Set up your own text-messaging service for free.

May 2, 2007 by Dylan Tweney


You don’t have to be a big company to set up a text-message auto-response system. With TextMarks, you can set up a quick-and-dirty text message information system for free. It’s a great way to stay in touch with your customers or friends, to promote your website or services, or just to provide useful information.

To use TextMarks for receiving information, you send short codes to the TextMarks number (41411). TextMarks then sends the information back that corresponds to the code you sent.

For example, someone set up the code “sftides” — so if you send an SMS containing the word “sftides” to 41411, you’ll get the latest ocean tides for San Francisco. The image of the phone on this post shows what you get when you send the code “kqed” — it’s what’s currently playing on the radio station KQED.

The brilliant part is that it’s really easy to set up your own TextMarks codes. You just need to pick a short code that isn’t already being used on TextMarks. Then you tell TextMarks what information to deliver when somebody sends that code to TextMarks. This could be a short piece of text, or you can tell TextMarks to pull a specific piece of information from a page on your web site.

Or, you can set up a subscription service — essentially an SMS mailing list — so you can send text messages to everyone who has subscribed. For example, if you send the code “ufos” you’ll be subscribed to an alert service for major UFO sightings. (Pretty useful if you anticipate an alien invasion!)

Whenever someone sends a text message with your code to the TextMarks number (41411), they’ll get an SMS reply containing the information you specified, or they’ll be subscribed to your info service if that’s what you’ve set up.

I set up the code “haiku” to send the latest poem from my daily haiku site. To do it, I had to tell TextMarks where to find the text of the day’s haiku on the site’s homepage. I did that by giving it information about two specific HTML tags. On your site, you might use something different.

It took all of about 5 minutes to set up the code and test it. Now anyone can get the day’s haiku just by texting “haiku” to 41411.

Some other TextMarks you can send to 41411 include:

leo, aquarius, virgo, etc: Daily horoscope for that zodiac sign
trackups [tracking number]: Shipping status for a UPS package
checkwoot: what’s on sale today at Woot.com
haha: joke of the day

There’s an extensive list of TextMarks on the site, and you can test each one out right on the web page using TextMarks’ handy simulator.

15 Responses to “Set up your own text-messaging service for free.”

  1. steve campbel says:

    i use http://www.create-ringtone.com to create and send FREE custom ringtones, wallpaper, mp3 and video files to cell phones around the world

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi This sounds cool!

    Is there anyway to set a cost to the reply and take a cut??

  3. Anonymous says:

    not compatible with uk cells??

  4. ray.thomas says:

    Does anyone know of companies that provide full scale custom services like this? For example if a company wanted to get its own short-code and have it’s own list of keywords for getting data back via sms?

    Thanks,
    Ray

  5. THANK YOU. I have been thinking about doing this for some time. I was up late and decided to look it up. Your post was just the ticket. Thank you again.

    Your obedient servant,
    George

  6. I found full scale custom services at http://www.upsidewireless.com/ They can do it all except for registering your own short code which costs about $1000 a month. They have useful info about short-codes at http://www.upsidewireless.com/nasc_faq.htm

  7. Max says:

    A company productiveT.com has a product that allow you to set this up for your company! here is the link:

  8. You just saved me a LOT of time. I wanted to add the ability for members of our Neighborhood Watch to receive emergency alerts via SMS. This service does the trick very nicely… and NO DEVELOPMENT! I’m stoked :)

  9. Adam says:

    Thank you for the info! I signed up for their service. It works. I was up and running in 5 minutes!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Is there a UK version of this please?

    Adam

  11. allen says:

    I would like to have ppl text a specific word to a number and have a 5 cent charge billed to their cell phone acct. Full disclosure of course. Can that be done with this program?

  12. I recommend wire2air text messaging service. Wire2Air SMS Gateway has offered innovative text messaging solution for both mobile marketing and text advertising companies. It has offered fast and quality text messaging service through web or computer to cellular networks.

  13. Rawr says:

    This article is slightly misleading, both the API and the services cost money. The services charge a monthly fee while the API charges you for every subscriber.

    There is nothing free about this….

  14. Neal Downs says:

    I checked it out….not free.

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This site is published by Dylan Tweney, a professional writer and editor, publisher of haiku and SMS information, and a senior editor at Wired.

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