EmoticonRecently as I was buying a new pair of cross-trainers at a mall sporting goods shop, one of the cashiers started having problems with her register tape. She paused, then exclaimed: \”Oh. Em. Gee!\”

Translation: OMG. Translation of that: Oh. My. God!

And that\’s when I knew that SMS abbreviations are now an official part of popular lexicography. Sure, there are some language conservatives, the kind who probably don\’t even like to use contractions, who will scoff, or decry the destruction of the English language, or dismiss usage of text-speak as a mere fad – like they\’re today\’s versions of \”the cat\’s meow\” or \”daddy-o.\”

But they\’re wrong. For marketers, understanding SMS acronyms (and emoticons, which are pictures drawn with words, letters, and/or punctuation marks, like the ubiquitous smiley face) is as important as any grammatical rule about pronouns or verbs.

Not because you want to artificially seem hip to young consumers. Rather, contractions like \”ttyl\” (talk to you later) and the aforementioned OMG save money for both senders and recipients. Since a text message can have a maximum of 160 characters per SMS, spelling everything out properly runs the risk of having to send two or three screens\’ worth of data – which in turn doubles or triples the cost to send and/or receive the message.

So digital marketers engaging in mobile messaging need to know and use common abbreviations. To do otherwise would risk angering the recipient who has to pay for extra data – or risk annoying the on-the-go message-receiver who doesn\’t have time to do more than glance at a one-screen missive.

There are innumerable acronyms, abbreviations, and emoticons. You can look at sites like this and this to get the full lowdown. Meanwhile, here are my favorites among the most and least known:

2 – Used instead of the words \”to\” or \”too.\” Examples: \”text KEYWORD 2 SHORTCODE 2 sign up,\” or \”2 unsubscribe, text STOP.\”

4 – Used instead of \”for.\” Example: \”text KEYWORD 4 coupon.\”

WC – Welcome – good for the initial message sent to a new subscriber.

(*o*) Surprised, or highly amused and surprised. Mostly used in Asia, but I\’ve found it impresses everyone to whom I\’ve sent it.

m/ Rock! Used the same way one flashes the two-pronged hand salute to signify approval or pleasure at something.

To be sure, these should not be misused. While I\’m obviously 110 percent in favor of using abbreviations in SMS, I also get extremely frustrated at folks who insist on over-using these for emails, MySpace comments, or anything that involves a full computer screen. That, to me, seems like either laziness or trying too hard to be cool.

OMG, am I an OL*?!

* Old Lady

Eydie Cubarrubia
Marketing Communications Manager, mobileStorm
\”I\’d rather you text me\”