• November 1, 2018

9 Best Practices for SMS Advocacy Campaigns

Think about the last time you received a text. Did you open it? The answer is, likely, yes. Now, think about the last time you received an email. Depending on the email, you may have blindly deleted it or opened it, depending on who sent the message and what the subject line was.

The average person receives about 121 emails per day. With such an overload of messages, email fatigue is rampant. And, it’s no different for advocacy organizations. Supporters are overwhelmed with the number of messages asking them to donate, take action and attend events. Because of this, many organizations are turning to texting as their main outlet for communicating with their advocates.

SMS, or text-messaging, can be your best friend in maximizing open rates, and ultimately, engagement rates. But getting your SMS advocacy game up to par can be a bit confusing. When do you text? Who do you text? Is it even legal?! Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered (and yes, it’s legal).

Here are some of the best practices for launching your next SMS advocacy campaign:

Start with an SMS Calendar

Texting can be much more personal than email, so you don’t want to overload your supporters with texts. However, you do want to keep them engaged. Our recommendation is to text your advocates at least once a month, and at most, six times a month. That way they are used to hearing from you, but don’t feel overwhelmed. No matter the message, it is important to keep your supporters “in the know” when it comes to your organization and your policies and goals.

Segment Your List

Understanding your database is crucial to a top-notch SMS strategy. For example, be sure to tag your supporters who are active on social media. So, when you really want to amplify your call-to-action with a hashtag or a social ask, you can leverage those who are most engaged on those channels — ultimately leading to higher conversion rates on your campaign.

Optimize the When

Similar to e-mail marketing, the time of day matters for sending text blasts. Take into account your supporters’ time zones (this is where data segmentation will also come in handy), and schedule text messages around where your supporters live. Unlike email marketing, texts should almost always be sent outside of business hours. With a 99% open rate, it is a near guarantee your text will be read, so it’s critical that you optimize what time of day will result in the most conversions. We recommend sending text messages in the hour before work, from 8-9 AM, and in the late evening.

Don’t Forget to A/B Test

This is standard for emailing your supporters. But for texting, what would you compare? The character limit for texting inhibits the ability to test multiple variables with each blast, but there are still options. Try testing the images to segmented audiences or using emojis. Which tactic led to higher engagement? Which earned more conversions?

Remove Barriers to Engagement

When drafting copy for your text, instead of asking supporters to click a link, reduce the barriers to engagement and provide a direct number for your supporters to call. Make it easier for your advocates to take action and you’ll see higher conversions as a result.

Advocacy tools like Capitol Canary allow you to build a campaign with a patch-thru phone number that your supporters can call, and when prompted, enter their zip code to get connected with their lawmakers. Fewer Clicks = More Conversions.

Don’t be Afraid to Keep it Evergreen

Even if you don’t have a pressing policy issue, you should still engage with your supporters. Build your digital relationship by wishing your supporters “Happy Holidays” or creating an ugly holiday sweater contest asking them to tweet their outfit to enter to win a gift card. There are myriad ways to engage your supporters outside of policy-driven calls-to-action to make them feel like a valued advocate.

Build an SMS Ladder of Engagement

As you build out your overall communications strategy, be sure to create a regularly-scheduled cadence that incorporates email marketing and other outbound communications channels, so your advocates become used to hearing from your organization at specific times. For example, send them an email ask on Monday, then on Tuesday send a text reminder to take action, and for those that did take action, shoot them a text with the next ask, like sharing on social media or donating further to the cause.

Leverage Your Live Events

Hosting an event, rally, or lobby day? Live events are a great way to capture your advocates when they are most engaged, by using an SMS call-to-action. Before the event, decide what your call-to-action will be, and when the crowd is at optimal engagement, ask them to text a keyword to a shortcode (i.e., “Text ‘Act’ to 52886”). This is a great way to opt-in to receive text messages and capture their information.

Create an automated response that either asks for their information (Name, email, and zip code) or sends an automated link to one of your mobile-responsive digital campaigns that connects them with their lawmakers. Depending on the size of the event, however, we usually recommend keeping it as simple as possible and refraining from linking to another website as cell service may be limited.

Live events see about, on average, an 80% engagement rate for SMS calls-to-action, so incorporating this tactic into your event should be seen as a fundamental to your grassroots strategy.

Don’t Forget to Thank Your Supporters!

Whatever the goals are for your campaign, it’s important to tell your supporters “thank you” for engaging and taking action. Make sure to send a follow-up thank you email or text message to demonstrate the importance of their involvement in the campaign. A valued advocate will be one who continues to engage on your campaigns in the future.

When it comes to optimizing your grassroots strategy and building an army of advocates, you need to reach your supporters where they are: mobile and social media. SMS can be the key to bolstering your conversion rates and achieving your policy goals. But it is important to keep in mind the playing field of new mediums. SMS is much more personal, and can feel invasive if not leveraged appropriately. Make sure to follow best practices, and use your intuition! You know your supporters better than anyone. Gauge their receptiveness to the timing and messaging of your texts. As with any other medium, reflect upon the effectiveness of your campaigns and iterate.

If you’d like to learn more about Capitol Canary’s SMS advocacy tools and how they can support your next campaign, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to share more best practices on what we’ve learned from the field!