Texting for Health: 4 Tips for Running a Successful SMS campaign


Think about the feeling that you get when you receive a spam phone call or text message. Its visceral, right? Our advice is to try to keep that feeling in mind when running a text message campaign for your health organization. Here are some tips for running an SMS campaign that will engage and most importantly, maintain and motivate your followers.

1. Work with local experts to ensure that your messages are appropriate, relevant and timely.

You cannot use a one size fits all message, even in campaigns tackling the same issues. Text messages should use the appropriate language and tone for a given audience, and be sure to address the subtleties of the issue in your particular population. For example, in their youth outreach campaign in Nicaragua, ChatSalud worked with a team of local experts in order to adapt their messages to the particular population and context they were working with.

2. Be clear about what you want recipients to do as a result of your texts.

Include a call to action in each text message. This could be a suggestion for leading a healthier lifestyle, a donation plea, or a lead to more information on a website or hotline. Bottom line is, you need to be sure you are clear about your goal and how it can be accomplished before even thinking about sending out a text.

3. Consider ways of rewarding subscribers for joining.

Commercial businesses use text messaging campaigns to promote products by offering discounts to subscribers. In one of their SMS campaigns, Julep, for example, got over 5,000 new mobile opt-ins by giving a 50% discount on one of their products. If you are able to distribute promotional materials like mugs or t-shirts for your organization, consider linking giveaways to an SMS campaign. You may also consider entering every new subscriber into a raffle, or by entering all existing subscribers into a monthly raffle. This will create interest and add value to the recipient.

4. Make it easy for your subscribers to interact with you.

Be sure that subscribers can respond to your messages with questions, input or feedback to keep them involved. You can get buy in for your campaign by providing the opportunity for subscribers to learn, act, or do immediately upon receiving your message. For example, you may want to allow subscribers to respond to your text in order to begin the process of enrollment in a program, or to find out where the closest participating clinic providing a certain service is. This will ensure that your campaign provides utility and that subscribers stay tuned.

Remember, your overall goal is to maintain interest and avoid drop outs in order to motivate action. Treat your subscriber like the valued client they are and you will see results!


4 thoughts on “Texting for Health: 4 Tips for Running a Successful SMS campaign

  1. Maia, this was a clear and actionable list with some well-placed links. I liked that you didn’t overwhelm with too much information and formatted the post to highlight your main points.

    On a side note, I’m excited to hear how you will use what we learned in this class with your side business! I’d buy a taco if I were local 🙂

  2. Maia, this is a great post. I agree with Kristina, clear actionable list that did not overwhelm us with too much information. Your list is very direct and to the point, these are small steps that can be taken and will make a big difference when running a successful SMS campaign 🙂

  3. All these tips are great, I really think the common theme here is to encourage interaction with your followers. By giving them concrete calls to action, rewarding subscribers and making it easy to interact with your followers, you are really encouraging them to engage with you and your messages. All of this will hopefully lead to more successful SMS campaigns. The piece about providing timely and relevant information is critical to maximizing success. Using local experts is great, do you have any other tips for keeping your messages up to date in this fast paced social media environment?

  4. Maia, I especially like points 2 and 4 that you make in this blog. To help in the fight against spam, I think it definitely helps to include a “call to action” of some sort in each text, to show that there is a particular reason you are sending the text.
    I think interaction is super key because it’s always nice to think you aren’t getting messages from a robot, even when they are animated. Can you suggest some easy ways to set up responses to participants when they respond to text messages you send out?

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