try sending them via text instead of email. This way, they can act on the notices immediately.

2. Promotional Polls and Contests

A great way to keep your patrons engaged is to link promotions to programming and other library events. Your library can have contests where you send out polls or questions via text for prizes such as first row seats to an upcoming speaker (ie. “The first three patrons to text us the author of Tender Is the Night win front row seats to our October Author Speaker Series Event”). You can also hold a text vote to choose between two programming possibilities for an upcoming date.

3. URLs to Newsletters or Other Library Publications

Does your library publish a monthly newsletter? A terrific way to get the newsletter into the hands of your patrons so they may have immediate access is to send them a short text with the URL right when it is published. Your patrons can be reading the newsletter that your staff worked so hard on literally within seconds of publication.

4. Programming Reminders

In today’s fast-paced and information-packed world, we need to be reminded of things. A great way to promote your library programs is to send your patrons text reminders of upcoming events, along with URLs linking to further information if available. This way, they can check their schedules on the go and even add the events directly from your text to their calendars.

Try these text messaging tips to improve communications at your library. We think your patrons will appreciate it.

25 Great Text Messaging Acronyms You May or May Not Need to Know for Your Text-a-Librarian Service

Do you speak text?

Mosio_TextSpeak_Translator

Your patrons speak many languages, and you can’t learn them all. But one thing you can do to improve service to your patrons is familiarize yourself with some of the more common terms and phrases in their languages of preference. If your patron is text-savvy enough to be texting his or her librarian, then one of his or her languages of preference is chat and chances are he or she is up on the latest text messaging acronyms.

A great way to enhance chat service for your patrons and maximize your efficient use of time is to become familiar with some of the most common and helpful text messaging acronyms. Speaking your users’ languages, especially in online communications, will help them feel more comfortable and give that personal touch so they don’t feel like they are talking to a robot.

There are thousands of text messaging acronyms, but we want to stick to the ones that can be used in a professional environment and that are not too obscure. These are the ones your users will likely be using, and these are the ones that you should be using as well. You will want to tailor your chat acronym use to each session, gauging each individual user’s chat acronym expertise level by the acronyms that he or she uses him- or herself.

Here is a list of 25 text messaging acronyms which you can add to your arsenal of reference tools.

AAP – Always a pleasure
BIF – Before I forget
BRB – Be right back
BTW – By the way
EOM – End of message
F2F – Face to face
GL – Good luck
HAND – Have a nice day
IANAL – I am not a lawyer
IMA – I might add
IMO – In my opinion
IOW – In other words
ISWYM – I see what you mean
JIC – Just in case
OIC – Oh, I see
OTOH – On the other hand
PD – Public domain
SOW – Speaking of which
THX – Thanks
TTBOMK – To the best of my knowledge
TYVM – Thank you very much
WB – Welcome back
WRT – With regard to
WTG – Way to go!
YW – You’re welcome

The patron texting a question is typically expecting a quick response and librarians need to be prepared to answer text-a-librarian questions promptly. Lots of chat acronyms, such as ROFL and L8R, are designed for close friends. Your users may employ such acronyms, but you will want to restrict your use to the more professional ones such as those in the list above.

And if your patron sends you a puzzling collection of letters and you have no idea what they mean, Mosio’s text speak translator will give you the help you need with its 800+ text messaging acronym definitions.

160 characters is a lot more info than you’d think (Mosio lets you send 320 or more, just in case)

We get asked how much information can be shared via text message. Not surprisingly, many people don’t think it is much, even considering the average mobile user manages to share a lot of info with friends, family and co-workers texting from their mobile phones.

In 1984 when SMS (Text Messaging) was invented, Friedhelm Hillebrand decided on 160 characters because it was the average amount of characters that fit on a typical postcard in those he counted. The postcard above (written by Rush drummer Neil Peart in 1984, the very same year SMS was invented) is 254 characters including sign off and his name. If you haven’t seen one of Neil’s drum solos, they are truly amazing, but also a tad longer than your average rock drum solo and worth every second (scroll to the 6 minute mark in the video below if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing).

98.15 Characters (61.4%)

That is the average number of characters in an outbound response from our clients to their patrons, students and customers. The important thing to remember is that ultimately, users understand the medium they’re using. Text messaging is conversational and short, but plenty of information can be shared in a single text message.

So what does 160 characters look like?

