Political SMS Marketing

50,000 Join Bernie Sanders’ SMS Campaign

50,000 Join Bernie Sanders' SMS Campaign

Text message marketing is a communication staple for top political candidates. In the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump political campaigns all included a text message marketing strategy. 

This blog provides a closer look at the lessons we can learn from Bernie Sanders’ 2016 SMS campaign. Within hours of a livestream event, he achieved a 50% opt-in rate as 50,000 supporters subscribed to his text message campaign. Keep reading to find out how.


How Bernie Sanders’ SMS Campaign Gained 50,000 Subscribers 

In July 2015, during the 2016 elections political campaigns, Senator Bernie Sanders hosted a livestreamed house party event. More than 100,000 people nationwide tuned in. 

During the event, his digital organizing director, Claire Sandberg, asked supporters to send a text message to opt in to Sanders’ political SMS campaign. “We need to turn crowds and popular support and Bernie into winning,” Sandberg said. “So everyone, please, take out your smartphone right now and text the word ‘work.’ ” Within hours, more than 50,000 people sent texts with the keyword “WORK” to the short code 82628. 

The way political organizations communicate with their audiences has changed over the years, and so has the role voters play in political campaigns and elections. As seen in Sanders’ 2016  campaign, when constituents are passionate about a candidate, they get really involved in political campaigns. Loyal supporters attend campaign events and rallies and donate money.   

Political campaigns are complex––getting citizens to cast a ballot on election day and securing a win for a politician takes a lot of hard work. That’s why it is so important for political candidates, and in this scenario, for Bernie Sanders, to find the most direct and efficient way to reach potential supporters. 

The first step to gaining loyal supporters is getting to know them. Think of potential voters as potential customers and ask yourself: What’s their age range? Where do they spend most of their time? What are they interested in? What are the best ways to reach them?  

In 2016, Bernie Sanders’ political marketing team understood that with SMS messaging, they could massively communicate with more than 92% of all U.S. adults, who at the time owned a mobile phone. Mobile phones play a central role in our lives. We wake up and go to sleep with our cell phones within reach. Plus, texting is widely popular across all age demographics. Bernie Sanders’ team took advantage of this fact, and as a result, their effective mobile marketing strategy helped him establish a personal relationship with his voters and gain momentum. 

Since then, text messaging in political settings has become a given. The best part is that citizens want to be contacted by text message. In fact, according to a survey by Mitto, 6.7 out of 10 voters said candidates’ text messages were a source of information during the 2020 elections. 


How to Amplify Your Political Message

Simply using text messaging isn’t enough to successfully communicate with your supporters. How you use this communication tool makes a big difference. Make sure you get some fundamentals right to amplify your message and get the most out of your political SMS campaign. 

50,000 Join Bernie Sanders' SMS Campaign


Choose a Relevant Keyword 

Every political text messaging campaign needs a relevant keyword. An SMS keyword is a word that subscribers text to a specific short code to join an SMS message campaign. A good keyword is relevant to the campaign, easy to spell, and memorable. 

Bernie Sanders made it easy for people to opt in to his campaign with two very suitable keywords: “WORK” and “BERNIE.” The right keywords can significantly impact the number of people who join a text messaging campaign. A memorable keyword such as “WORK” can help a campaign gain over 50,000 subscribers in just a few hours, as with Bernie Sanders’ SMS campaign. 


Promote Your SMS Campaign 

Your political SMS campaign won’t be successful if voters don’t sign up for it. In text message marketing, phone owners must subscribe before receiving information from SMS short codes. The more you promote your SMS keyword and short code, the more potential subscribers you will reach. 

After Bernie Sanders’ SMS marketing success with the livestreamed house party event, his SMS keyword “BERNIE” and short code 82623 appeared in almost all his campaign events. For example, the image below is a scoreboard display at one of his rallies in Portland encouraging attendees to sign up for updates by texting “BERNIE.”   

50,000 Join Bernie Sanders' SMS Campaign

Make your SMS keyword and short code as visible as possible. Websites, social media, flyers, and billboards are great places to share your keyword and short code. Bernie Sanders’ website and social media promoted the SMS campaign, especially Twitter with the hashtag #TeamBernie. 

50,000 Join Bernie Sanders' SMS Campaign


Segment Your Audience

In addition to national events such as debates, most of the work in political campaigns happens locally. Interestingly, Bernie Sanders’ SMS campaign collected supporters’ zip codes collected when they joined. With subscriber information such as zip codes, it’s easy to mobilize supporters based on their location, reaching the right supporters at the right time. An SMS software provider like Tatango can help you segment your subscriber list by demographic information. Accurate segmentation will allow you to send out highly targeted text messages. 

50,000 Join Bernie Sanders' SMS Campaign


Use MMS Marketing 

Bernie Sanders’ SMS campaign was not a text-only campaign. His was one of the first presidential campaigns to use Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). With MMS messaging, you can include media content in your texts. Unlike SMS messaging, MMS messaging allows up to 5,000 characters and content such as audio files, QR codes, images, and more. 

Media content is more attractive and engaging than text-only messages. Adding GIFs or images, similar to the example below, can help capture potential voters’ hearts.

50,000 Join Bernie Sanders' SMS Campaign


Amplify Your Political Message with Tatango 

SMS message marketing is the perfect strategy for political candidates to amplify their message. With text messaging, constituents are more likely to read and respond to what you have to say. Tatango has been an industry leader over the last 14 years. We’ve helped political organizations gain loyal supporters, fundraise campaigns, and mobilize volunteers. Have the right partner at your side every step of the way. Contact one of our text messaging experts and download our free resources.

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