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What Creators Get Wrong About Text Marketing

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by Dan Runcie

Every Monday, Trapital's free weekly memo will give you insights on the latest moves in the business of hip-hop. Join 15K+ readers who stay ahead of all the trends:

Today’s Trapital memo covers text marketing. This month I’ve written a lot about direct-to-consumer moves in hip-hop with Snoop Dogg’s NFT sale and Ye’s Stem player. Texting is as direct as it gets, but it takes much more effort than many imagined. Let’s dive in.

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What creators get wrong about text marketing

In 2019, a bunch of celebrities shared their phone numbers and asked us to text them. The masses had finally caught on to Mike Jones publicizing 281-330-8004 in the mid-2000s, Soulja Boy sliding his phone number in “Kiss Me Thru The Phone,” and Ryan Leslie’s SuperPhone. Artists with millions of Instagram followers were ready to ditch social media for good. Community had raised $50 million in funding and had a deep waitlist. Some wondered if the internet would ever be the same!

Well, text marketing hasn’t turned the internet upside-down. But it has helped many merchants and brands communicate with customers. It has also helped public figures too, but many have struggled to use it to its full capabilities. Text is the most intimate of all text-based communication platforms, so it requires a strategy that’s just as thoughtful.

Why text worked well with companies and merchants

Text marketing works well for brands and merchants because it’s aligned with the customer journey. Most of the case studies on SuperPhone and Community sites are from companies.

Companies often offer a 10-15% discount on the next order when customers subscribe for text messages. Brands can also follow up to text customers discounts to purchase items abandoned in their cart, offer updates on the order fulfillment, and give early access to future drops.

Each text provides a clear call to action that adds value. That increases the willingness to participate on both sides. For companies and public figures, these platforms are more expensive per user than email marketing—so they want to justify the cost. For recipients, there’s more friction to participate. They give up more personal information to get messages and go through several steps to get on a list. But they’re willing to do it for the benefits.

But that benefit is less clear for many public figures who share their numbers. Many of them may wonder “do I really have to share my date of birth with Ashton Kutcher, especially if he probably won’t respond if I text him back?” It’s a fair question.

Where public figures succeed struggle with texting

The challenge for many artists, celebrities, and public figures is that they don’t have a text marketing strategy. Sure, it feels great to text fans, “Bless up! Let’s get after it today.” But what’s next? It can’t be treated the same as a tweet. It can start to feel like spam, which UnitedMasters CEO Steve Stoute mentioned in our Trapital Podcast episode.

Text marketing worked well for SuperPhone founder Ryan Leslie because he had a game plan. He already understood the pyramid of intimacy. He knew exactly how to use his service. Here’s what he said in his 2020 interview with Earn Your Leisure:

“The difference between my 2013 campaign and the campaigns I’m seeing now is that there was a very specific intent captured at the initiation. So I didn’t just say, “Hey Here’s my number, shoot me a text, what’s up? I said look, ‘shoot me a text to get my new album. So if they shoot me a text, I already know the reason.”

For Ryan, that intent led to a 50% conversion rate. 17,000 of the 35,000 people who signed up for his email list bought the album for $10. That’s $170,000 in revenue. Ryan then used that to follow up and sell tickets for a concert. He sold 40,000 tickets at €60, which led to €2.4 million.

But how many artists or creators who use text marketing have been that intentional? Many haven’t, including me. In 2019, I was a beta user for Community. I shared my number via email, podcast, and socials. I responded to texts all the time, but I was still figuring out my own business model at the time. The timing wasn’t right.

Success with text marketing

Artists like Zayn, Miley Cyrus, and Johnny 2 Phones have had recent success stories with text marketing. They matched the intimacy with the value-add, which makes it easier to contact fans by region or geography.

I believe that artists are founders. They are founders who sell audience-first products. So if they launch a new number, it needs to be an integral part of their content strategy. It shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for social media.

The music industry is still behind text marketing. Warner partnered with Community in October 2021 to help its artists have a direct line to their fans. That won’t make it easier, but there’s room to succeed for the artists and creators who will put in the work.

Thanks to everyone who offered thoughts as I wrote this memo, much appreciated!

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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