Here’s my personal favorite quote (from Charles Kingsley), I try to live by it every day. 159 characters including the quotation marks:
“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”

For Text a Librarian customers who are less like Charles Kingsley and more like Neil Peart, we enabled you to send longer responses, automatically breaking them over several text messages when needed.

Using QR Codes in Libraries – Thoughts and a Free QR Code Generator

QR Codes – Mobile’s Secret Decoder Ring

There seems to be quite an interest about the use of QR codes in libraries lately. I personally have mixed feelings and am still wondering if it’s a bandwagon worth jumping on just yet.

Are they cool? Yes. They’re a cell phone’s version of a secret decoder ring. They definitely have a form factor. But are they worth taking the time to QR Code a whole bunch of text and urls, then work at getting patrons and customers excited about using them (of course, after they have discovered and downloaded an app that works for their particular phone)?

I’m simply not sure and am going to need a little bit more convincing before I get excited.

By the way, if you’re excited or just curious about them, here’s a great QR Code Generator from www.kaywa.com, no registration required.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Google’s Favorite Places QR Codes around San Francisco, yet recently read this post about a QR scanner reading the code wrong. Personally, I’ve had good and bad experiences with the reader, mostly using it to test them out (I have yet to see one in the real world compelling enough to break out my phone and use my BeeTagg iPhone App, but I’m ready for when I do). I’m not sure if it’s the reader or my aiming abilities, some times it has taken a few snaps to get it right.

Secret Decoder Ring
A Christmas Story is my favorite movie to watch during the holidays. It’s a classic that will always be watched by my family. There’s a scene where Ralphie has waited for his Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring with great anticipation, finally gets it and runs upstairs, closes the door to be alone, then begins to decode his secret message. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how it turns out. Here it is in the form of a QR Code:

If you don’t remember the outcome: Ralphie is disappointed with the results.

One could argue that the problem isn’t the decoder ring, but the content that is disappointing, but let me pose a question: When you saw the QR Code above, did you pull out your phone to see what the code said? If so, great and thank you for participating! If not, I understand. This is my reasoning for the mixed feelings and I happen to LOVE mobile technologies.

The future of libraries and businesses is in mobile because it’s a device that is always with people. By being available to them everywhere, you increase your communication opportunities with more patrons and customers. That said, with so many different sub-technologies on mobile devices, at some point a choice has to be made on where you place your time, energy and money. Right now and for many years to come, text messaging is the most ubiquitous mobile technology outside of voice calls.

What’s Best About Them?
They’re free, they’re pretty cool and for those who have the software downloaded onto their phone, they can be quick and useful (although someone here with a Blackberry Curve disagrees about the quick).

Other Possibilities: Search Engine Optimization
I recently read on a search engine blog, a speculation that Google will read the codes and index the information in them (which is why we have one on our contact page). I’ll keep an eye out, but have yet to see any confirmation of this. This use, however, isn’t mobile.

My Pick for Coolest “Code” Library Mobile Technology: Red Laser
Red Laser is a barcode scanner (just like the ones at the check out). Why could it be great for libraries? Because patrons out in the world could scan books, DVDs, etc and instead of buying or renting them at the store, see if their library has it, then put it on hold. Definitely a bigger jump in programming on the library side of things, but very useful bridging the gap between the library and being out in the world. OCLC and Occipital have already caught on to this and partnered to build a WorldCat Local App.

Do you think QR Codes will be worth your time, energy and money? If so, how do you see them working best?

By the way, for those of you who didn’t pull out your phone to snap the QR Code, here’s the response (the same one Ralphie got in the movie):

New! Simple but Effective Feature: Text for Instructions

“Aren’t you oversimplifying this? Yes. That’s the whole point.”

From the Steve Krug’s new book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy

We’ve added a simple, but very effective feature we call “Text for Instructions.”

Simply stated, it means your patrons only have to text your keyword to 66746 for instructions on how to use your service.

What happens next?
1. Your patrons get an auto-responder with instructions on saving your keyword and the number 66746 to their contacts for when they need to ask you a question. The instructions include a link to a mobile web page with detailed instructions in case they need them.

It acts like a registration system that gets them started with your service without having to have a pressing question or message on-the-spot. They save your info in their phones for later when they do.

2. The Mosio system assigns the phone number a PatronID associated with your account, so after that all they need to do is text their question to 66746.

That’s it!

Note: The old way of texting your keyword + their message to 66746 still works, no problem. But this way patrons can see your poster (example below) or promotional materials, text for instructions, then save everything in their contacts when they need it later.

