Twitter launches emergency SMS service

Microblogging site Twitter has launched a feature to help its users receive important and accurate information from credible organisations during emergencies, natural disasters and times when other communications services aren’t accessible.

By signing up to receive “Twitter Alerts”  from a Twitter account, users receive a notification directly to their phones whenever that account marks a Tweet as an alert. Notifications are also delivered via SMS. Alerts appear differently on a user’s home timeline from regular tweets and are indicated with an orange bell symbol.

“We know from our users how important it is to be able to receive reliable information during these times,” product manager Gaby Peña wrote on the Twitter blog. “With that in mind, last year we announced Lifeline (a feature that helps Japanese users find emergency accounts during crises), and since then, we’ve been working on a related feature for people around the world.”

The ubiquitous nature of SMS, makes it not only an ideal platform to be used in both emergencies but also by organisations across a range of sectors as a marketing tool, according to Koby Amedume, global director of communications at messaging solutions vendor Acision.

“SMS has the ability to reach a large yet targeted audience, with open rates of over 97 per cent within three minutes of receiving a message,” he said. “As such, there has been an increase in the use of two-way messaging by companies who want to be able to engage in a direct and immediate dialogue with their customers, whether to provide support or craft special offers.”

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