New Features From Semaphore!

Just Released! OTP Endpoint

We’re happy to let our users know that we have a new endpoint available in our API. This endpoint automates the creation of OTP and messages via our API. Now generating an OTP is as simple as making an API call. The endpoint takes the same parameters as our regular message endpoints.

The only modification is that you need to do is place the string “{otp}” in your message as a placeholder wherever you want the code to show up in your message. For instance using the following message:

“Thanks for registering. Your passcode for login is {otp}. Please use this code within 5 minutes”

would return the message

“Thanks for registering. Your passcode for login is 123456. Please use this code within 5 minutes”

If you don’t add the placeholder, no problem! We’ll insert it for you at the bottom of the message. For instance the message:

“Thanks for registering”

would return the message

“Thanks for registering. Your One Time Password is 123456”

Once you make the API call, the OTP code is returned as the “code” parameter in the response. Temporarily store this code in your system to verify your user is using the correct code.

Now SMS OTP couldn’t be easier! Give it a try today! 

For more information, check out our API docs at https://semaphore.co/docs

 

 

 

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and plays video games. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.

How to Identify and Avoid SMS Scams [Infographic]

How to Avoid SMS Scams (Banner)

Unwanted messages, calls, emails, and solicitations bombard people on a regular basis. Those who know better simply hit delete or ignore them, quickly identifying that these are scams. However, not everyone is as well-informed when it comes to identifying such schemes, especially in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many scammers take advantage of crises or times of fear to prey on the vulnerable for monetary purposes. Their tactics include phishing emails and sending attachments (claiming to provide more information about the virus) to deliver malware. Data shows that in the UK, there have been reports of more than 500 COVID-19-related scams and over 2,000 phishing attempts to exploit fears, with a total loss of £1.6 million.

Email and social media networks are known channels where users should keep watch of fraudsters, but there’s another important channel that people should look out for scams: SMS.

Roughly 5 billion people around the world can send and receive SMS messages, which makes them a great channel for potential scammers. Let’s have a look at more interesting facts about SMS messaging:

  • Text messages have a 98% open rate.
  • 10% of SMS marketing messages are spam as opposed to roughly 50% of email messages.
  • 31% of mobile users have received an SMS message from unknown senders asking them to click on a suspicious link. 
  • Around 92% of text spam messages fall under the scam/fraud category. 

As online shopping and mobile banking become more prevalent, smartphones are making it more convenient to connect and perform transactions online. That said, the more connected we are, the easier it is for us to become targets for fraudsters.  

Below is a quick infographic to help you spot common SMS scams and avoid falling into their traps.

How to Avoid SMS Scams

An Overview of SMS Scams 

Spam SMS

In India alone, a survey shows that about 96% of Indians receive unsolicited text messages daily, and 70% of them still receive spam messages despite registering on the “do not disturb” (DND) list. Spam messages are usually harmless promotional material, but some are more malicious and aim to acquire the target recipient’s name, address, and even bank details.

Spam SMS is glaringly obvious sometimes, yet many people still fall for it. The best you can do is not show any interest in what the suspicious message requests for or promotes. 

Phishing SMS

Data shows that there has been a significant spike in SMS phishing in 2018, mainly targeting the financial sector. Mobile-specific phishing tools imitate login screens of legitimate mobile apps, making it more difficult to track and respond to compared to traditional phishing attacks. 

Phishing for personal details over SMS is common via hyperlinks. Watch out for the domain URL as it can look similar to the company’s actual domain but with subtle differences. For instance, a phishing domain might use something like “supportatapple.com,” whereas the official Apple support domain is “support.apple.com.”

SMS Originator Spoofing

SMS originator is also known in the industry as SMS Sender ID or sender. The spoofing happens when the malicious hacker alters their sender ID and uses the display name or number of the identity they’re trying to imitate. This tricks the recipient into trusting the sender and into providing the information they’re asking for. 

Spoofing scams aren’t easy to spot right away since they pose as a reputable brand or company. One way to avoid them is to confirm the message’s validity through the brand directly on another channel, whether via social media networks or email. If you suspect anything fishy, always double check by verifying.

SMS Malware Attack

In 2018, there was a jump in activity of a backdoor malware app targeting Android devices. It tricked mobile users into installing the app by sending SMS messages redirecting to a third-party download site, exposing the devices to attacks. 