If you’re a Mosio / Text a Librarian customer and want more specific information about it, like how you can customize/edit the instructions, it’s listed in the New Features section inside your account.

Text Messaging Use in Helplines, Hotlines and Info Lines

Help and Info is Only a Text Away

Yesterday Scarleteen, a free sexuality information resource for teens and young adults went live with their Text Scarleteen service. I’ve been quite impressed by the buzz already surrounding their launch of the service in the first day (and their graphic, above, is great as well). Owned and operated by Heather Corinna (plus a handful of volunteers), Scarleteen provides service to approximately 20-30,000 young adults per month internationally. Heather and her team seem to have no trouble getting traffic to the website where they can ask questions via email or read and respond to messages on their message board.

Scarleteen’s use of text messaging in this way isn’t augmenting a phone line, but rather using it as an additional way for young people to get in touch with someone who cares when they’re out in the world. Last month I wrote a post on our mobile answers blog called “sex and health education for teens and young adults via mobile text messaging – private, personal, anonymous, and effective” pointing out some of the reasons we’ve been contacted lately by health centers and services on campuses and in the community. In a recent meeting with an organization that provides youth lines, they told us that their phone call volumes were going down. It makes sense. Americans on average, text twice as much as they talk on their mobile devices. If teens aren’t talking to their friends as much on the phone, preferring texting, then it’s not going to be their first choice in communication tool for speaking to hotlines or helplines. The organization that we met with knows using text messaging to communicate will prove to be more successful. I’d argue this is the case not only for teens, but 20-35 year olds as well, even if for different reasons.

Consumers expect businesses to have a website. They expect many businesses to have a toll-free number. If your audience carries a mobile phone, they’re going to expect to communicate with you on that device and behaviors are showing that it’s not going to be talking.

More and more libraries are beginning to understand this and moving that way. They use text messaging as a way to extend their outreach, expand their walls and communicate with patrons wherever they are. It’s an exciting movement and very fun to watch. What we’re seeing with our customers is the understanding that simply having texting capabilities isn’t enough. There has to be a way to collaborate, archive, search, run statistics and become more efficient in responding through the mobile medium. We’re happy they’re choosing us to do so and are getting more and more interest in our text messaging for hotlines, helplines and info lines software.

Below I’ve reposted the “9 reasons to use mobile messaging for sex and health education for teens and young adults” in case you haven’t seen it yet. Most of the reasons below can be applied to any organization in communicating with all U.S. mobile phone users these days, not just the younger demographic, but that’s for another post.

9 Reasons to use Mobile Text Messaging for Sex and Health Education for Teens and Young Adults

1. Their mobile phone is everywhere they are. Phones are in their pockets and in their purses, everywhere they go. Text messaging offers a quick, discrete method of communication whenever and wherever advice is needed.

2. Text messaging technologies exist that provide anonymous interactions, allowing conversations to be private and confidential.

3. It is difficult to get over the hurdle of calling or coming in face-to-face for advice or help. Starting the conversation via text messaging can lead to more personal interactions (phone or appointment) once a level of comfort has been reached.

4. 80% of 18-34 year olds report cell phone as “lifeline” in a recent survey conducted by Sprint.

5. “Sexting” is a real problem. Utilizing the same medium to educate students can make a positive impact on negative behavior. They are obviously communicating about sex with their peers through text messaging & mobile photos, so this channel is open for healthier conversations.

6. 71% of teens and 90% of college students own a cell phone (Pew Internet and Student Monitor, respectively).  Not all own computers or have the privacy at home to be able to consult health professionals and sex education specialists.

7. Young people already understand texting can be used beyond peer-to-peer interactions. American Idol and youth-targeted marketing campaigns have done this for years, so there is no obstacle or major challenge for them to understand how a text messaging service works.

8. Quick, immediate, real-time availability by health services/information specialists can help prevent delayed, long-term issues.

9. It is a lot easier than you may think to implement a text message service and information helpline to reach more teens and young adults.

Text a Crime Tip (Poster) – San Francisco Police Department

Text a Tip Software for Schools, Campuses and Education

SFPD Text a Tip - Mosio Mobile Solutions

Text a Crime Tip Poster – San Francisco Police Department

Taken on Valencia Street in San Francisco, CA.

Mobile Text Messaging Crime Tips

(photo taken by Mosio: Interactive. Mobile. Engagement )