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Saga Communications uses SMS to drive listener engagement

Mobile Marketer, Chantal Tode

Radio station owner Saga Communications gave listeners of 31 different local stations a chance to win daily prizes and receive special offers by texting in, with the broadcaster's SMS club growing 60 percent in one month as a result.

The radio broadcasting company was looking to do something different than the traditional radio contest rewarding the Xth caller and prompted listeners on-air to text in and to be entered into the contest. The campaign resulted in over 178,000 new members joining the Saga text club in one month, with a total of over 3.3 million texts sent.

"Saga Communications used this texting program to create contest differentiation from our competition among the 31 participating stations - we were looking for something bigger and more interesting than another '9th caller' phone promotion," said Steve Goldstein, executive vice president at Saga Communications, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI.

A great engagement tool
Saga Communications had traditionally executed contests via phone dial-in by the listener. However, as this strategy did not allow for sufficient insight into listener participation levels and the ability to capture listener information, Saga was looking for a different tactic to engage listeners and attract advertisers.

The Saga Collective Texting Contest gave listeners a chance to win $1,000 twice daily on weekdays from April 2 to May 5.

Listeners were entered into the contest if they responded via text within ten minutes of the on-air cue.

In total, Saga Communications sent 155 text campaigns. The messages were the same across all of the stations except for the sponsored messages that appeared at the bottom for some of the stations.

Some of the sponsored messages included a special offer such as a specific amount off a next purchase. The offers could be redeemed by showing the text at the participating merchant location.

Some markets saw their text membership clubs grow by as much as 82 percent during the campaign.

"SMS is a great engagement tool for radio and has proven to be very effective for contesting," said Martin Kristiseter, vice president of mobile solutions at Marketron, Hailey, ID. "Every listener that has a text enabled phone can participate in the contest.

"It's important to grab as many listeners as possible and cast a wide net for these contests," he said. "SMS delivers on that promise and takes away bad user experiences, for example, call-in campaigns that are haunted by busy signals, hold times and interactive voice response.

Insider club
Saga Communications, which includes radio stations such as WAQY-FM in Springfield, MA, and WAFX-FM in Norfolk, VA, worked with Marketron for the national campaign.

Going forward, Saga plans to send opted in users between two and four messages a month and will hold additional mobile contests. The messages will be tied to the station that the listener opted into.

"An ongoing relationship is already live where mClub members are getting to hear big news first, enter special contests, buy tickets to hot concerts first and much more," Mr. Kristiseter said. "It's an insider club and the stations are managing them carefully to drive tune ins as well as traffic to other events they might have going on."