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Running a Text Messaging Program

by Beth Johnson, Communication Manager, Salsa

Last week, we discussed the different uses of texting campaigns and how to decide if texting is right for your organization, but what does it really take to run a text messaging program?

If you really strategize how to use text messaging to help you reach your organizational goals and grow your base, then you’re more likely to succeed. If, on the other hand, you launch a text messaging program just for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon, it’s not likely to yield results — just as if you set up a Facebook page but do nothing to promote that page; you aren’t going to get very far. The process of incorporating text messaging into your base-building efforts is simple and straightforward — just follow theses steps.

Figure Out Who Does What and When

Designate a ring leader for the project. If possible, a single point person should coordinate the texting program on an ongoing basis. You can have each staff member brainstorm how texting can supplement his existing work, but have one person managing the text program so the message is consistent.

Come Up with a Tactical Plan Suited To Your Campaign Strategy

Ask yourself how you can use text messaging to maximize the amount of people that opt-in or rally behind your cause. With any text service on the market, these basic services are available to you to incorporate into your larger plan:

  • Enable text-to-join. To see just how simple a text message opt-in is, text Salsa to 32075. (When you do, you’ll be added to Salsa’s list, but you can easily opt-out afterward if you like.)
  • Use widgets. Widgets enable you to copy code provided to you by your vendor, which you can put on your website to enable people to join your text list right from your site. You can also use a widget to have people join a specific sublist. Doing as much as possible upfront to collect information for segmentation later is a good idea. People are less likely to opt-out if you only send the texts that interest them.
  • Invite people from your database to opt-in. Ask existing supporters for their permission to send them text messages, and you can then upload your list to the service provider. (Remember, though — you can’t just ask for their phone numbers and start texting them! Be clear about what you plan to do with their mobile numbers.)

Finding the Right Vendor

When searching for a vendor, consider asking the following questions:

  • Is your service compatible with all cellphone carriers and pre-paid services?
  • What does your pricing include? Is it monthly, or do we have to sign a contract?
  • What features and functionality distinguish your service from your competitors’? What do you consider to be your most valuable feature?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Can you provide me with a list of existing customers?

Sending Your Messages

The most important advice for running a list-building campaign is to be patient but persistent. After all, the list won’t grow itself. To get your supporters to help grow the list for you, take two simple actions:

  • Ask the people on your list to help spread the word. Text messaging offers huge opportunities for the viral possibilities for growing your list, especially if you’re vigilant about saying in your text blasts, “Please forward this message.” (Feel free to use texting shorthand if you prefer.)
  • Ask your supporters for feedback early on, changing course if necessary. Are people appreciating the content you’re sending through text messages? Are you sending them at the right times, with the right frequency, for the right reasons? Monitor response rates as much as possible to ensure your texts are getting you the desired results, which is more engaged supporters.

Assessing Return on Investment

The value of growing a list is only as good as how you capitalize on that list. There are some ways that you can assess whether text messaging is serving your bigger, broader organizational goals. These ways include the following:

  • Do texts save staff time?
  • Are your texting efforts cutting back on paper use?
  • Are text messages generating new donations?
  • Do texts increase the value of donations?
  • Are text messages making it easier for people to take action?
  • Can texts help people share their passions for your cause by asking friends and family to be supporters?

Want to learn more creative tips for effective texting in the real world? There's a whole chapter on mobile in our free ebook, The Essential Guide to Growing Your Online Support for Nonprofits.

This new guide helps you connect and engage with current donors, volunteers and activists, and tells you how to reach out to new supporters using the online tools and content you’ve probably already got in place. It covers things like storytelling and choosing the best message for each medium, but also goes into things you might not know a lot about yet, like SEO, SEM and leveraging text messaging.

Topics: Strategy Marketing