The Twelve Days of Texting

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This post first appeared on my SAP Blog on December 28, 2011.

Worldwide, texting is a very personal activity – not withstanding the texting to short codes and receiving responses or alerts, roughly 90% of texting worldwide is to another person.  Globally, we still see SMS (or texting) growing.  Our global statistics continue to show worldwide SMS traffic growing, but certainly slowing.

We have a number of ways to determine the top “texting days of the year.”  For our role in the ecosystem in the last year, we have visibility to over half of the US SMS traffic and a very significant portion of the global country-to-country SMS traffic.  Consequently, we have to consider both the high volume US traffic in addition to the global country to country (including the US) traffic.   What’s considered high messaging days in the Middle East may not make a dent in the normal rates in the U.S. and vice-versa.  Messaging rates on major holidays or texting days also vary through the day – for example for New Year’s Eve, early in the day, we would see messaging rates at “normal” levels, but later in the evening, we’ll see the rates skyrocket to over 100% of normal.   Consequently, the overall traffic rise for the entire day would be significantly less than the peak hours.   For this reason, these statistics will look at the top 12 international days, which may be different from the more ‘domestic’ (or North American) view.  Finally, we’ll take a look at some of the peak hours in our US centric view of the SMS world.

For these statistics, we’ll consider the period from December 1, 2010 through December 1, 2011.

Typically reference days are a day or two days before a particular holiday; occasionally, it is the day after.  The criterion is simply the closest “normal” day to the highlighted day.  The percentage increase is calculated from that day or day/hour.

Internationally, in country-to-country scenarios, the Top 12 Texting Days were:

RankDayPercentage Rise over Reference Day
1New Year’s Eve 2010 (12/31/2010)96.34%
2New Year’s Day 2011 (01/01/2011)80.44%
3Day before Eid ul Fitr (08/30/2011)47.93%
4Christmas Day 2010 (12/25/2010)41.63%
5Valentine’s Day (02/14/2011)31.27%
6Eid ul Adha (11/6/2011)30.32%
7Eid ul Fitr (08/31/2011)26.82%
82 Days before Eid ul Fitr (08/29/2011)24.32%
9Day Before Chinese New Year (02/02/2011)17.80%
10Mubarek in Egypt steps down – 02/11/201115.02%
11Day before US Memorial Day – 05/29/201112.75%
12Chinese New Year (02/03/2011)12.50%

I’m not sure why 05/29/2011 made the list.  It was the Sunday before the US Memorial Day holiday. The major event that day was the running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race.

Now, if we simply take the top messaging days on our US-domestic centric node, by absolute volumes, our top 12 list, looks a bit different:

  1. 12.25.2010 – Christmas Day
  2. 11/24/2011 – Thanksgiving Day USA
  3. 01/01/2011 – New Years Day
  4. 12/31/2010 – New Years Eve
  5. 5/8/2011 – Mothers Day
  6. Friday – 6/24/2011
  7. 12/30/2010 – Day Before New Years Eve
  8. Friday – 6/17/2011
  9. Thursday – 6/23/2011
  10. Friday – 6/10/2011
  11. Friday – 7/8/2011
  12. 12/29/2010 – Two Days Before New Years Eve

In this list, we show four separate Fridays in the summer that were in our top 12 (by volume) texting days.  Summer Fridays, no doubt!  Before you ask how many messages we processed, those numbers are confidential, but suffice it to say, it’s well over 1.6 billion messages per day for all of these and more.

Now, if we change this up and compare certain days to “normal” days, we have the following:

RankDayPercentage Rise over Reference Day
1New Year’s Day 2011 (01/01/2011)21.64%
2Christmas Day 2010 (12/25/2010)21.47%
3Thanksgiving Day (11/24/2011)13.10%
4Mother’s Day (05/08/2011)9.91%
5Valentine’s Day (02/14/2011)4.83%
6Father’s Day (6/19/2011)3.20%
7Halloween (10/31/2011)2.41%
8US East Coast Earthquake (08/23/2011)2.19%
9New Year’s Eve 2010 (12/31/2010)2.04%

I stopped here at the top 9, as comparing these days to “normal” days gets to be a difficult task as we then have to ask “what is normal?”  Those Fridays in June could be construed as being “normal,” yet they are a top 12 in terms of absolute volumes.  Summer is becoming a significant time for people to text; consequently, we are seeing some of our biggest days by volume in the summer.

Many events such as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the US East Coast earthquake, the killing of Osama bin Laden did generate record messaging for certain locales or very short periods of time.  For example, in Africa, in the hour after the news about bin Laden was announced, messaging was up over 200% in the 1st hour and 86% in the 2nd hour after the news broke.  In the US, the SMS increased almost 20% of “normal” in the minutes that followed the breaking news.

The Women’s World Cup win by Japan created similar deviations from “normal” but not enough or for a long enough period of time to create a “record day.”   These days, significant news is more often “broken” over Twitter vs. SMS.  SMS (person to person) is still used, but as Twitter is a one-to-many micro-blog, it is better for disseminating news bulletins.

Speaking of Twitter, if we compare the top messaging days to the top Twitter days, most of the breaking news that generated the top Twitter days did not result in high SMS volumes, globally – sometimes certain region generated significant texts, as described above, but these did not translate to significant global volume uptakes.

Finally, I wasn’t going to include Christmas Day 2011 in these stats, but early numbers suggest that Christmas this year moves into 1st place for both absolute volumes and change from the “reference day” (I used 12/26/2011 – the day after Christmas).  The change from “normal” is 24.4%.  This clearly shows that SMS is alive and well and is widely used around the world as well as widely used in the United States for extending Christmas greetings.

I hope everyone had a peaceful and merry Christmas and holiday season.