Is your outreach standing out to your audience?
Your contacts are not yours alone.
Be it from businesses promoting their products and services, or charitable groups soliciting donations, people are presented with a glut of messages every day.
They have adapted by skimming through these messages and identifying the ones that hold value to them.
That means only the most relevant communication has a chance of standing out.
Some ways to make sure your messages are highly relevant and engaging:
- Personalizing the message itself
- Using a personal mode of communication
- Having conversations with contacts
Text messaging allows you to do those things. But before adopting it, you need to make sure that it’s the right channel for you.
Is texting right for you?
Texting has certain limitations:
- SMS has a 160 character limit
- You need an opt-in from contacts to send them bulk messages
You need to send a longer message?
Unlike most other forms of digital outreach, an SMS has a hard limit on message length.
In the majority of cases, it’s easy to make sure the message fits the limit. In some, however, it can be a challenge.
One way to overcome that challenge while sending texts is to keep the message brief, and link out to a web page that expands on what you’re trying to convey.
The other is to use MMS marketing. MMS expands the functionality of a text message, allowing for a higher character limit (1600). The only consideration being that you will have to include media in the form of an image, gif or video.
You want to reach new audiences?
Texting regulations require that you have explicit permission from your contacts in order to send them automated text messages.
If you plan to send a mass text, you can only send it to a list of contacts who have subscribed, by opting in through text, or a website form.
That is not the case for peer-to-peer text messaging. This involves an agent manually sending texts with the help of software.
Peer-to-peer texting allows you to reach out to contacts who may have not subscribed, and engage them in a conversation over text.
Political campaigns especially, have successfully adopted peer-to-peer texting to reach out to constituents and ask them to vote.
To answer the question posed in the beginning of this section – Yes, texting is a great option in the majority of cases.
Let’s look at the salient benefits of texting:
The benefits of texting your audience
High chance of being read
Let’s start with the defining reason for choosing texting over other channels of communication:
90% of people read a text message within the first 3 minutes.
How is that possible?
Text messages pop up on your lock screen and the notification bar. The entire message can be read without needing to click on it.
That means you can spend less time worrying about coming up with the perfect subject line, or whether a contact is going to pick up your call.
This makes it a great channel if you are sending time-sensitive messages to your contacts, for example, a GOTV message on the morning of an election.
Doesn’t require an internet connection or an app
Mobile data coverage isn’t necessarily ubiquitous.
For some, it can be a luxury. Others may have restrictive mobile data plans.
For the sake of conserving phone battery usage, some may turn off their data unless they need it.
Unlike mobile internet, SMS notifications are rarely turned off.
That means texting has a wider and more immediate reach than say an email.
Internet limitations apply for apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, or Facebook messenger too.
In addition to needing an internet connection, they also need both sender and receiver to have the app installed on their phones.
If you are sure that your audience is using the same platform that you are, that’s great, but for most communication, it severely limits the reach of your message.
Easy for your audience to opt-in
While there are a number of ways to get audiences to subscribe to your communication, SMS opt-ins may be the most convenient.
For contacts, it’s as simple as texting a keyword to a number once they are prompted to.
To put the ease of SMS opt-ins into perspective, let’s take the example of climate advocacy group 350.org.
Of the 6000 people that came to their climate strike in Minnesota, 2919 of them opted in via SMS right after hearing a verbal request to do so.
Send targeted messages to contacts
What if your message is something that is only relevant to a few people?
Most texting software lets you collect unique identifiers from your contacts to segment your lists.
The segmentation can be done via a CRM or spreadsheet, and uploaded to your software so you can send targeted messages based on those identifiers.
350.org used lists segmented based on zipcodes to send supporters targeted messages to get them out to protests and sign petitions.
They collected the initial data they needed right when contacts opted in (depicted in the image above), and used that data to segment their contacts based on their school and grade.
Have personal one on one conversations
Texting, and peer-to-peer texting especially, allow you to have real conversations with your contacts.
Peer to peer texting involves having texting agents manually sending text messages to contacts.
This goes beyond the usual personalization, such as including your contacts name in the message.
The nature of texting as a highly personal communication channel (people send texts to friends and family every day) lends to the fact that even two complete strangers can have a conversation with each other.
Mentioned in the earlier example, 350.org had their texting agents start conversations with their contacts to convey their ask.
Higher chance of getting a response
We can link this back to other benefits of texting that we mentioned earlier.
Namely, that texts have a high chance of being received and read, and that it is simply more convenient to respond to a text message.
If you can get your audience to engage in the low barrier action of taking part in a conversation, you have a higher chance of getting them to do something else.
The action that receivers can take isn’t limited to responding to your texts.
For fundraisers, the text messages they send in 2019 had a 13% click-through rate
That clearly indicates that texting can serve as a great way to get contacts to take action for your business or cause, for example, by making a donation or a purchase.
Help boost other channels
While texting is a great communication channel on its own, it can work in conjunction with other channels.
A study by the Sister District Project found that using a combination of channels, like phone calls and texts increased the RSVP and attendance rates for a volunteer event by 168% and 177% respectively.
If you’re calling your contacts, sending text message follow ups is easy through the texting from call center feature.
Send automated responses to collect information
You don’t want to leave your contacts hanging when they send you a message. Other times, you want to send follow ups in order to collect more information from them.
Most texting software providers allow you to set up automated replies to incoming text messages.
This can come in handy, for example, when you are collecting event RSVPs.
The ability to set up automatic replies based on a keyword (e.g. RSVP, YES, NO) that you ask contacts to reply with expands the usefulness of texting beyond just sending updates or promotional messages.
Simple to set up and run an SMS campaign
Budgeting for your texting campaigns and setting up a process for them might take some effort.
But once that’s done and you have your message ready, actually sending a text to your audience takes no time at all.
It’s as simple as:
- Creating an account with an SMS provider
- Adding or renting a sender ID/phone number
- Uploading a list of contacts to the software
- Setting up a texting campaign
- Selecting your list of contacts and adding your message
- Scheduling the message for whenever you want it to go out
Once you hit start, you’re all set.