Mobile phones are ubiquitous and have transformed how we communicate. As a result, political SMS campaigns has revolutionized political fundraising.
According to a 2021 study by Pew Research, cell phone ownership in the U.S. is 97%, and 85% of those phones are smartphones. From ages 18 to 49, ownership jumps to a statistical 100%. These numbers hold across racial and ethnic groups and income levels. Ownership still hovers at 92% for people over the age of 65 and to 94% for people who consider themselves rural dwellers.
When it comes to the most recent general election, according to RoboKiller, more than 5 billion political text messages reached Americans in October 2020 alone. That’s an 85 percent increase from September 2020. To put in perspective, that’s about 161 million texts sent by political groups and organizations per day. If you live in the United States, there’s a good chance you or someone you know received a political text message before the 2020 General Election.
What does this mean for candidates who want to launch a political text messaging campaign? This post provides three components of launching a political text messaging campaign and explains why each one is so crucial.
Why Political Text Messaging
We sampled 2 million texts and found that 54 percent of clicks occurred within just five minutes of receiving a text, 81 percent occurred in 45 minutes, and a full 95 percent occurred within two hours. That can mean the difference between reaching a fundraising or voting deadline… or not.
With the growing popularity of text messaging for political campaigns, we’ve identified three main points that candidates need to focus on:
- To be competitive in today’s modern election climate, political candidates must use text message marketing. Your competitor is texting; you should be, too.
- Launching a successful and compliant political text messaging campaign is increasingly important. Investing in text messaging is one thing, but launching a successful campaign is what can yield real results.
- It’s crucial to work with an experienced political campaign SMS software provider that knows how to leverage text messaging for fundraising, get out the vote (GOTV), candidate outreach, and volunteer management.
In an internal study, we found that for every dollar invested in building and operating a texting program, campaigns net $5 in donations on average. With an ROI that high and the campaign trail’s competitiveness, you’re one step behind if political text marketing isn’t part of your grassroots efforts.
Below is what we recommend to master the points above and launch a successful political text messaging campaign.
1. Grow a High-Quality SMS Subscriber List
Building and growing a high-quality subscriber list is one of the most important things a candidate should focus on throughout all stages of a campaign. Think of it this way: A campaign’s subscriber list is directly tied to the quality and number of donations and voter engagement.
Permission-Based Political Text Messaging
In the world of opt-in or permission-based SMS marketing, an SMS subscriber list is a list of supporters who have opted into a text message program. In other words, supporters have given a campaign consent to send them recurring text messages to their mobile phones.
The opt-in can take place in various forms. The most common form is opting in via a keyword. For example, a supporter might text the keyword OHIO to the short code 12345 to join the SMS campaign and receive periodic, auto-dialed text messages to their phone.
Due to the nature of permission-based political text messaging, earning a supporter’s permission via an opt-in will result in better conversion rates and higher click-through rates. In the context of fundraising, this directly translates to more donations and actions taken.
Person-to-Person Political Text Messaging
Person-to-person (P2P) texting consists of campaign volunteers or staffers manually texting supporters who haven’t given permission (opted-in) to receive text messages from a campaign. Although this method yields the quickest route to texting potential voters, the quality of interaction between a campaign and recipients can be lower. It’s also important to consider the cost and quality of results that P2P texting delivers compared to permission-based text messaging.
At Tatango, we always recommend receiving a subscriber’s consent and permission to text message them and always providing subscribers an easy way to opt out of the program at any time.
Promoting Your Text Message Marketing Program
It’s important to remember that growing your subscriber list is an ongoing project. You have to play the long game. There will be re-elections, or your candidate may run for a higher office in the future. Promote your short code in every piece of campaign material, including podium signs, broadcast, mailers, yard signs, emails, buttons—everything you use.
Incentivize people to engage with your text messaging. One study found that 58% of consumers are more likely to engage with their favorite candidate’s texting campaign if it includes an offer. For political organizations, that could be:
- Sending a signed photo of the candidate, a campaign button, or a bumper sticker.
- Promising your subscribers early access to special campaign events or preferred seating.
- Breaking campaign news to your subscribers first to help them feel like they have privileged access to your campaign. A donor can feel special when they see something on a news channel and can say to a friend (who isn’t on your list yet), “I knew that two days ago. The campaign texted me.”
