Political SMS Marketing

Political Texting: How Ted Cruz Gained 16,000 Subscribers in 40 Minutes

Political Texting How Ted Cruz Gained 16,000 Subscribers in 40 Minutes

Sending SMS messages to supporters is now a key component of many political races. Campaign texts have a 99% open rate compared to 20% for political emails. They’re a powerful tool to rally support and gather donations from voters, enabling candidates to expand their campaigns and win elections. The early days of political SMS messages offer valuable lessons applicable today. Let’s take a closer look at one example: how Ted Cruz’s texting campaign gained thousands of subscribers during a single speech.


How Ted Cruz Expanded His Subscriber List

In 2013, Senator Ted Cruz delivered the keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC. A key part of his message during the 40-minute speech focused on a new political leadership PAC, The Jobs Growth and Freedom Fund. To gain more momentum and attention for the new project, Senator Cruz told the audience (and massive online viewership) to text the keyword GROWTH to 33733 to opt in to an SMS subscriber list and receive messages and updates in the future.

Using mass political texting, Cruz and his team could organize events and fundraising and keep their supporters engaged and informed. Especially at that time, this was a forward-thinking plan, integrating mobile communication and the latest technology with political strategy.

By the time Cruz finished his speech, he had gained over 16,000 new SMS subscribers, significantly expanding support for the new PAC. That’s an average of seven new supporters joining the subscriber list every second during his speech. This result demonstrated the effectiveness of SMS messaging and keywords. Today, almost all political campaigns have incorporated text messages into their strategies. In fact, nearly 1.5 billion political text messages were sent in November 2020 alone. 

Political Texting How Ted Cruz Gained 16,000 Subscribers in 40 Minutes

While many candidates and politicians have centered their communication efforts around texting, it all begins with the subscriber list. Subscriber lists are the foundation for strong political SMS campaigns. In the U.S., texts can only be sent to people who explicitly opt in to be contacted.

Let’s look at how subscriber lists work and what we can learn from Senator Ted Cruz’s texting initiative. 


Understanding SMS Keywords

Keywords are single words (or sometimes a combination of letters and numbers) that a person can send to a campaign’s phone number to indicate they’re opting in to receive messages and communication. Once a campaign receives a keyword from a subscriber, it can send that subscriber texts, videos, images, updates, donation links, and other information. Choosing the right keywords matters since they set the tone for the texting campaign and will stick in the subscriber’s mind. Senator Ted Cruz’s team chose “GROWTH,” a word with positive connotations and broad appeal. 

Keywords also help campaigns understand subscriber demographics and values. A good SMS service provider, like Tatango, can break down subscriber lists into valuable data for campaigns and political organizers. Using various specific keywords, a campaign can design opt-in messages that perform dual functions: add subscribers and help the campaign understand its base better. 

However, keywords are only part of the equation for building a subscriber list. The other vital component is the short code. 


Understanding SMS Short Codes

Just like Cruz’s team, most political organizers use short codes. These are usually five- or six-digit phone numbers that help incoming campaign texts stand out from personal messages on a subscriber’s phone. Short codes are easy to remember and communicate in speeches and interviews and share on billboards, signs, and political ads. 

There are two types of SMS short codes. Generic short codes are a randomized series of numbers not guided by a specific theme or logic. They’re cheaper and easier to get than specific or personalized short codes. Personalized short codes, known as vanity short codes, are often worth the extra cost because they tend to be easier to remember and help campaigns stand out in the growing political texting world. Vanity short codes typically create a better experience for subscribers and help increase your message’s reach. 


Effective Strategies for Growth

Voters benefit from being on a campaign’s subscriber list. They can stay up to date on such things as policy issues and volunteer events and receive timely voting reminders. SMS messages allow candidates to communicate directly with supporters. In many situations, this is better than receiving communication through a third party or a media company. With modern technology, the barriers between voters and politicians have never been lower. 

In the beginning, reaching potential subscribers can be challenging. Keywords and short codes are vital at this stage. With brief, simple messaging, there are many different ways for campaigns to get the word out. Candidates and staffers should take every opportunity to promote their SMS subscriber list, for example, by displaying the keyword on pins and signs and repeating it during speeches and at the end of every campaign message. By using every available avenue, campaigns can reach more voters than ever before.

Some voters may need extra motivation to sign up. Campaign organizers must ensure people see the advantages of being on a subscriber list. Messages like “Text FREEDOM to 17171 to be the first to know about upcoming tickets and events” can encourage voters to sign up. Offering rewards when possible, such as a chance to join a live Q&A or receive a signed T-shirt, is also quite persuasive. With creative keywords and clear reasoning for opting in, political candidates will set themselves up for success. 

Political Texting How Ted Cruz Gained 16,000 Subscribers in 40 Minutes


Get Started Setting Up an SMS Campaign

Mass political texts can be a powerful tool for campaigns. But the world of mass SMS marketing can be tricky to navigate successfully. Candidates can get ahead of the competition by connecting with voters and building a broad subscriber base—this is where expert advice and support can make a significant difference. Contact our team at Tatango to help you select the best keywords and short codes to win your next election. 

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