Political text messaging has invited a lot of flak, with people furiously Googling “Why am I getting political texts” and “How to stop political text messages.” From their outlook, asking these questions is justified, if they haven’t signed up to receive the texts.
But you also have to win the popular vote, and getting in touch with voters at scale is a great way to gauge and increase support.
So what are the best practices to tread the fine line between welcomed outreach and annoyance? What rules stop you from legally sending such political texts? And what methods will help you make the most of text messaging during and after your campaign?
Advantages of political text messaging
In 2020, 161.6 million US users used a mobile messaging app service and this number is expected to reach 171.3 million users by 2022. It’s clear that most of your supporter base is going to be actively texting. But there are more benefits in store.
Here are a few solid ways that political campaigns benefit from text marketing.
Reach more people in less time
When you have a broadcast to send out to a large group, phone calls prove to be time-consuming, social media doesn’t guarantee personal reach, and email depends on internet access. Moreover, nearly half of all emails are marked as spam.
Text messages overcome all these obstacles. Plus, there’s a smaller chance of getting marked as spam because only 10% of text messages end up in the spam folder.
Better open rates than any other communication channel
You want an assurance that your message is not falling on deaf ears. Text messages ensure that because: Texts have a 98% open rate while emails have 15-25%. Texts have a 45% response rate, 7x more than that of emails.
Appeal to a younger audience
You already have a solid idea of how your older supporters prefer communicating with you. The generation as a whole has been with you longer than millennials or Gen-Z. The younger generations prefer texting. Young people seem to handle all their business via text message. Emails are considered reserved for non-urgent communications and phone calls are only used when absolutely necessary.
However, texting is not limited to structuring your campaign to win over millennials only. Older generations, too, have started getting comfortable with texting and may prefer this personal yet non-invasive way to communicate with you.
Excellent for event reminders and GOTV
Last-minute reminders and nudges go a long way in getting the crowd to attend your event or step out and vote. Text messages allow you to send these reminders to a large group almost instantly. A long code can send one message per second, while a shortcode can send 100 messages every second. That means you can reach between 3600 to 360,000 people within the hour!
Moreover, you can add auto-responses to broadcast messages. These responses go out when a person sends a trigger keyword. Location pins and donation links are common use cases for auto-responders when using political text messaging for GOTV, fundraising, or event reminders.
Personalized messaging, at scale
One doesn’t require statistics to figure out that personalized messaging works far better than a generalized message sent to a group. Even when it comes to political text messaging, the rules are the same. Generalized and impersonal messaging sounds robotic and hence, is off-putting.
Personal conversations with your electorates may not guarantee their support, but it will ensure that they don’t lose interest because they didn’t feel valued. You can check out 6 SMS Marketing Best Practices for your campaign that will help your electorates feel valued!
With text messages, you can import vital data on your voters and include that in your conversations to make them personalized and personal.
Follow-ups made easy
Some of your electorates may need diligent follow-ups (e.g., swing voters, non-respondents to event invitations). Text messaging makes that not just possible but easy since you can segment your audience by their responses and schedule follow-ups after an appropriate time. This way, you don’t fade away from their memory.
Of course, scheduled follow-ups are not exclusive to text messages. But digital nudges, such as SMS or push notifications, are proven to be effective in getting the desired action. Most text messages are opened within three minutes of being received– an additional reason why your political campaign text messages will yield better results. These benefits of political text messaging are most effective when using the correct type of text for every communication.
Rules and regulations for political text messaging
Fence-sitters are unlikely to be swayed, and supporters are likely to withdraw support if they are frustrated or think of your political texts as spam. To ensure this doesn’t take a legal turn (in which case, it’s a lose-lose), make sure you follow these rules and regulations set up by the federal authorities.
Note: The rules evolve as technology and campaigns adopt new ways of reaching their audience. Please refer to government notices for the latest updates.
FCC rules that auto-dialed calls require prior permission from the recipient if the number belongs to a mobile phone (landlines or home phones do not fall under this rule). Similarly, since political text messages typically go to mobile phones, they require the recipient’s consent.
This consent is not required if the message(s) are sent manually and without an auto-sending technology.
Types of consent required
- Explicit opt-in: When an individual signs up for your text messages directly.
- Opt-in via email or other links: They check the “I agree to receive messages” box
- Written consent: When they share their number and consent over an online or offline form to receive such messages.
- In addition, you need to confirm their permission in your initial messages when they opt-in.
When displaying your shortcode and keyword, you need to describe what they will be signing up for. Your first outbound message should identify the sender, the campaign, provide disclaimers about charges and provide an easy way to opt-out.
Hours of operation
Telemarketing and political text messaging must occur only between 8 am and 9 pm. If your P2P messages spill over, it is a good idea to reschedule the conversation for the following day to stay compliant.
Best practices for political text messaging
Americans prefer communicating with businesses and services over text more than any other communication channel. If political campaigns adopt the same rules and guidelines that make texting a desirable business communication tool to their campaign, they could get a high ROI and score brownie points from supporters.
Here are some of those guidelines that political campaigns can use:
Use reinforcements as motivation to participate
Sometimes the incentive can be as inherently connected to your campaign as progress updates, but when people are not sufficiently motivated, you can offer other incentives for opt-ins and responses.
Give a detailed understanding of expectations when confirming opt-in
When a person signs up, you confirm whether they want to receive broadcasts, conversational texts, or both. Link them out to a landing page where you explain what to expect from each type of message, frequency of messages, and such other details that set accurate expectations from your text messages and prevent them from opting out.
There’s a chance that folks will opt-out in the initial stages when you set the expectations. But that’s a part of list cleaning and will ensure those who continue are engaged and happy to receive texts from you.
Mix up your content (while staying compliant with expectations)
Your aim of sending text messages to supporters is not just to give updates but to nurture them in a way that they vote for you. This means you need to motivate them to engage in two-way communication.
Instead of sending just one type of message, create a mix with updates like event invitations, surveys, gift coupons, asking for feedback, donation links, etc. Ensure that each message is still relevant to the expectations you set when obtaining their number (e.g., the survey and invitations can relate to a specific cause or campaign that they support.).
Track your best time of the day to schedule campaigns
While the FCC rules allow you to text anytime between 8 am and 9 pm, it is better to track open, response, and conversion rates for the initial messages and study their pattern. You may notice that certain supporters are more responsive after office hours (e.g., working professionals), whereas others are more likely to respond mid-day (e.g., homemakers).
Segment them accordingly and schedule text messages at the appropriate times for maximum ROI.
Limit the number of texts you send
A common reason people block political texts is that they are frustrated with the frequency of messages. To ensure you don’t come across as too overbearing, fix the sweet spot between too few and too many messages.
We recommend starting with one or two text messages per week. As you start getting responses, you can sort out lists by engagement levels and increase the frequency accordingly.
Political text messaging has increased exponentially since the last two presidential elections. But while campaigns are putting the communication channel in full gear, people feel spammed and cheated if they haven’t given consent.
We covered the rules and best practices to ensure you have a clean history of campaign text messages. Look out for an excellent political text messaging tool that intelligently boosts your communications.