Don’t Believe Cloudmark’s SMS Spam Hype

Just over a year ago, mobileStorm CEO Jared Reitzin wrote a detailed explanation about why spam will never be nearly as prolific in SMS, or text-messaging,  as it is in email. Sadly, it’s time to revisit the topic after messaging security company Cloudmark released a scary-sounding announcement in time for CTIA Wireless.

“Mobile spam attacks on the rise as unlimited messaging plans and increased adoption of mobile applications create attractive market for spammers,” read the subhead of the company’s press release. The logic is faulty, to say the least. Cloudmark claims that the great rise in the use of text messaging in general means that the number of unsolicited texts is also rising. But it fails to give any meaningful numbers that show this correlation–only vague concerns attributed to mobile operators.

Sure, Cloudmark  points out SMS spam in Asia–specifically, that there were 300 billion spam texts received in China last year. But the company fails to point out that in Asian countries, texting has been popular for much longer than in North America, because it has always been cheaper than voice calls. Thus SMS  is really the best way to reach anyone, friend or consumer. What makes for a ripe environment for spam in one part of the world simply doesn’t exist in another region.

It really is an apples-to-oranges comparison to talk about the rise of spam email and potential spam SMS. Particularly in North America, SMS became widely adopted thanks in part to marketers using it for legitimate marketing purposes, i.e. opt-in messaging campaigns. Email meanwhile  was first popular among techies, then among consumers, and only then among spammers.

So  the importance of best practices has been ingrained in the SMS marketing industry, and there is a strong sense of self-policing. Those who try to violate these practices, by sending unsolicited texts to consumer phones, get quashed by their message sending service providers as soon as they get wind of it.

Another thing: As Jared said  in his earlier post,  the expense of sending SMS will always be greater than the expense of sending email, and that’s not going to be acceptable  to scumbag spammers. It costs ZERO money to send emails.To send texts, however, incurs either a per-message charge or a set monthly fee for a certain (or unlimited) number of messages. I don’t care that the cost to send a single text has dropped considerably over the past few years: It still costs, compared to email being cost-free, and that’s a major consideration for spammers.

So marketers, don’t fret–your legitimate, opt-in text messages will never get drowned in a sea of spam. And consumers, think about how many spam messages you’ve gotten lately (not counting solicitations from your carrier itself, which can’t be prevented by any security company)–and you’ll realize there’s no epidemic at all.

-Eydie Cubarrubia, Marketing Communications Manager, mobileStorm
“I’d rather you text me”


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