Malware attacks give cybercriminals access to just about anything on your phone. You can’t vaccinate your smartphone, but you can steer clear of malware attacks by being wary of what not to click. You can also install an antivirus app on your smartphone to protect it against viruses or various types of malware. 

Common SMS Scam Tactics

SMS scams are on the rise as more people become knowledgeable enough to spot traditional email phishing schemes and other fraudulent messages. These messages are often sent from an automated dialing system aiming at a specific area code or region. Meanwhile, the mobile numbers are obtained by stealing customer information from banks, companies, or elsewhere on the internet

SMS/text message fraud is inevitable in a mobile-first world. But the growing threat of text messaging fraud brings greater opportunity for online criminal activity. The most common fraud schemes used are family emergency texts to shake up the victims, refund scams, account reactivation text, random prize or giveaway scams with a catch, and delivery scams.

Many scammers masquerade as a business or as a familiar brand to provide a sense of legitimacy and they usually use persuasion techniques to drive their targets to bite. 

Tactics like these work because they attack a user’s pain points and vulnerabilities, motivating them to act against their better judgement. Furthermore, text messaging doesn’t have a stringent filter software like emails do, making it harder to detect fraud. 

More Tips to Avoid SMS Scams

  • Don’t click on any unknown messages with suspicious links.
  • Do report SMS scam messages or file a complaint with your carrier or raise the issue to the brand or company being imitated so they can alert their customers.
  • Don’t respond or engage with suspicious messages, especially those that sound too good to be true.
  • Do update the passwords you use online, specifically your online banking passwords. This is important if you think you may have already fallen victim to a scam. Resetting your passwords will make it difficult for the hacker to continue accessing your account.
  • Don’t give away your personal information willy-nilly. Reputable brands generally don’t ask for your personal information out of nowhere. You won’t fall victim to SMS scams if you ignore the message or click on a link.
  • Do conduct a quick search to check if the number appears on spam-check or phone number lookup sites. Always verify the domain of legitimate websites.
  • Don’t indulge in messages that urge a quick response. Contact the bank or business associated with them to check if it is a legitimate request.
  • Do install a trusted anti-virus app on your phone to protect it against Trojans, spyware, or viruses, and download only from the official app store. 

Don’t Fall Victim to SMS Scams

There can be a lot of anxiety about receiving malware, spams, and getting scammed through SMS messages. Scammers only have one goal in mind: to steal your data for their own benefit. It’s important to be more dubious of any SMS messages you receive that aren’t from the people or brands that you trust. There’s no harm in being diligent and careful to keep yourself from doing something you’ll regret. 

Scams won’t ever stop coming. You can get rid of a few, but more schemes will pop up again in the future as motivated hackers become more sophisticated in their methods. 

 

Are you a business or brand looking for a trustworthy SMS marketing tool? Semaphore offers reputable SMS solutions that help businesses provide a better customer experience for their audience.

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and plays video games. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.

An Exciting Update About Semaphore

Dear Semaphore Customers

We are thrilled to announce that Semaphore has been acquired and is now being operated by Sombra Inc, a leading provider of internet services and software development for small businesses. While this may seem like a big change, you are still in great hands! The same people who originally developed Semaphore are part of the new organization!

What does this mean for you?

On a day-to-day basis, it’s business as usual. Your SMS messages will continue to be delivered uninterrupted. Going forward there are many new features planned for next year including support for multiple users and accounts, one-stop OTP solutions, scheduled blasts and much more.

Will there be any downtime?

The Semaphore service should remain operational as most of the transition has already taken place. There may be a brief outage for email as we transfer the semaphore.co mail domain to another service but this will be scheduled during a low period and we will provide advance notice and alternative emails to use

What about OR requests?

All OR requests from December 16, 2019 onwards will come from Sombra, Inc.
Any outstanding requests will be completed this week. ORs for transactions before December 16, 2019 will still come from Kickstart.

What does this mean for us?

Semaphore now has new resources and capabilities to continue driving value for you and your customers. We are committed to providing the same high quality service you’re used to as well as providing a fresh approach to new features, support and development going forward.

Our story continues…

Semaphore started out 6 years ago as a quick and easy way for businesses in the Philippines to connect with their customers via SMS. It was then that helping small businesses thrive in today’s digital economy became our mission. As we move forward in our next chapter our mission is the same and we now have more resources, tools and staff to support you as we continue to grow together.

