Social media once gave us unprecedented access to our favorite celebrities, thought leaders, and brands--but that was before algorithms prevented us from seeing their content and an endless glut of ads started clogging up our feeds. 

Now, in a quest to reestablish a real connection and trust with audiences, some celebs and brands are actually offering up their phone numbers for fans to text them directly. It's called direct text, and with a 98 percent open rate, and 90 percent of messages being read within the first three minutes of sending, it's clear why personalities, thought leaders, and brands want to get involved. 

For celebrities, this new chance at a more authentic connection is being made possible by a well-funded startup called Community, which counts Ashton Kutcher among its investors. ?Stars are teaming up with the service to manage direct messaging with a mass audience. Given the volume of messages they receive, it's unlikely celebs will see and respond directly to a fan's text message. Fans, however, will receive curated, automated updates, photos, and other content straight to their phone.

In some cases, celebs are making a point to show they're attempting to keep up on the text messages--and answering them back. Recently, celebrity marketer and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk tweeted a video of himself responding to messages on his iPhone.

Defining text-message marketing

Brands use two forms of text-message marketing. One is SMS marketing, where brands send coupons, exclusive deals, announcements, current events, and other information to customers via text message. This form of direct-text marketing remains a one-way channel of communication. A chatbot may enable a few templated responses, but you're still talking to a robot.

True direct-text marketing gives consumers a direct line of communication to the source of the conversation, whether a brand or celebrity. While the person on the other end may be any number of people tasked with responding to the texts, you're at least talking to a real person. In the case of many celebrity direct-text campaigns, it's the celebrity themselves responding to each incoming text message. 

Benefits of direct text marketing 

There are many benefits to adding direct-text marketing to your customer experience toolbox. Data shows direct-text marketing is an effective way to reach a captive audience, because you're sending messages and promotions to the mobile devices they carry with them all day (and unlike other forms of marketing, algorithms can't get in the way).

More than ever, our communication style favors quick, casual, and authentic interactions on digital channels. Messaging platforms like Slack are quickly replacing email, and consumers prefer to resolve customer service issues via social channels and chatbots. Communicating with consumers via text message encourages more authentic interactions than more formal, branded channels. This may explain why text messages have a 209 percent higher response rate than phone, email, or Facebook. 

How subscription brands use text

Subscription brands are also using text to streamline their customer interactions and improve engagement. Food subscription box Daily Harvest texts customers once a week, reminding them to adjust their menu selections. They also have an option to skip a weekly shipment with a simple text from their phone. Each month, personal shopping service Allume sends you a direct link to your monthly closet, and you can communicate and offer feedback about your stylist's selections directly over text. 

Get permission first

Digital etiquette dictates that people should only receive communications they've agreed to receive. Marketers need to adhere to local laws and CTIA recommendations, which protect consumers from unwanted messages. Good news for marketers though: 75 percent of consumers are OK with receiving SMS messages from brands--as long as they've opted in. It's also essential to provide a way for them to quickly opt-out. Typically, a simple shortcode or keyword response in an auto-reply message will allow people to opt-out quickly. 

Keep the conversation going 

Direct-text marketing is a great way to get front and center with your customers--but don't let it be the end of the conversation. Creating a truly personalized customer experience and learning more about your audience requires engaging with your audience across several channels.

Use direct-text marketing to drive people to ongoing promotions, featured products, or social or community channels. These messages can get more personalized and targeted over time as you learn about their interactions and preferences.