41.5 Text Messages per Day?! How Health Professionals Can Claim a Space in People’s Text Message in Box


When I first learned about text messaging campaigns a few years ago, I really couldn’t understand who would sign up for one. What was the value add? Text messages are the fun things you look forward to from friends and family, not another way for the outside world to get into your phone. I have to admit, the feeling persisted (even as I signed up for mobile appointment reminders from my dentist) until this week when I was reading the Mobile Commons paper 5 Ways Mobile is Revolutionizing Healthcare and made the amazing discovery that “the average American sends and receives 41.5 text messages per day”? A DAY! Not per week or per month, but per day.

Now this likely comes as no surprise to those who have kept up on my other posts, but I literally just signed up for Instagram last week. So I’m sure you can imagine that I am the one dragging down the average, not building it up. All told, I probably receive an average of two messages a day and send the same amount. No wonder this new trend had me perplexed. But, with so much exciting stuff going on with mobile campaigns, I couldn’t afford to keep my head in the sand any longer.

So what did I do? I started researching. It turns out that whether you’re a for-profit, a nonprofit, an educator or a fundraiser, you may want to consider adding mobile campaigns to your toolkit. Here’s how I saw folks using this technology right now:

  1. Marketing – First and foremost, I saw a lot of mobile marketing. Want to know about coupons, events, and deals at your favorite stores? Try their mobile app! Here’s a list of 100 Examples of Brands Using Text Message Marketing by Tatango – an SMS marketing blog. Now I’m of the mind that there is always something for nonprofits to learn from their more financially able sisters and brothers in the for-profit world, so what was my takeaway for health? Make sure you give people a strong value add so that they want to subscribe. For example, for a nutrition campaign try sourcing coupons for local healthy foods and send seasonal recipes.
  2. Fundraising – In her book Social Media for Social Good, Heather Mansfield suggests sending 2 to 3 text messages per month, marketing sources say 2 to 3 per week. Ultimately you’ll probably have to test what works best for your audience (by looking at opt out rates), but using text messages to engage donors is an obvious connection. Link straight to your donate now page, or start a “text to give” campaign to crowd source small amounts of money from many subscribers.
  3. Behavior Change – Magic words to any health educator, text message campaigns as an additive to existing programs are being used to explore increased behavior change in everything from smoking cessation programs to teen reproductive health education. Mobile Commons talks about this and other benefits to health workers in their article Mobile Commons paper 5 Ways Mobile is Revolutionizing Healthcare.
  4. Education – Outreach, appointment updates, fun facts, serious facts. You name the type of education you had in mind and I’m willing to bet there is a way that mobile messaging could augment your program to help improve it. See the resources below to learn more about how you might be able to incorporate messaging into your health practice (from clinic to support group).

But my biggest takeaway? Unlike email, people aren’t passive about their text messaging. If folks aren’t opting out, they are probably reading your message. So whether you want to get patients in the door on time for their appointment, help educate teens on safe sex, or promote a healthier brand of toothpaste, if you can make the message mean something to the recipient, you probably have an audience with text messages.

If you’re as inspired as I am to bring this new technology to your work, take a look at these resources for more info:

  1. Getting Started: Great article written in the last year, 11 SMS Marketing Best-Practices for Better, Results-Driven Text Messaging Campaigns. This summarizes some of the benefits that the for profit world has discovered which I believe could be used beyond those borders. It’s short, and oh so helpful.
  2. Honing Your Skill: One great resource I found was the Mobile Marketer. With news, resources, and examples by field (including nonprofit), Mobile Marketer is a great starting spot for diving in to all that is Mobile Campaigns.
  3. For Health Folks: I know I harp on this in many of my posts, but one of the first things I was introduced to with mobile health campaigns was the concern of privacy and how to ensure that SMS programs intended for patients are effective without sacrificing confidentiality. Here’s where Mobile Commons did a great job outlining what to be on the lookout for in a recent whitepaper. Check out their piece on HIPAA & Text Messaging Security.
  4. Nonprofit Guide: As I mentioned above, my new mobile campaign BFF Mobile Marketer, has a great nonprofit section with updates on what other groups are doing to leverage mobile technology. From fundraisers to awareness campaigns, see what your peers are doing. Oh and did you know that there is an annual Nonprofit Mobile Day organized by Mobile Commerce Daily and the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation? Learn more on the DMA website.

Featured image by Bells Photography’s Gratisography


7 thoughts on “41.5 Text Messages per Day?! How Health Professionals Can Claim a Space in People’s Text Message in Box

  1. Great post and great resources. I am blown away by that number of texts a day. I don’t send/receive nearly that many either – someone must be driving the average way up 😉

  2. Like you, I really liked the Mobilecommons website. It had so many links to useful articles, case studies and interesting applications for mobile use.

    • I did love the articles – if you have a chance check out the other mobile resources I found, particularly Mobile Marketer. I always worry about taking in too much information from: 1) a vendor, and 2) a group that has a direct interest in the type of information they deliver to you.

  3. Hate to admit it, but my family ONLY texts to keep in touch. We never call. I am pushing the average up, believe it or not. Teresa, great post. I am still unclear on how a text message will know to come thru as you light that cigarette or stuff those french fries in your mouth, but all-in-all, what little text messaging I sign up for I like (my flights, my prescription pick-ups, my doc appts,…). But man, could I ever use that $50,000. I gotta get my thumbs going faster.

  4. Wow, I text message a lot but I am still surprised at the 42/day average. Amazing. This post was so practical and helpful. I learned a ton from it and thanks, especially, for linking out to great resources!!!

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