New Study Offers Tips & Tactics for the Best Health Text Messages


A study by Frederick Muench of Columbia University Medical Center has identified a few key ways for health organizations to write their SMS messages for the greatest impact. The study, performed via Internet survey with people in alcohol intervention programs, asked users about their SMS preferences.

Here are a few key ways that companies can ensure their text messages are the most effective:

  1. Send statements, not questions, when possible: 75% of study respondents said they preferred receiving statements to questions.
  2. Use correct grammar. This one’s pretty straightforward. Recipients prefer if your text messages are in proper English.
  3. Don’t use “textese”. Study responds said they didn’t like receiving messages in text slang.
  4. Include happy emoticons. This is an interesting one. A majority of respondents said their satisfaction increased when they received happy emoticons.

Of course, all these recommendations should be considered in context, as the results of one study, and not hard and fast rules for every program. Sometimes you have to ask questions – for example, in health tracking surveys. Also, we’re not proposing that every message include a smiley.

But tailoring your messages to your recipients’ preferences is a great way to increase response rates. As Muench says:

As with any market research, we know that understanding receptivity and user preferences is very important. So tailoring interventions effectively will lead to people using the messages, and higher engagement will lead to better outcomes.”

More and more organizations are using SMS campaigns to engage their bases about any number of critical causes, including encouraging people to quit smoking or helping them make healthy food choices. This makes it especially important for these groups to know their messages are reaching people in the most impactful way possible.

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