So you want to send free SMS messages?
Doesn’t it feel good to get something for free? Yes, yes it does.
Until you realise the “cost” of that free thing. If you’re a business or organisation that needs to use SMS messaging and are considering a free option, here’s a look at the real price of free sms message services.
What you get with "free sms"
If you’re looking to send free SMS for your organisation, you’ll probably start with a Google search to find someone that offers the service. So that’s what I did too. It doesn’t seem to matter which one you click on, you usually end up at a web page loaded with ads and a small area to enter your message and mobile number. I did find one that required registration, but I wasn’t about to trust them with my information. Here’s a summary though of what I found:
- They’re just a form on a web page for entering your message
- You can only send one message at a time
- You can’t get a reply
- Usually there isn’t much, if any, information about the company running the service
- If you can find the info you discover the company behind the website may be in a different country
- Did I say the website is filled with ads? Many, many ads.
If you’re trying to keep your budget low, or non-existent, you might be willing to live with some of these shortcomings. Maybe you only need to send one-way sms messages (for now). Maybe you only have a few mobile numbers so sending one at a time isn’t a big deal. Whatever your reasoning to justify that a free service is good enough, well, isn’t good enough. Let’s take a look at why.
The cost of a free messaging service
So even if you think you can use a free service, there are many reasons why they aren’t as good as they seem:
Simple forms are very limiting. It doesn’t get much easier to use a service than just entering in a couple of fields on a form. But if that’s all there is to the service, you’re missing out on other features you probably need to manage your messages for your business. For example, you should keep a black list of numbers who’ve requested you never message them. With a free service you’ll need to do this by hand, or at least using some method that’s not integrated with the messaging system. You’ll also miss out on using easy to manage lists, a history of your messages, how many people received your message, or other analytics you just can’t get for free. These all make your job of sending messages much easier – and in the long run more cost effective.
Do you really want to enter one number and message at a time? Even if you have the mobile numbers and the message already written and ready to copy and paste into the free service, do you have time to do that? Or does your staff? What else could you be paying them to do during the time it takes to enter and send those free messages that might actually be more beneficial? Part of the benefit of business SMS messaging services is the ability to manage multiple messages, mobile numbers, black lists, and everything you need to send SMS messages quickly for a reasonable cost. Chances are when you add up the time it takes to enter all those numbers and messages, you’ll have paid something close to, or perhaps more than, it would have cost to use a paid professional service.
One way messaging is great, but what do the receivers see? I tested out some of the free services just to see how they worked. Generally I received the messages, but they were from some unknown random mobile number. How is the receiver supposed to know it comes from you? Free services don’t guarantee to use the same number every time so you could be sending out messages from different numbers all the time. This increases your chances of being seen as spam, and can hurt your credibility. Plus, if you ever do need to use two-way messaging (where people can reply to you) the system just won’t let you.
Can you really trust a website that doesn’t tell you who they are? Many of the free sms websites I visited didn’t have any kind of FAQ, Contact, or About Us pages. There’s no way to tell who they really are or where they are. The ones that did have some company information also had links to their primary website where they run a pay-per-message sms service. I looked at the paid services too and the prices were extremely low. That’s a flag that they are using inferior routes – probably the same routes they use for their free service. The trouble with inferior routes is that they are unreliable, but more on that in the next section.
What if you need help? What if you have a question about how to make the process easier, or how to send to multiple numbers at once to save time, or any of a hundred questions you might think of related to sending messages. If (and it’s a big if) they have a number to call or email to use for help, chances are it’s in a different country – one that may have less regulation than the UK. So even if you want to still get help from them, you may encounter time delays or language issues. And how much will they know about UK regulations regarding SMS messaging? What help and advice can they really offer?
Ads. They aren’t bad are they? Not necessarily, but given that most of the ads on these websites are sending you to other places to send your messages it really gives you reason to wonder why would you send with them? Also, based on what I saw in my research, I think most of these free SMS services are simply there to gather income from the ads. The majority of them say their service is to keep in touch with people around the globe but there’s no way to have a conversation (no replies remember?). They may also just be feeder pages to their paid services (those that offered them), so they fill them with ads for additional income. These aren’t the types of companies that give me the warm fuzzies.
But those aren't the real problems...
The points I mention above are just the surface when it comes to using free SMS services. For a business communicating with customers, or an organisation reaching out to members, you want to be sure you’re seen in a positive light.
Free services just can’t give you the reliability or the credibility you need to do that. Furthermore they hinder your ability to be responsible and follow UK laws regarding SMS messaging (by not providing a black list feature for example).
If your messages never arrive because the free service can’t guarantee delivery then you can appear incapable or inadequate. If your phone number keeps changing, you’ll lose credibility. If your messages are seen as spam then you appear to be irresponsible and will also lose credibility.
A damaged reputation is hard to repair.
Genuine business SMS services cost money. You see, while the SMS messages start out on a provider’s network, they eventually travel onto other networks through an SMS gateway. Every time the message goes onto another network it costs a little bit of money. That’s because while the Internet is “free”, the mobile networks you’re sending to are not free. If you want to send a message you need to pay the owner of the network to do so.
If you want to make sure you have a reliable service with all the features a business needs to be efficient and effective, you need to make sure you have a budget for it. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be too large a budget. In fact, it probably cost less than you think, and all the tools and support you get with a paid service make it entirely worth it.
So if you’re ready to try out a respectable, full featured, SMS service, sign up for a free account by clicking the button. And yes the account is actually free. We only charge for the messages you send so there’s no risk in signing up. We’re always here to help you too, just click on Live Chat or email us anytime and we’ll get all your questions answered.
ICO, the Information Commissioner's Office, has recently imposed a huge fine on direct marketing company Help Direct UK for sending illegal SMS messages.
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