I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one customer for putting your trust in us over the last 6 years and bringing us to where we are today. We come to work everyday for you. This commitment is stronger than ever during this exciting time!

Please feel free to reach out if you have any comments, questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Rex and the Semaphore team!

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and plays video games. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.

Happy New Year and a big thank you from Semaphore!

Thanks to you, our customers, 2017 was a record breaking year for Semaphore and 2018 is shaping up to be even bigger! As you might recall, we successfully launched our new and improved platform early last year.

As a result of our growth, late last year we experienced a few growing pains involving messages being delayed by minutes and sometimes even hours. To start off the year we’ve been working hard to make the platform as fast and reliable as possible. To achieve those goals we’ve made a few key changes to the way messages are handled as follows:

Single Messages 
Single messages are now processed before bulk messages, meaning that if you send a message to one recipient, that message is prioritized over a message being sent to multiple recipients in a single API request. This should solve the issue where bulk marketing messages end up clogging the queues and delaying messages.

Priority Messages
We’ve also implemented priority messages and corresponding API endpoint which allows your message to skip to the front of the line on both the “bulk” and “single” message queues. To prevent abuse, this “priority messages” cost 2 credits (instead of 1 credit) per 160 character message.

To use this method just change the API endpoint from /api/v4/messages to /api/v4/priority. Priority messages have a guaranteed SLA of 10 minutes. The priority endpoint is not rate limited. This is good for time sensitive messages like one-time passwords or two factor authentication.

API Connection Limits
Starting April 1, 2018 all non-priority API requests will be limited to 30 requests per minute. If your system is sending the same message to multiple numbers, please make a single request to /api/v4/messages and specify multiple numbers (comma separated) in the ‘recipient’ field.

These features are currently in beta so let us know if you have any problems–we appreciate your feedback! Our documentation has been updated and can be found at https://semaphore.co/docs. Thanks again for helping us to be the best way to send SMS in the Philippines and please do let us know if there’s anything else we can do to help either through the chat widget on our websites, by emailing support@semaphore.co or through our Facebook page.

As always, thanks for choosing Semaphore!
Your Semaphore Team

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and plays video games. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.

How to Grow Your Opt-In SMS Database

How to Grow Your Opt-In SMS Database

An SMS campaign is nothing without a profitable opt-in database. And when growing your list, there are rules to follow.

While easy, buying a purchased list is a big no-no. It should be permission-based and grown organically. Unsolicited commercial text messages can be seen as spam and damage your brand’s reputation, whereas permission-based messages target customers that have shown interest in your product or service. Obtaining your recipients’ permission first will result in higher response and conversion rates.

If you have collected information from your customers, you can ask them for their mobile numbers. Sometimes, customers can be hesitant in sharing their personal contact information, and you’ll need to work to build their trust first (or properly incentivize them).

Here are some tips and strategies to help you grow your opt-in list for text blast.

Ways to Grow Opt-In SMS Database

1. Incentivize Signups with Valuable Offers

People value on their privacy, they will be hesitant in giving personal information away without good reason. However, they can often be incentivized to do so, if they can gain something in exchange. It can be a discount code, an exclusive promotion, valuable information, or important notifications.

When you’re getting customers to sign up for your SMS marketing campaign, it’s important to focus on what benefits they can get out of it. Be sure to convey the level of exclusivity that opting in to your SMS list offers.

2. Use SMS Keyword and Short Code on your Advertisements

If you run a brick-and-mortar store, you can put up a sign that drives customers to text a specific keyword to a short code number for special discounts, promotions, and exclusive freebies. You can also place this information on your billboards, flyers, website, and other marketing materials.

Keep your instructions and benefits clear to readers, and use a simple and relevant keyword that is easy to remember and spell.

In the sample below, WCCB-TV implemented this strategy to grow both its opt-in database and community. By texting WCCBVIP to 31401, subscribers do not only get a chance to win two advance screening passes. They also become a member of its text club.

3. Integrate SMS with Other Marketing Channels

Exhaust all possibilities to reach potential subscribers by asking them to opt-in to your SMS list using other marketing channels.

You can add a banner image to your website with simple instructions on how they can sign up to your SMS list. Place a reminder in your email newsletter about how they can receive SMS notifications for more exclusive discounts and promos. In your online sign-up forms, try adding a field for mobile numbers. Consistently posting on your social media channels about your SMS campaign is also helpful in growing your SMS database.

