Creating Social Change One Text at a Time


At first I was doubtful of the impact of using text messages as a campaign for public health. The only text messages I get that aren’t from family or friends are about the new Ray Ban sale from some unknown number using a lot of emoticons…I still don’t know how they got my number. So to think that this would actually be a good medium for a public health campaign was far-fetched for me. Until I took a look at what is being done by some innovative organizations looking to make social change.

With 64% of American Adults now owning a smartphone of some kind…and is especially high among younger Americans (Mansfield, 2012), a new avenue for captivating an audience has surfaced.

Everywhere you go, you see people on their smartphones: at home, on the bus, at work, in schools. And almost no one leaves home without his or her phone.

Young adults are one group that, in particular, never leaves home without it. Young adults are one certain group that relies heavily on smartphones for online access. (Pew Research Center, 2015) They use their phones for almost everything, but just like everyone else, uses their smartphones for the “big four”: text messaging, voice calls, Internet use, and email. (Pew Research Center, 2015) The rationale for using text messages as a campaign is there; we are a captive audience.

So I told you I took a look to see what was out there. One organization stood out to me in particular that is using text message campaign well: The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE).


ACE logo

ACE’s mission is to “educate young people on the science of climate change and empower them to take action”. ( How do they do this you may ask? Well, I found out for myself.

With a simple text to 30644 with the word DOT, I started receiving messages immediately. ACE’s DOT campaign stands for Do One Thing, to take action around climate change. ACE sends students ideas for school projects, details on local events, and information about the ACE Action Fellowship program via text message to keep them engaged.

So I signed up and was asked different questions to tailor the messages to me as an individual. As you can see in the image, I chose the option to #stopwaste.

ACE Intro

Later that day, I received a text message, the heart of their campaign.

ACE Challenge

3 key things that I learned about text message campaign from ACE that were also highlighted in Heather Mansfield’s “A How-To Guide for Nonprofits: Social Media for Social Good”:

  1. Send a mixture of informational and call-to-action text messages.

ACE did this within the first day of signing up. They asked a few questions about me to tailor their messages and then asked me to post a selfie of me doing #stopwaste.

  1. Send text messages that are timely

Mansfield encourages text messages to “be timely, should often communicate a sense of urgency, and, when possible, should include a call to action”. Well nothing says action like taking a selfie of how I stop waste and post it to social media networks. Not only is this a call to action, but also it’s attainable. I’m not sure how I interested I would have been if the first call to action was to pick up litter in my neighborhood. ACE gave me a great first call to action to get under my belt.

  1. Pitch your social networking communities in text messages

Somehow, under 144 characters, ACE asked me to post my selfie to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and tag them by using #DOTselfie and @acespace. They even included a smiley face at the end, how nice! As their target audience is young adults, this text would completely speak their language.

Sending a text message is easy. Crafting a message that engages and empowers individuals to take action takes skill. While I still may be weary of the marketing scams that randomly appear on my phone, I have become a believer in using text message as a campaign for nonprofits to achieve their mission.



Mansfield, H. (2012). A How-To Guide for Nonprofits: Social Media for Social Good. McGraw Hil, New York.

Alliance for Climate Education.


4 thoughts on “Creating Social Change One Text at a Time

  1. The post meets all the rubric requirements for an effective post. You use ample references from the readings and research from the Pew Research Center to validate the widespread use of Smart phones and texting to communicate real-time information and compel people to take action.
    The graphics support your text and are distributed in a way that complements the text.

    My experience with text messaging to take action generally takes the form of reminders from the dentist, orthodontist office (which can totally be excessive and annoying) or severe storm warnings. Finding out first hand how this might work by seeking out and “exposing” yourself to multiple texting is innovative and brave! The bullet points about utility of this type of campaign are informative and make common sense.

    I also feel a bit skeptical about texting for a sustainable health action campaign. I think the key with all of these types of “campaigns” is identifying and fine tuning the audience. The audience I am thinking would be a good fit for the ACE campaign are school groups, nonprofit youth organizations or professional organizations that are directly impacted by climate change. I think there would also have to be some other incentive for this to be a sustainable effort. The other issue I have with most social media is a feeling of intrusiveness by being open and available 24/7 to “messages”. I value begin off the grid and social media seems to require a level of commitment that would be hard for me to participate in consistently and for a prolonged time no matter what the cause is.

  2. I think the whole key with mHealth is the user being able to tailor it to their needs. If the messages contain information they do not feel is useful they probably won’t recognize it. I know whenever I get a message from a company in text form I won’t even read it unless I’ve been expecting it to come through.

    As far as your post is concern, it met all the necessary requirements of the rubric. I found your “Three Keys” portion extremely informative. It was easy to read and was thorough. I also liked your example from Ace and why you thought it was a successful campaign. Seeing examples like this is very helpful for me because I’m such a visual learner and usually like to already see an example of completed work.

    • This is a great, engaging post. I like how the author did her own little “experiment” by registering for text alerts. I think this type of post is most effective in the blogging world — a personal account of using some new product or service firsthand. The only item this post is lacking is the author’s DOT selfie ;).

  3. Agree with your research that shows text campaign potentially can have a great impact:
    18-29 year old consumers use text messaging more often than voice to communicate.
    On average 94% of text messages are read.
    80% of consumers keep their mobile with them all day.
    When given a choice 39% of US consumers — 76 million people — prefer text messages to radio or TV advertising.

    Your story about text message campaign by Alliance for Climate Education serves as a great example how effortless and straightforward these campaigns and their call for action can be. It showed me this is very doable campaign with simple interface. Their attentiveness to their customers and smart marketing allows promotion of their mission to hundreds and thousands of people on social media platforms with minimal time investment by their supporters.

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