SMS for Elections

SMS for Elections

At heart, everyone is a true patriot. During elections, emotions are running high and political campaigns tactfully use SMS to engage with citizens in order to get them to vote. Ever since Obama’s run in the 2012 election, SMS has gained increasing popularity among voters. This article is the perfect guide for you on how to use SMS strategically for your political campaign.

Setting up your Political SMS Campaign

Whether you’re running for a district or state election, or a presidential campaign, you can take advantage of SMS as a means of communication. Firstly, you have to choose an SMS platform. My advice would be to go with ExpressText. It is budget friendly and provides the quality services that you need for your campaign. Visit the website and create an account. The second step is to build a list of opted-in subscribers. You’ll need a way to reach all of the eligible voters in your area, using social media and paid ads can help you announce to your customers about your new SMS keyword campaign. Once you are in front of an audience you can tell potential and eligible voters to support your campaign by joining your SMS list for updates throughout the journey of your campaign. Example once voters “Text VOTE to 545454” they will automatically join your campaign list and they will receive an auto-response text thanking them for the support. Once this step is complete, choose a payment plan suitable for you. You’ll definitely need a large volume plan so just go right to these. Out of these, you can select any option from bronze to platinum depending on the size of the election. Presidential campaigns are so massive that they would require multiple groups, one for each state!

You’ll be given a dedicated shortcode along with a number of keywords with your plan. You can use different keywords based on the geographical location e.g. Nevada, Chicago etc. or any other way that you prefer. In order to subscribe to your campaign, voters will have to text the given keyword to your campaign’s shortcode. They will then be eligible to receive promotional campaign messages from you. 

How SMS has been used by US Politicians

Did you know that Bernie Sanders got 95% of his supporters to show up at his rallies through text message? That’s how effective SMS is. Hilary Clinton has also benefited greatly from text messages. In 2016, her political campaign sent out GIFs and memes to voters. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to engage the youth. Hilary’s campaign manager stated that text message served as a very useful tool for swaying voters, raising money for the campaign and recruiting volunteers. Hilary gained voter share by setting up an SMS helpline for Spanish speaking voters. By texting VOTA to a specific shortcode, they could report suppression or abuse and get a lawyer within 24 hours.

On the other hand, there was Donald Trump’s campaign which didn’t make quite the right use of SMS for elections. It broadcasted duplicated content via SMS instead of engaging with customers one-on-one. In fact, Trump’s campaign suffered a class action lawsuit when it sent out promotional campaign messages to thousands of unsubscribed users. The whole point of knowing how politicians have made use of SMS in the past is to learn how to use it effectively and avoid the mistakes that they may have made.

5 ways to use SMS on Election Day

  • Text ALL your subscribed voters and make sure to remind them of their civic duty to vote. Your voters may support you, but this doesn’t mean that they will make an effort to come out and vote. Give them the necessary push that they need because each vote counts.
  • Send your voters their election details. Send them their polling station and district area so they know where to vote. This may come as a surprise but many voters, especially first-time voters, are not aware of such details. To make things easier and send out a standard mass text message, you can simply include a hyperlink to Google Doodle where voters can find out the location and voting hours by entering in their details. If you make this effort, a lot more voters are likely to come out and vote.
  • If you’ve voted, you know the feeling you get when you go out and vote. It truly feels democratic. Political campaigns can collaborate with restaurants and urge them to give out free drinks or food to people who show their ‘I voted’ stickers. Not only will voters feel good about fulfilling their civic duty, but they can also look forward to getting free food!
  • Millennials are the easiest to convince. The youth is more hopeful and more in control. If you make them believe that the future of their country and how it is run is in their hands, they will surely come out to vote. Get universities and colleges to use SMS as a way of urging their students to put in their vote, regardless of who they support.
  • There’s always a group of highly loyal voters. They will stand by their leader no matter what. These committed voters are a major reason that could potentially lead to the success of your campaign because it is their support that brings a candidate into power. Thus, win or lose, make sure to update these voters on important announcements and of course, the results of the election.

