Here's a thought which has been bouncing around my head for the last month or so, and which I've mentioned to a few folks: there is a fundamental conflict of interest between companies providing the ability to send and receive text messages on mobile networks (i.e. SMS aggregators), and organisations who want to use text messaging as a communication tool.
The SMS aggregators typically maintain expensive direct links into mobile network operators - often into many of them. They'll sell connectivity (i.e. the ability to send or receive text messages) and employ a variety of pricing schemes which typically include one-off set-up charges, monthly rental charges (or enforcing minimum monthly spend on messages), and per-message charges for sending (or sometimes even receiving) text messages. This last scheme typically involves slightly marking up the charges that the mobile network operators apply.
In addition aggregators have pushed the idea of "keywords" onto the industry: they rent a single number, then redirect messages sent to that number to different destinations based on a keyword at the start of each message. So an appointment reminder service might own the keyword "REMIND" on a given phone number, at the same time that a ringtone seller owns the keyword "TONE" on the same number, and when a message comes in that starts with "REMIND" the aggregator can ensure it gets sent to the right destination.
Keywords are a great way of maximising the money aggregators can make out of individual phone numbers; there's no meaningful limit on how many keywords you can have on a single number, and aggregators can therefore make keyword-based products significantly cheaper to run than those that own all communication sent to a given telephone number. I've written before about my views on the disadvantages of keywords; companies like Trinity Mirror have had experiences which seem to back these up - and they're not alone.
Their commercial imperative for aggregators is therefore clear: get as many customers on-board as possible (using keywords to sell cheaper SMS receipt services and make better use of a limited resource of phone numbers), and generate as much message traffic as possible.
But now look at a customers perspective: they use text messaging in everyday life in a very conversational, informal manner. Traditional rules of grammar and spelling go straight out of the window when you're typing a quick note using a phone keypad. Plus every text they send is costing them money, whilst every one they receive is masquerading as a message from a friend and distracting them from whatever they're doing.
Clearly end-users have a different perspective: if they use SMS, they want to do so as quickly as possible - using as few messages as they can to get the job done. They should also expect SMS services to be forgiving: if their mate had to send in the words "FOOTBALL SUBSCRIBE" to get a football alerts service, then "SUBSCRIBE FOOTY" ought to work too. Were the provider of football alerts using a keyword-based service, they wouldn't ever receive the latter message.
So, here's the conflict: whilst it's in the vested interest of aggregators to make SMS services use more messages and to employ keywords, this is exactly the opposite of what makes a service attractive to end-users - and is therefore the opposite of how providers of successful services should behave.
What's the solution? Recognise that an SMS aggregator is not the best party to understand end-user needs and design a workable, appropriate service over text messaging, and talk to someone who is (plug: like us).