Texting, 1-2-3


A few years ago I read somewhere that it was the 20th anniversary of the first text message ever sent. I found it both hard to believe yet believable at the same time. Texting to me had become second nature, a functionality I use my mobile phone more than anything else, just like millions of Americans.  According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project tracking surveys 2006-2013, 81% of cell phone owners user their cell phones to send or receive text messages.

I don’t know about you, but texting is one of the few forms of communications we have today that doesn’t give me as much anxiety like opening my inbox.  It involves my closest circles where communication pretty much flows instantaneously. So how do we harness the power of texting for social good without coming across like a spammer? I tried to search for examples of non-profits that use short message service (SMS) campaigns but my search came up slim.  Instead, my initial Google search produced a laundry list of marketing/advertisements. I ended up looking at a handful of non-profit websites and finally stumbled upon a few, including DoSomething.org.

So how do we harness the power of texting for social good without coming across like a spammer?

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Build on what you have: Use texting campaigns as an extension of your existing communication tools.  Whether it’s to promote breaking news, or programs a story you’re featuring on your website or sending reminders about upcoming events or fundraisers.
  2. Mix it up and use strategically to avoid the spam effect: Develop a communications plan that is integrated with your other communications so that you’re not repeating the same message over and over again through different medium. Be sure to have a personal spin where you can so you’ don’t come across as one-sided a robot.
  3. Promote your texting campaign on your website and other networks. Be sure to explain the utility of the text campaign and what users can expect as far as engagement.
  4. Have fun! If you’re new to text messaging campaigns, be sure to have a small group to pilot your messages with.  When you have most of the kinks out and comfortable with your messaging, spread the word!

Photo credit: http://jacquelinewhitmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/texting.jpg


One thought on “Texting, 1-2-3

  1. I love that you’ve always got a common thread to your posts: build on what you have. It’s so critical to help other public health professionals who are a little hesitant about exploration of different communication media to encourage them to not re-invent the wheel, but to use the great tools and resources that they already have. I think this can really help alleviate some anxiety and apprehension.

    I also think that the spam effect is a great thing to keep in mind. It might be a challenge to keep things fresh and innovative, but you don’t want a text/tweet/FB post/IG picture/SMS campaign to say the EXACT thing verbatim, because people will likely tune out, or unsubscribe to one or all of those modalities.

    I also believe that piloting any project to a small group is a safe way to get immediate feedback and work out any unexpected kinks!

    Great post, Jennifer!

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