30 Jul / Meet them on Mobile
If you are like most people, you check your smartphone within the first 15 minutes of waking up. Heck, you probably check it before you even get out of bed, right? With 95% of Americans owning a mobile device, we need to meet people where they are: their phones!
PCDC member Sandi Fox of Smart as a Fox says, “Mobile is truly the best way to reach and engage with your supporters and motivate them to take action.” While there is still a gap between those who have a basic mobile phone and those who have a smartphone, both can receive text messages. Sandi says mobile is also the best way to reach communities of color and those in rural communities with limited broadband. Communities of color text about 2% more than whites.
“Did you know that we spend more time now texting than talking on the phone?” asked Sandi. On average, we spend 26 minutes a day texting and nine minutes on the phone. And studies have shown that 90% of those that get a text message will read it within 90 seconds of receiving it. Imagine, contacting your target audience in 90 seconds! Well stop imagining and do it!
It used to be that you had to be a big organization to engage with mobile. But Sandi Fox has taken Upland Mobile Messaging (formerly known as Mobile Commons), the most powerful enterprise-grade mobile messaging platform, and made it accessible and affordable for small to mid-size nonprofits and campaigns to use.
There are a lot of innovative ways people are using mobile messaging. When Sandi was working for Planned Parenthood, she used mobile for advocacy, education, quizzes, and fundraising. She says mobile outreach was great for advocacy. Planned Parenthood would use mobile for patch-through calls to Congress. Planned Parenthood would send a text out and ask people to call their elected officials. Activists texted back with their zip code and they would get a call back with a recording to ask their senator to vote a certain way on a bill and then get connected to the senator’s office. Nine times as many calls are made via text request than through an email request. That’s a no-brainer!
Sandi says mobile is also great for rapid response. Maybe something big happens that you did not see coming. It will take you a few hours to get an email drafted and approved, right? But a 160-character text can be written and approved in a matter of minutes. Then you can text or email later with further details.
Mobile is also great for event recruitment. Say you find out the Supreme Court will deliver a decision tomorrow on your case. You can announce a rally and text everyone within a 30-mile radius the details, then follow up the day of. Wow, it’s that simple!
You can use mobile at events, too. Sandi worked with Running Start, a nonprofit that trains young women to run for public office. At an event they hosted, young women engaged in a speech competition to become the organization’s ambassador for the upcoming year. The audience voted for the best speaker via text, just like American Idol! What a fun way to engage the audience and create drama at an event.
Candidates like Hillary Clinton incorporate mobile into their speeches, asking people to text a keyword to a short code (ie. a 5-6 digit number) to get involved with their campaigns. At the Women’s March, organizational posters included a keyword to text. Recently, at Netroots, Elizabeth Warren posters all included “text FIGHT” to her short code so people could engage with her campaign.
Mobile is also engaging. You can text back and forth with your members and supporters. For instance, you might invite people to an event and ask them to respond “yes” or “no;” but some folks might text you back a question. That text will then go into your inbox. At Planned Parenthood, Sandi remembers texting back and forth with a grandmother who wanted to go to a rally, but couldn’t because she broke her hip. Sandi had the opportunity to engage with her, find out that she had an abortion when she was younger, and thank her for her support.
You can also consider using mobile for educational purposes. Common Cause runs an election protection hotline (866-Our-VOTE) every election cycle. They also include a text option (text “our vote” to 97779) so people can text voting questions or an issue at the polls. They found that people are more comfortable texting than calling, especially those under age 45. Common Cause volunteers were able to respond to more questions via text than those on the phone. Last year, they conducted a beta test, but they hope to train volunteers around the country to be able to do this in the future.
I was skeptical about fundraising through mobile, but Sandi says there has been an increase of 40-50% year over year during the past five years as people get more comfortable with it, so it should definitely be part of your broader fundraising efforts.
But how do you get phone numbers? For broadcast texting, you need people to opt into your program by texting the key word or signing up via a form (web or paper). For Peer-to-Peer texting, you don’t need an opt-in, so you can buy lists. They aren’t held to FCC and TCPA requirements, since someone is pressing send on each text. This outreach is more labor-intensive and expensive than broadcast texting, but depending on the situation and target audience, may be worth the price tag. There are FCC rules you need to follow, so make sure you are working within the legal boundaries. Thankfully, people are more and more interested in getting text messages these days from organizations, causes, and candidates they support.
Clearly, mobile is where people are at, so it’s time for all of us to meet them there.