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I am in the habit of sending regular SMS messages to one of my best friends who lives in the United States. But each SMS message I send (from Germany) costs only what it would cost to send the message to someone in the United Kingdom. How do I manage that? By routing the message through Twitter, that’s how. It’s very easy to do and I’ll show you today how it’s done.

It’s done using Twitter’s direct messaging system. Depending on how busy your regular Twitter account is, you may want to set up a secondary account for your SMS’s but I personally just use my normal account. Plus since everything is done through direct messaging, none of the SMS’s are ever made public and appear on the Twitter public timeline. So your privacy is assured.

One disclaimer though – how much the SMS costs you depends on where you are in the world. Twitter maintains three phone numbers for people to phone in their Tweets and depending on where you are in the world, you’re supposed to use the nearest Twitter phone number. I am in Germany so I use the British Twitter number. American Twitter users can use the American number and so on. So you need to look at the Twitter phone number list and decide which number you’re going to use, depending on where you are, geographically. So the cheapness or expensiveness of each SMS will vary, person to person. You’ll need to do the math. But if you’re in say the US and you’re sending SMS’s to Australia, you’ll save money. If you’re in France and you want to send SMS’s to Brazil, you’ll save money. But if you’re in South Africa and you want to send a SMS to Japan, well maybe you won’t save anything because of the location of the Twitter phone numbers, you know what I’m saying? So this method that I will outline today will probably only benefit US, Canadian and European Make Use Of readers, not everyone.

Here are the phone numbers :

40404 – United States
21212 – Canada
+44 7624 801423 – United Kingdom and all other countries

OK, onto the set-up.

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First, in your Twitter account, go to settings and under “devices”, enter your mobile phone number. VERY IMPORTANT – make sure that the device is set to “direct messages”, otherwise this won’t work!

Next make sure the person you want to send SMS messages to also has a Twitter account and that they also have their mobile number in the settings with direct messages enabled.

I also recommend that neither you or your SMS recipient have the “sleep” function in the Devices section enabled otherwise if you send SMS’s during those hours, they will not be received!

Next, make sure that you and your SMS recipient are following one another on Twitter and that device updates are on.

OK, that’s the set-up. Now it’s probably best to try one or two test SMS’s with your friend to see if it works. Here’s how it goes –

Say you’re out and about in the city, working and going from meeting to meeting. Your friend’s username on Twitter is “applepie” (first thing I could think of!) and you want to send him a SMS to say that you will be late getting home to call him. Just type into your phone :

d applepie will b late getting home. Will call u ASAP.

Now the “d applepie” part makes it a direct message to his Twitter username. The rest is his message. But because he has configured his account for all direct messages to be sent to his phone, he will now get the message sent to him by SMS. When I tested it, the message arrived on my phone within seconds.

Plus as I’ve pointed out before, because it’s a direct message, it’s all private and no-one else will see it.

If you’re in the habit of making lots of international SMS’s, doing it via Twitter direct messages could end up saving you a lot of money in the long term. Plus if you’re not willing to give out your mobile phone number to strangers, why not set up a Twitter account, enable your mobile number on it and tell people to SMS you through Twitter instead? This gives you a layer of protection in case “Jeffrey from accounting” decides he wants to start some kinky texting with you and your tastes don’t go in that direction. You can easily pull the plug when Jeff boy gets the chains and whips out!

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