This morning, your newspaper’s newsletter probably arrived in your email inbox. But you also found ads and spam there.
This is why many people turn to texting for their important messages. Result ? The “texting inbox” – much more intimate than social media – is the new promised land of digital marketing.
It is in any case the bet of the actor Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary, the agent of Bono and Madonna. In 2019, these two investors funded a text messaging company called Community. Originally, this service (founded in 2017 by entrepreneurs Matthiew Peltier and Josh Rosenheck as Shimmur) was offered to celebrities to promote their tour dates and new projects to their audience.
But for the past year, Community has also carried texts from many major brands, including McDonald’s, HBO, the New York Yankees and Condé Nast. On April 5, when the Hollywood blockbuster The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the US advertising campaign included a phone number where viewers could text, thanks to Community.
This week, the company is set to announce $25 million in funding, bringing the total investment to $110 million. Salesforce Ventures, Morgan Stanley Next Level Fund and Verizon Ventures signed the checks.
In 2022, Community appointed Robert Wolf, former CEO of UBS Group Americas, who also advised US President Barack Obama, as Chairman of the Board. Wolf helped bring big business to Community, which now has over 8,000 customers. The company is run by Diankha Linear, an experienced manager who served as a logistics officer in the US military.
Community has secured its latest funding as the true reach of social media is called into question. Companies want to take ownership of the digital relationship with their customers without going through an intermediary like Facebook or Twitter.
“I got started on Twitter [in 2009] and built a sizable following there,” said Kutcher, who has 16.8 million followers.
“We have 45% click-through rates. And 98% of recipients open the text. You don’t get that on social media: most people don’t even see what you post,” the actor explains.
Community struggles with a slew of competitors vying for access to your text messages, like Attentive, Twilio, and Zendesk. In addition, the software used by companies to manage their relationships with their customers now has features that make it easier to send text messages.
But Community stands out by allowing a dialogue between brands and their customers, who provide a treasure trove of personal information, which each brand owns. This data is not shared with other Community customers.
As for Mr. Oseary, it was his job that first brought him to Community.
As a talent agent, “I have no way of knowing who the people who came to the concert tonight are. I have no way to talk to them after the concert. I have no way of knowing who bought the album, he said. With Community, as soon as they text the number, we have a way to stay in direct contact. And that information belongs solely to the artist or business owner.”
Companies advertise a phone number that users text to sign up for updates. This month, McDonald’s is displaying its number on a large billboard in Times Square. The service allows subscribers to be segmented by region. So if an artist gives a concert in Atlanta, only Atlanta residents receive the texts.
Despite clear benefits, texting with customers poses unique challenges. Brands must obtain consent from customers to send them texts. It’s hard if the brand is not well established. In addition, customers may quickly decide that they want less advertising by text message than by email.
“With emails, if you don’t like what you’re getting, you have to scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click on the ‘unsubscribe’ link. With texting, you only have to write one word: ‘Stop,’” notes Mr. Kutcher.
This is information to keep in mind.