Every political and advocacy campaign is looking to get a communications edge. Staying in touch with (and top of mind for) your supporters is key to building a foundation for your campaign. With the prevalence of smartphones in nearly every pocket and purse, text messaging has emerged as a viable and cost effective way to communicate with your voters and advocates.
Your goal, as a campaign, is to build a network of people who are actively engaged with you via text and who look forward to receiving your messages. From building your database with text based sign up, to reaching a wide audience with broadcast texts, to creating personal connections with peer-to-peer texting — text messaging tools add value to supporter engagement efforts in multiple ways.
Here are some ways to use the tools to your benefit:
1. Peer-to-Peer Text Messaging
As a campaign progresses — identifying more supporters, recruiting volunteers, hosting events — it becomes almost impossible to engage individuals in one on one conversations. Peer-to-peer texting is built to address this problem of having personal conversations at scale. Campaigns sign up a team of volunteers who use the P2P platform to engage voters via text messages. It’s the text equivalent of phone banking, but instead of having one conversation at a time, a single volunteer can handle upwards of hundred personal conversations at once. These volunteers identify supporters, gauge voter sentiments, mobilize for events and carry out other voter engagement efforts with all data flowing back to the campaign database.
2. Opt-In Broadcast Text Networks
Another effective way for campaigns to utilize text messaging is by building a network of people who opt-in to receive regular broadcast messages. These messages can be similar to the messages the campaign sends out to its email opt-in (newsletter) list: links to campaign updates, reminders about upcoming events, and requests to take action. But text messages afford campaigns much higher visibility than with email and they come with an easier onboarding process. Campaigns simply publish a keyword and phone number (on social media, flyers, website, etc.) which supporters can use to opt-in to receive updates. Following the opt-in you can reach out with automatic texts that prompt supporters to take action on behalf of the campaign, like making a donation to the cause, volunteering, or sharing a message on social media.
3. Segmenting Your Text Network Using Tags
A campaign has multitudes of data coming in every day through outreach efforts. To make sense of this data and to tailor future outreach efforts based on it, there needs to be an effective way to segment incoming data. With peer-to-peer texting tools, you can tag people based on supporter levels, voter issues, event invite acceptance, and even set up new tags for any data set that you’d want to segment and filter later on. This helps you maintain relevance with your outreach, making sure that people receive communication that aligns with what they told you in previous conversations.
4. Texting and Election Day
One of the most exciting uses for text messaging applications is to mobilize voters on Election Day. If you are working with a political campaign or an advocacy group that is trying to motivate certain demographics to go to the polls, text messaging software allows you to send timely reminders to a wide audience about polling locations, poll timings, transportation facilities, and at the same time answer any queries that might arise from voters. While a GOTV strategy using calls can only accommodate one voter at a time, texting software make it seamless to handle large audiences which is pivotal to the success of a get out the vote strategy.
Bear in mind that in order to effectively use text messaging for GOTV efforts, you’ll need to make sure that Election Day is not the first time your text subscribers are hearing from your campaign. Communicate with them regularly through your broadcast list, and then when Election Day comes, they will be more likely to appreciate your reminder and respond positively by going out to vote.
Augustus Franklin is the founder and CEO of CallHub, a cloud communication company building voice and text outreach tools for political campaigns, advocacy groups, and nonprofits. He spends his days finding new ways to use technology to create meaningful engagement between organizations and people. When he isn’t working, he is either making toys with his kids or training for a marathon. Find him on Twitter @augfrank.