Learn how to effectively use SMS for Elections

  • Don’t bash your opponent

If you don’t want to lose votes, be very cautious about this. If there’s one thing voters hate, its when a candidate or his campaign negatively promotes the opponent. I’ve seen voters switch votes and change sides simply because of this! So even if your opponent is going down this road, take the high road. Make sure your candidate stands for a clean election instead of using dirty tactics to win because they may work on some people but you will definitely lose out on rational voters. Whenever you send promotional texts via SMS, try not to include your opponent/s. If you must, portray them in a good light.

  • 2-way communication is a must

The best thing about SMS is that it is engaging and intimate, so if you don’t take advantage of that, are you really leveraging the power of SMS? Don’t make the mistake that Donald Trump’s campaign made; if you use SMS as just another medium to broadcast the same information, voters will soon get tired of your campaign and opt out. Worst case scenario, they may not even vote for you! To avoid this, make sure that you use SMS as a tool to engage with each and every voter individually. Share news with them but also recruit volunteers to cater to their needs 24/7. If they’re given such importance by the campaign, they will take out the time and effort to vote.

  • Don’t send out texts without permission

This one is a BIG no. It’s a legal requirement for you to ask voters for permission before sending them any kind of campaign-related texts. If you ask for their consent, voters will not feel that their privacy is being violated. Plus, your campaign will be more successful as only interested voters will subscribe so they will stay engaged with your campaign through the information that you send them.

  • Make your texts sound urgent

If you don’t create the need for urgency, people won’t bother about what you’re trying to get across. Phrase texts like, ‘Did you hear? We’re holding a rally and we need you to be there!’ This text is engaging as well as persuasive. Create urgency in ways such as, ‘Go out and vote before it’s too late!’ This way, your subscribers are much more likely to not only stay interested in your campaign but also act on what you say.

  • Reach everyone

Especially in large scale political campaigns, a number of fake SMS campaigns are run. These doctored campaigns spread falsified information to create havoc and disturbance between voters. Unfortunately, even though this problem cannot completely be eliminated, there is one way to overcome it. Use your official SMS campaigns to reach everyone and make sure to give voters proof that this shortcode is the only official one. Use TV commercials, billboards and other channels to advertise your shortcode so that people remember it. When you contact them, advise them to unsubscribe and report any other shortcode so as to reduce the spread of misinformation.

Why SMS for your campaign

When there are social media and so many other platforms, one might wonder, why SMS? There are a number of benefits that SMS provides which gives it an edge over other platforms, including:

  • Speed

SMS is the fastest platform out there, in terms of receiving and opening messages. With SMS, more than 90% of people read texts within the first few minutes. No other platform provides an open rate so high, be it email, social media or messaging apps. Whether you’re having a spontaneous rally to gain votes or need to raise funds in a short period of time, SMS is your best option.

  • Intimacy

Like I said before, SMS is personal. It’s a platform where you can contact customers directly. Did you know that more than 6 billion users worldwide have access to SMS? Whether you have a smartphone or not, as long as you have a phone, you have access to SMS. If a political campaign has 24-hour customer support, voters can have personalised conversations with volunteers. Oh, and by the way, if you choose ExpressText as your SMS platform, your volunteers can download its app and respond to customers at any time of the day or night from the comfort of their homes. Thus, SMS is convenient for both you and your voters.

  • Cost

Despite all the advantages that SMS brings to the table, it is still highly cost-effective. It is a budget-friendly solution which means having to use fewer funds for marketing. Campaign managers and marketers have shifted polling and other such research from the conventional methods to SMS. Before, polling cost thousands of dollars whereas through SMS the same process can be conducted in a few hundred dollars.

  • Features

Polling is one feature that SMS offers. But what happens once your polling is complete? SMS platforms allow you to compile and analyse your results. This saves you both time and money as you can view graphed reports. Moreover, you can track the performance of your campaign. This further saves you money if you improvise and focus on the strengths and eliminate the unresponsive contacts. Moreover, web widgets integrate your SMS platform with other digital platforms so that wherever voters fill out their information, it is saved in your SMS platform account. These are just a few of the multiple features that SMS platforms provide. To find out more, you can visit ExpressText’s website.

At the end of the day, we can conclude that using SMS for elections can prove highly beneficial for your political campaign. It is a commonly used method of marketing in the business industry, and it is gaining popularity in the political world for a reason. The benefits that it can give campaigns and voters are better than any other method of communication – so if you haven’t set up an SMS account for your political campaign, you better get on it!