Even before campaigns went completely virtual, text messaging was becoming a critical channel for reaching voters in races up and down the ballot. The reasoning is simple: Your supporters are more likely to open and engage with a text message than an email. According to the research firm Gartner, “SMS open and response rates as high as 98% and 45%, respectively — in contrast to corresponding figures of 20% and 6% for email.”
But to run an effective and impactful text messaging program, there are two types of efforts that you need to have in place: peer-to-peer (P2P) texting and opt-in text messaging. Both varieties are important and work together for your campaign’s overall success.
In this post, we’ll explain how both types work, how to set them up and the best practices for using each.
Peer to Peer Texting
Peer to peer texting programs send a text message to one recipient at a time, but with the help of technology, this process is accelerated so campaign staff and volunteers can repeat the process quickly. P2P texting is a valuable tool for increasing awareness, promoting event turnout, online fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and GOTV.
P2P texting enables your campaign to reach voters that haven’t (yet!) opted-in to receive text messages. RumbleUp and Opn Sesame are two providers conservatives can use to upload and manage your contacts, draft messages, assign texters, and track responses.
It’s important to remember that P2P text messages are most effective when:
- They are personal and conversational in tone
- Appear to be coming from an individual
- Have a single call to action
P2P texting is most effective when it works in concert with an opted-in texting program. A P2P text can cost ten times as much to send as a message sent to an opted-in recipient, but most importantly, it doesn’t absolve your campaign of the responsibility for building permission-based owned audiences.
Opt-in Text Messaging
Opt-in text messaging will more closely resemble the tactics of your email marketing program and that includes list building. Just like with email, you need to actively drive supporters to opt in to text messaging on your website, social channels, and in-person.
Opt-in text messages should be sent from a short code, which is a five digit phone number used to distinguish marketing texts. You can (and should) begin collecting mobile opt-ins before you ever have your short code in place. Using a shared short code is the most affordable way to get started and allows you to have a couple of dedicated keywords within a single short code. The tradeoff is that a supporter could be opted in to a list on the same short code.
A dedicated short code is more expensive and can cost $500-$1,000/month to lease, but you will have unlimited keywords (say for separate regions or events) and supporters can always know who is sending them the message. Beginners should work on building your program and getting results first in order to make such an investment worthwhile.
When you’re building your opt-in program, you should approach it in the same way that you manage your email marketing.
First, segmentation is key. All of your supporters don’t need to receive every one of your messages. By segmenting your audience, you’ll see higher engagement and less attrition by delivering messages that each individual has indicated that they care about.
Second, develop a schedule. Just like your email marketing benefits from having a cadence of emails that supporters can expect, your opted-in text messages should come at predictable times and regular intervals, unless there’s some breaking news.
Third, don’t just ask for money. Similar to your email efforts, you shouldn’t include a hard donation ask in each of your messages. To create a sense of community and value, your messages should include other calls to action, such as petitions, surveys, volunteer asks, etc.
It’s essential that campaigns use both P2P and opted-in text messaging to cut through the noise and reach supporters. With higher open and response rates than email, text messaging is a must-have for any campaign driving online action.