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Write better text messages to improve the response rate of your campaigns.

Peer-to-peer texting offers a personalized way to connect with voters. Texting campaigns costs much less than other forms of outreach. They get a higher read and response rate than emails, and a much higher penetration rate than phone calls. 

Yet, in 2020, texts from campaigns have been flooding phones, with over a billion texts. And it is expected to get even worse this election cycle. Too many, campaign texts have taken a turn from informative to downright annoying texts. The goal of texts is to win hearts and minds, not irritate supporters. It's important to craft text messages so they are engaging and helpful.

How to write texts to get more responses

Keep it short

Texts aren't essays. Keep them short. This improves response rates and lowers your cost. It costs 1 cent to send a text which is up to 150 characters long with Text Per Cent (TPC).

Pose open ended questions

Open ended questions lead to actual back and forth conversations between campaign volunteers and people about transportation, event timing, addresses, and so on. This also fosters real engagement, rather than bot messages where attendees can only reply with a ‘yes’ or 'no' response to RSVP, and the conversation ended there.

"Hi Francisco, it's Quincey, from the Jay Bulworth campaign. Election day is a week away. Do you know your polling location - or need help?"

Customize text messages with maps of polling locations and details on acceptable forms of Voter IDs.

Personalize with useful information

It is good practice to always start the text message with "Hi [VOTERNAME], it's [NAME] from the [insert name here] organization. This lets the reader know that the text is not sent from a bot, improving the response rate. TPC provides seven variables that can be used to customize text messages including polling location, district, county, state, open hours, and affiliation (student, retiree, veteran, union member...).

“Hi Fred, it’s Quincey from the Jay Bulworth campaign. Jay will be down the street from you next week. Can you make it? What issues do you hope Jay will discuss?"

Include links

“Hi Francisco, it’s Quincey from the Jay Bulworth campaign. Jay will be down the street from you next week. Can you make it? What issues are most important to you? Let us know via the link and we will address them at the meeting:"

You can't send links over the phone, but you can send them over text, so its good practice to include a call to action followed by a link in every text message you send. This link for instance, provides details of the current early voting locations in North Carolina in 2020.

Include information specific to the recipient such as their polling location.

Include candidate or district-specific issues

“Hi Fred, it’s Quincey from the Jay Bulworth campaign. Jay will be down the street from you next week addressing the lack of access to clean water and clean air in your town. Can you make it? If so, click on the link for details:"
Include info specific to the recipient e.g. Your polling location is__________. People who received text messages with candidate or district-specific issues.

Adding images and QR codes improves the response rate to your text messages.

Add images

Sending images grabs their attention and improves the response rate. Images are sent as MMS (Multi-media message service). It costs 4 cents to send an image vs 1 cent to send a text with Text Per Cent. Images should preferably be smaller than 100 KB in size.

Sending an image as an MMS is done with a simple message like:
"Here is a card that explains acceptable forms of Voter ID in Virginia. [ATTACH; Virginia Voter ID Card; URL]"

Use QR Codes

Quick Response (QR) Codes are free to create and can be scanned with a camera phone. They direct users to a web site, send an email or text or make a phone call. Add them to your text messages to make it easy for people to respond. Tec-IT provides a wonderful, free QR code generator.

DON'T USE ALL CAPS or overuse exclamation points!!!

Leave texting (and tweeting) in CAPITALS and lots of !!!! to people who are loud but don't have much of substance to say.

Text in their language

Send texts in their language. Text Per Cent lets you create messages in different languages making it easy for volunteers to text in the voter's language. Learn more about how to do it here.

Take Away : Make every text count with personalized, helpful information.

Texting campaigns done right are highly effective and very affordable at 1 cent/text. Make sure you make every text count by personalizing the message and offering customized voting-related information.


Image credit: Christina on Unsplash

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DemLabs applies innovative technology and storytelling tools in service of democratic values. It lowers the barrier of funding for worthy candidates and non-profits by applying existing free/affordable solutions.