The goal is to help your subscribers feel like insiders. Opt-in incentives give supporters a reason to sign up for your text messages—and quite often, they’ll become evangelists. They’ll also respond with donations.
2. Integrate Your Text Message Campaign Into a Donation Platform
Donations are the lifeblood of a campaign. Without donations, campaigns can run short. Text messaging is one of the most effective ways to fundraise, so a campaign must establish and integrate its text messaging program into its donation platform. In an internal study, we found for every dollar invested in building and operating a texting program, campaigns net $5 in donations on average.
Along with the ability to direct supporters to a donation page, campaigns can also use donation pages to gain subscribers. For example, a campaign could incorporate a web opt-in with the donation form.
Integrating a campaign’s text program with its donation platform also gives the campaign the ability to leverage donation information and pinpoint messaging to optimize fundraising amounts. Depending on the political campaign SMS software provider, a campaign might be able to segment subscribers by donation amount. Suppose a campaign knows that subscriber #488 donated $500. In that case, the campaign could leverage that information and assume that they might be more likely to donate more money than a subscriber who donated $10. Without integration, a campaign won’t act on gathered data and ultimately won’t be able to optimize their text messaging efforts.
Tatango offers several donation platform integrations with the top political fundraising tools.
3. Collect Voter Data for Segmentation
It’s also important to build your opt-in list while collecting the information you’ll need to segment text messages. Segmentation is essential to avoid fatiguing your list and provide relevant calls to action to supporters and voter databases. The goal is to gain information that can help you optimize your campaign to the fullest.
A few pieces of data are commonly collected during the opt-in process:
A subscriber’s zip code can provide actionable data for your campaign. Zip codes can give insight into political affiliation, economic status, and location. Whether it’s a local, state, or national election, zip codes can help campaigns focus more on areas that may swing or focus on areas more likely to have large donors. The zip code also provides information that will allow a campaign to target based on location, which is especially helpful for event turnout or recruiting volunteers for a specific opportunity.
After the subscriber texts a keyword to opt in, use this SMS autoresponder zip code template: “Reply with your zip code for personalized campaign alerts. Txt STOP 2 stop. HELP 2 help.”
In addition to zip code and permission, aim to collect subscribers’ email addresses. You can do this on your signup form or as an automated series of welcome messages called autoresponders. You can use a subscriber’s email address not only for email campaigns but also to match the supporter back to other online activities (such as their donor history), which allows you to tailor your asks.
After the subscriber texts a keyword to opt in, use this SMS autoresponder email template: “Reply with your email for personalized campaign alerts. Txt STOP 2 stop. HELP 2 help.”
Collecting the subscriber’s first name during the double opt-in process can help you personalize your messaging. Personalization is especially important in collecting donations, and Tatango’s software allows you to automate personalization at scale. Using merge tags, Tatango enables you to insert subscriber information into a message dynamically. This information could be the subscribers first name, email address, state, city, zip code, or even custom subscriber data.
After the subscriber texts a keyword to opt in, use this SMS autoresponder first name template: “Reply with your first name for personalized campaign alerts. Txt STOP 2stop. HELP 2 help.”
Word to the Wise: Ensure TCPA Compliance
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, passed into law by Congress in 1991, regulates telemarketing. The FCC later expanded its authority under the legislation to cover text messages, explaining that text messages are, in essence, phone calls.
Political candidates are not exempt from the obligation to obtain consent, honor do-not-call requests, and adhere to disclosure, opt-out, and time-of-day requirements.
You’ll benefit from partnering with a reliable text messaging services provider, such as Tatango. Tatango has been in this business for more than 14 years. We make it our business to know the ins and outs of the TCPA.
Get a crash course on the TCPA with Tatango’s TCPA Survival Guide and TCPA Exemptions E-Guide Series — The Political Edition.
The Key Takeaway
Whether you’ve launched a campaign or you’re just thinking about it, it’s essential to understand the power of text message marketing when paired with actionable data and an experienced political campaign SMS software provider like Tatango. Throughout our 14 years of experience, we’ve seen political campaigns hindered by utilizing SMS software providers that don’t provide campaigns with tools that truly make a difference—and that’s why we wrote this article for you.
Are you interested in using political text messaging for your next campaign? Consider Tatango as your solution and contact our team of text messaging experts.