Text Message Marketing for Political Campaigns

August 1, 2017 - 13 minutes read

There is one communication strategy that is increasingly becoming the norm in political campaigning:

Text Message Marketing

Where is text message marketing used in political campaigns?

If you have noticed an announcement, asking you to text a keyword to a given shortcode, you are not alone. It has become a very familiar sight for most voters. This text message marketing is widely used for:

  • Campaign rallies
  • Fundraisers
  • Direct Mailers
  • Yard Signs
  • Social media handles

As political campaigns embrace the mobile, text message marketing has turned itself into a vital communications strategy for its wide reach, simplicity, and the scope of scalable personalized conversations.

How can you use text message marketing for your campaigns?

Overtime, the way audience use text messaging has changed. People are now much more open to not just receive information via text, but also willing to act on it. That means they are open to replying to a text. 

For political campaign managers, that meant that a whole new world of engaging voters had opened up. 

S.no.Traditional usageUsage now
1Voter remindersData collection
2Staff communicationsOpinion polls
3Event updatesEvent management
4Campaign updatesVolunteer organizing

As a result, the technology that supports texting has also advanced to widen its scope. You can now:

  • Manage text message marketing from a browser
  • Share data instantly across multiple software applications
  • Measure campaign progress with analytics

We’ll look at how text messages help political campaigns and how its scope has evolved over time through six use cases.

But first, what exactly is text message marketing?

Text message marketing involves the use of SMS texts for communication. It could be with your voter base or between campaign staff/volunteers. All campaigns start with an opt in procedure where voters essentially consent to receiving messages from you.

This is usually a sign-up form on the campaign website or a keyword to be texted to a number. Once a person has opted in, the campaign has permission to reach out to them via texts.

How can political campaigns use text message marketing?

Your campaigns can take advantage of the wide penetration and adoption of text messaging across age groups. Here are some ways you can use texting to improve your reach and ensure campaign success:

  1. Collecting voter details
  2. Campaign updates
  3. Opinion polls
  4. Event management
  5. Volunteer organizing
  6. GOTV reminders

Collecting voter details

Most campaign rallies and campaign literature are geared to collect voter details. Have you seen the Call to Action to text a keyword to a short code or mobile number? Something like Text GIVE to 555555. That is what I am talking about.

People opt in and then receive text messages through the duration of the campaign. Typically, once a voter opts in, all they get is an automated thank you response and that’s it. At the backend, their numbers are collected by campaign managers to engage at a later date.  They are used in the future for follow up campaigns which reach out to supporters through phone banks or door knocking to expand on contact data

If you are doing this, you are missing an opportunity to collect valuable information for you database. Instead, you can leverage the interest shown by the voter to collect data which they may not easily give out.

Instead of putting off voter data collection for later, when there is a higher chance for attrition, text message marketing lets you gather voter data as soon as people opt in.

What is opt-in text messaging?

When subscribers opt in with a keyword, they receive a response requesting more details such as name, email, zip code or any other details. Through a sequence of messages, you can collect information to segment your voter lists for targeted outreach. .

While you can use text messaging to ask an unlimited number of questions, it is always better to stick to four or fewer text messages to avoid annoying your subscribers.

Sending campaign updates

Keeping your supporters and staff engaged with you is crucial to winning a campaign. Sending them campaign updates is the easiest way to achieve that.

Here’s what you can send as regular updates to your audience:

  • Convey what stance your candidate is taking in a relevant or recent issue
  • Alert voters about media appearances
  • Make fundraising appeals
  • Campaign announcements on milestones achieved etc.

Unlike conventional text messaging, modern platforms allow you to send out thousands of text messages in the span of a few seconds. Each message can be personalized.

Personalization does not just mean knowing your supporters name!

With tags like {first_name} , it is quite easy to fill up and can be automated. Personalization also means sending out the message at a time and date that is most convenient to your audience. Fortunately, the messages can be scheduled to go out at the time and date of your choosing.

I know your next question: “but how to handle responses?”

When you are sending out thousands of texts, it can be rather daunting, I agree. However, the text messaging software typically gives you a choice. You can either personally handle responses or set up automatic responses based on keywords in the replies.

Opinion polls and surveys

Opinion polls offer campaigns a way to understand the voter psyche and tailor the campaign around the issues concerning voters. Once you have built a subscriber list, you can reach out to the entire list or segmented lists based on location, job title (or any other metrics you have to segment voters). Send out text messages to voter lists with your polls. You can set up automatic responses for when people reply back based on the keywords you have set up.

For example, if your candidate has a strong stance on education and you want to identify your strongest supporters, your text message campaign can have:

“Hi John, this is a poll to assess voter issues in the Bay Area. Reply YES to take part or reply NO to exit campaign.”

Subscribers responding “YES” will automatically trigger the follow-up message,

“Which issue needs to be addressed urgently in the Bay Area. A. Education B. Healthcare C. Immigration D. Environment E. Other. Reply with your choice.”

Subscribers replying with “A” are responded with,

“Thank you for your sharing opinion on the issues affecting Bay Area. Check out, http://jd.ms/edu for details on how you can support educational reform.”

Information collected through polls and surveys can be used throughout your campaign to reach out to voters with a better understanding of the issues that concern them.

Try it for free.

Event management

You can use text message marketing to send out event updates and identify attendees.

The straightforward approach is to text your voter list with an event update, for example, “Hey John, we’ve got an event coming up next Saturday July 6th at 11pm. Will you be able to join us? Reply Y or N.”

The software will automatically segment users based on their response.

The alternate and better option is to use it in combination with a CRM. With text messaging software and CRM integration responses to your texts can be automatically synced to your CRM. So subscribers responding with “Y” are sent an event invite or follow-up updates about the event.

Volunteer organizing

Volunteer organizing with text messaging works somewhat similar to event management. Only here, you are inviting supporters to volunteer for your event rather than a generic appeal for event attendees.

First, you send out an event invite via text message and based on how subscribers RSVP to your invitation, you can start a drip SMS campaign for those who replied in the affirmative.

For example, using a field organizing tool like marriagehero.org together with CallHub, you can run your RSVP campaign on CallHub to identify interested volunteers and then start your drip campaign on marriagehero.org.

A use case of drip campaigns is when event volunteers are sent instructions via email along with an SMS asking for confirmation that the email has been read. When the volunteer responds positively via SMS, the software recognizes the keyword and moves on to the next stage of the drip campaign, or it reminds the volunteer again for a negative response or a lack of a response.

These drip campaigns involve the use of automated periodic texts and emails to ensure volunteer attendance and to make sure that they are made aware of the details pertaining to the event. Application integrations ensure that all data is instantly synced across your CRM software.

GOTV and registration reminders

Even an excellent voter outreach campaign can fall flat if people don’t turn out to vote.

Text messages offer a fast and wide-reaching way to remind citizens to go to the ballot box on election day. You can use texts to:

  • Send out reminders to register to vote
  • Guide people how to register
  • Provide information on where the polling booth is located
  • Reinforce on election day your campaign objectives.

Your voters are facing an overload of information each day and only some of it manages to get through the din.

While emails may go unopened and phone calls ignored, text messages are still opened and read by the vast majority.

This also means that your subscribers will get annoyed if you flood their inbox with fundraising appeals or send out irrelevant updates. A more subtle approach to engaging the subscriber with meaningful content can go a long way into making text messages a powerful vehicle for political campaigning.

Planning your texting campaign? Check out text messaging software by CallHub.

Get Started

Tags: ,