Here are the other marketing channels where you can include your SMS opt-in message:

  • Flyers and print advertisements
  • Social media posts and ads
  • Search ads
  • Email newsletter
  • In-store signs
  • Billboards
  • Events and conferences
  • Radio and TV

Final Thoughts

Since you want your SMS list to include customers who are interested in your business, it is also your responsibility to give them the ability to unsubscribe when they no longer want to receive notifications or messages from you. This will also help you manage and filter your SMS database.

Of course, opting out is the last thing you want your customers to do, so do your best to keep them engaged!

Want to grow your business using SMS? Sign up for Semaphore here!

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and plays video games. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.

SMS Metrics You Need to Measure [Infographic]

SMS Metrics You Need to Measure

Performance measurement and analysis are important in any business strategy. The same goes with SMS marketing campaigns. Metrics allow you to determine whether your campaign achieved your goals and targets.

By analyzing the key metrics relevant to your SMS gateway and knowing the industry standards for every metric, you can discern which areas of your campaign need improvement and how you can improve them. Furthermore, you can adjust your targets to be more realistic and attainable for your campaign.

Check out our infographic to learn the 5 key metrics you need to measure when launching an SMS blast. Included are tips and fast facts that can help you boost your SMS performance.

SMS Metrics You Need to Measure Infographic

1. Delivery Rate

Your delivery rate pertains to the total number of messages successfully delivered out of the total number of recipients included in your SMS blast. It tells you how reliable your SMS marketing provider is. Cheaper SMS marketing platforms sometimes fail to send SMS messages successfully due to weaker infrastructure.

It’s important to note that several factors are involved in the delivery of your SMS including the size and health of your contacts list, message frequency, and prepaid phone number composition. Cellular signal in specific areas of the country can also affect your delivery rate.

It’s easy for users to discard prepaid phone numbers and switch to a new one. This is especially common in the Philippines, where prepaid SIM cards are either given for free or sold for ₱10 to ₱50. Check your list health to determine the active numbers from the inactive ones. Delete the inactive numbers from your contacts list to improve your delivery rate.

2. Opt-Out Rate

The opt-out rate shows the percentage of users who unsubscribed to your SMS marketing list after reading your text message. The average industry opt-out rate is usually below 5%. You don’t want to lose subscribers! A high opt-out rate tells you that you need to take a second look at your campaign and improve specific areas.

Some users don’t want to be bombarded with frequent messages, especially if they receive these messages during inopportune times. A high opt-out rate could also mean that you’re targeting the wrong audience, or your messages don’t provide value to your subscribers. Find a way to engage your users with compelling text messages.

Split testing your SMS campaign can help you isolate the areas for improvement, and decrease opt-out rate.

3. Response Rate

SMS has a 45% response rate while email only has a 6% response rate. This means that users respond to almost half of all text messages they receive on their mobile phones. Placing calls-to-action in your SMS message encourages subscribers to engage with your brand.

If you’re reaping low response rates, the simplicity of your call-to-action may have something to do with it. Make sure to refrain from complicated requests. Provide clear instructions to avoid confusing your audience. Keep things easy and simple. You can even ask your subscribers to text back with a simple word or code.

4. Click-Through Rate

The use of smartphones and mobile internet increases every year, enabling marketers to adopt multichannel marketing campaigns. If you include a website link in your SMS blast, you need to measure your click-through rate. According to recent surveys, the average click-through rate of URLs included in an SMS blast is at 36%.

If your campaign generates a low click-through rate, then take a second look at your target demographic. Do they use a cell phone or a smartphone? You may want to include this in your next SMS blast. Ask your subscribers if they own a cell phone or a smartphone. You can also try to determine whether your smartphone users have access to mobile internet, as this can greatly affect your click-through rate.

5. Conversion Rate

Conversion rate refers to the percentage of users who completed your goal by taking your desired action. This can pertain to when users sign up for a service, purchased a product, visited your store, clicked through to your website, or called your company.

Overall, the conversion rate tells you whether your SMS campaign is on the right track to generating leads and increasing your revenue. Industry standards show a 328% conversion rate for leads who are sent three or more text messages after their initial contact.

SMS is the fastest way to reach your target consumers or audience, as it is still the most popular messaging tool used by cellphone and smartphone users. Make sure that you’re tracking your progress by measuring the relevant SMS metrics.

