Millennials to Marketers: I Want My SMS!

For most college students, text messaging has replaced email and talking as the preferred mode of communication. ExactTarget’s Channel Preference Survey of 1,500 internet users ages 15 to 65 shows those under the age of 25 prefer SMS to both email and instant messaging.

Text messaging combines the mobility of a phone with the instant gratification of IM. According to an Opinion Research Corp study, those under 30 are 4 times more likely to respond immediately to a text than an email and 91% of text messages receive a response within one hour.

Who are they talking to? Friends of course, but according to a study by Sprint, 51% are texting their parents. Fifty-seven percent of 50-64 year olds have children in the 18-24 age group, so it’s not surprising that Boomers are texting their college age students for a quicker response. (Certainly this is true in my family. My text messaging use has skyrocketed since my daughter left for college in August.)

But marketers should not expect to be making much use of texting as a medium for reaching college students with marketing messages anytime soon. Millennials are strongly protective of their text messaging lives. In our research, they repeatedly tell us non-personal messages — even messages from their university — are not welcome. Likewise, Exact Targeting says College Students “believe private communication channels (e.g., SMS, social networks) are off-limits for marketers. College Students want to keep personal and business affairs separate. Marketers should remember that email is the channel for “official” communications.”