Reach your bottom line faster with an SMS platform that delivers results. At Semaphore, we help businesses grow by providing an SMS service at low costs. Make sure that you partner up with a reliable SMS blasting service so that your SMS messages are sent to the right recipients instantly.

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and plays video games. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.

Case Studies: How 4 Startups Used SMS for Customer Loyalty

How 4 Startups Used SMS for Customer Loyalty

The future of the Philippine startup ecosystem is bright. With an active startup community of over a hundred companies and a strong push from the government, the country aims to have 500 startups with a total valuation of US$2 billion by 2020.

As the local startup industry grows, a key area that entrepreneurs need to look into for long-term better returns is customer retention. Up to 70% of companies agreed that retaining a customer is cheaper than generating new ones. A 5% growth in customer retention can yield a 75% increase in a company’s user base, with happy customers sharing through their social media channels driving most of the growth.

Many customer retention strategies exist today, but SMS remains to be a powerful means to engage customers and encourage brand loyalty. In the Philippines, 400 million text messages are being sent every day, emphasizing the importance of reaching and engaging the Filipino customer via SMS API and other text messaging strategies.

Here are some success stories on how Philippine startups have used SMS to provide a better customer experience and improve customer loyalty.

 

zap

1. ZAP

ZAP is a loyalty-based rewards program that lets users earn points from partner merchants. With the goal of re-targeting existing customers, ZAP created an automated customer journey program, which enabled them to automatically send SMS when certain triggers are met. The objective is to encourage users to make a return visit by sending them reminders about rewards and freebies they can claim with partner merchants.

The triggers were activated after the first visit (to encourage a second visit as soon as possible), after 30 days, 60 days, and 120 days with no transactions, and 7 days before a customer’s birthday to encourage the user to celebrate with a partner merchant.

The messages were based on how many points a user had, and the length of their inactivity. For example, users with more points were offered bigger redemption options, as seen below:

Claim your FREE Steak & Frites at DRAFT Gastropub by redeeming your 1000+ ZAP points! More places to use ZAP: www.zap.com.ph/app

ZAP’s SMS strategy returned impressive results. Within a week, 17.1% of the customers who had received an SMS returned to make another purchase. Within a month, the number of returning customers increased to 41.5%. And after implementing the program for a year, they saw an ROI of over 100% for 95% of their merchants, 1000% for their top 6 merchants, and a whopping 5000% for the top merchant.

 

Kalibrr

2. Kalibrr

A job-matching platform that allows talent and companies to connect, Kalibrr learned that most candidates do not always have immediate access to a computer or even mobile internet. So, they decided to facilitate communications between themselves and jobseekers, as well as recruiters and jobseekers. Using an SMS API, Kalibrr automated sending text notifications for job opportunities and interview reminders to applicants.

Since every single mobile phone has SMS capabilities (and there are more cellphones than people in the Philippines), texting has enabled Kalibrr to reach and engage with 100% of their user base at all times.

Based on qualitative feedback, Kalibrr’s texts to jobseekers have been “very useful and well-loved” for giving timely updates.

 

pinoytravel

3. PinoyTravel

PinoyTravel is an online long distance bus, ferry, and hotel booking website. Similar to Kalibrr, PinoyTravel has found that the Philippine market is not yet ready for a purely online strategy because many of their customers do not have continuous access to the Internet or mobile data.

Thankfully, Filipinos almost always have enough cellular reception to receive texts. So, PinoyTravel uses SMS to send reminders about customer bookings, payments, and other updates.

PinoyTravel received positive feedback on their SMS strategy and their customers enjoyed receiving the text notifications.

 

OLX

4. OLX

OLX is an online marketplace that hosts the largest buy and sell community in the Philippines. To make sure the sellers are legitimate and easy to contact, OLX vets their numbers with a 2-step SMS verification process.

They also find that most of their users are not always online to receive email and app push notifications, making SMS the best way to connect with their user base. OLX users are notified via SMS when important action needs to be taken, including but not limited to: messages to buyers when sellers accept their offer, and messages to sellers when buyers are interested or when they need to repost their advertisement for better results.

 

The startup scene in the Philippines is ripe for growth, and these case studies have shown that SMS will remain an important channel for customer engagement, retention, and overall experience. Since every mobile device can receive texts even without internet connection, marketing messages sent via SMS are almost impossible to ignore.

Use SMS to your advantage today and reach the widest possible number of customers, engage them, and retain them through text messaging campaigns.

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and plays video games. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.