SMS Marketing for Political Campaigns

Text messaging is widely used for marketing in the private sector and for some national political campaigns. But for the most part, state and local political campaigns are still using mailings, door knocking, and phone banking to engage with potential voters. You can streamline your campaign operation using SMS marketing. Here’s how.

Using SMS marketing in politics

The art of using text messages to help political campaigns is still relatively new. President Obama’s 2008 campaign relied on text messaging to drive voter registrations, mobilize the youth vote, engage with volunteers, and revolutionize fundraising. Since then, everyone from presidential candidates to contenders for city council and the school board has been venturing into the 21st century and adopting SMS marketing. There are particular advantages to using text message marketing with a political campaign. Read on to learn the best ways to use text messaging in politics.

Election day reminders

Connect with registered voters by sending them helpful reminders leading up to election day. Give them links to polling locations and information on voter registration deadlines. If your state has early voting or vote by mail, a reminder of voting days and deadlines would be welcome. Make voting easier for your constituents by reminding them to use the voter information guide to learn about ballot measures and local matters.

For the millions of U.S. citizens who are not registered to vote, you can encourage them to register. Send links to online registration tools or non-partisan organizations that can help them get registered. Remind them that every vote matters and that it is crucial to make your voice heard.

There are increasing barriers to free and fair elections in many states. Some voters may need reminders of their election day rights. For example, if they are in line when the polls close, then they have to be allowed to vote. Tools to report voter intimidation and voter fraud are becoming more important. Sending a link to an online guide is a quick and easy way to ensure every voter is prepared and knows their rights.

One of the best ways to reach voters is to offer information on getting to and from the polls. The elderly, disabled, and voters with small children are often unduly burdened in terms of exercising their 15th Amendment rights. Linking constituents with a non-partisan rideshare will go a long way towards increasing voter turnout across the parties.

Event notifications

Want to get the word out about a rally? Are you hosting a town hall or making an appearance with another politician? Do you have a debate with your opponent coming up? There is no better way to spread the word than a text message! Your event’s success depends on how many supporters are in the room or at the rally. Invite your supporters and encourage their attendance by sending an SMS message.

You can also use SMS to notify voters of media appearances and print interviews. Use your local television stations and newspapers to your advantage. Many do “meet the candidates” profiles, so you can message supporters with links to the videos or news articles.

Campaign announcements

Keep your supporters engaged through election night and into the future by using SMS to make important campaign announcements. Remember, 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of being received. Use this to your advantage by controlling the narrative and ensuring your message is received when and how you want.

Texts releasing information on running mate decisions, polling numbers, and fundraising milestones will boost excitement among your supporters. Post-election, use SMS to announce staffing decisions, what bills or issues you’re supporting, and important votes coming up.

Organizing volunteers

Not every constituent can donate money. Asking them to donate time by volunteering for your campaign is a good alternative. Text messaging is by far the best way to engage volunteers. It makes grassroots organizing simple. Plan rallies and get-out-the-vote actions and then recruit volunteers all with the same message. Finally, celebrate your volunteers with special messages highlighting their work. Spotlight specific volunteers with a link to their stories or praise a particular crew for their dedication and hard work.

Make your position known

Use SMS to keep voters updated instantly about breaking news and your stance on pressing issues. Like campaign announcements, using text to make your opinions on emerging issues allows you to stay ahead of the media curve. You can target messaging to specific demographics, including women, the LGBTQIA2+ community, black, Indigenous, or Latinx communities, or young voters.

You can also use MMS, or multimedia messaging, to share infographics or guides outlining your positions on key issues. Educating voters will let them make informed choices and will ensure that your political stances are clear and understood.

Engage the youth vote

The media views young adults as the most apathetic voters. But among 18 to 34-year-olds, texting is the most preferred method of communication. Use that to your advantage. You can target information specifically to young adults and first-time voters. Partner with Rock the Vote or a local GOTV campaign to provide links to voter registration, polling locations or ballot drop boxes, or even an FAQ about what to expect the first time they vote.

SMS is also useful for engaging youth volunteers, whether they are of voting age or not. Teens and young adults are a powerful voice for change. Welcome them to your campaign and make sure there’s a place for them among your volunteers.

Rules and regulations on political text messages

When using text messaging for any kind of marketing, you have to comply with certain rules and regulations or risk hefty fines. Any SMS marketing is bound by the TCPA, or Telephone Consumer Protection Act. They set the guidelines for consenting to receive texts, the wording for calls to action and confirmation messaging, importing contacts, and what content you are prohibited from texting.

But when it comes to political text messages, though, the rules are a little bit different. The FCC requires that political campaigns treat mass text messages like robocalls and only send texts to mobile phones with prior written consent. However, if a campaign has a volunteer input the phone number manually, they do not need prior authorization.

Additional precautions that you should take to ensure no campaign regulations are broken include:

  • Providing the telephone or contact number at the beginning or end of the message.

  • Replying STOP will unsubscribe the user at any time.

  • Remember that it is illegal to purchase phone numbers with the intent of sending robotexts.

  • Stating the organization’s identity at the beginning of the message, i.e., Smith for Town Council.

Signing voters up for SMS

Text messaging is a powerful tool for your political campaign. You can engage volunteers, organize events and rallies, communicate with constituents, and mobilize them. But to do those things, you need subscribers! Transform supporters into subscribers by making sign-ups easy.

One way to do this is to have a dedicated keyword and number that gets them on your contact list. Gone are the days of signing up using clipboards and paper! Having supporters send a text makes sure their information is correct. Then, send a keyword confirmation back to them. This can be an SMS or MMS message, and is a great way to welcome your new subscribers.

Getting the word out

Your keyword is the most important part of your marketing campaign. You have to make it visible on every piece of campaign literature, from brochures to your website. The keywords you choose will trigger different calls to action, so you can better target your outreach to specific demographics. Other places your keywords can make an impact are:

  • Yard signs

  • Buttons

  • Campaign website

  • Campaign literature

  • Rallies and events

  • Bumper stickers

You can also use keywords to engage your subscribers on specific issues. For instance, if someone is interested in climate change, they can use the keyword “CLIMATE” to get your environmental policy. This will revolutionize your campaign. Supporters won’t have to wade through your website to find the information they need, which will actually make their interactions with your campaign more efficient.

Give something to get something

Some voters will engage with your campaign because they support you. Maybe they have been long-time supporters or something about your stance on issues reaches them. Other potential supporters need a little bit of enticement. They need to receive a little something to get them interested. Below are some of the more popular and effective ways to get newcomers involved.

Subscriber-only announcements

Supporters want to be the first to hear announcements of campaign milestones, policy positions, endorsements, and more. Offer early access to these important announcements by making them your subscribers first!

Early access

Thank your subscribers by providing early access to exclusive fundraiser tickets, front-row spots at rallies, or the chance to be a spotlighted supporter.

Campaign freebies

Everyone loves free swag. Buttons, bumper stickers, and even t-shirts aren’t just great advertising – they are also a fun incentive for subscribers to interact with your campaign. Offer up the goods for the first ten donations or for any text activity between 6-10 pm. The possibilities are endless and can be as serious or fun as you want.

Try texting for free

When you’re ready to set up your SMS marketing services, contact us at Appointable for a free, no-contract 14-day trial. There is no credit card required for the free trial. If you know that you want to use Appointable for your campaign messaging, go ahead and sign up for a plan. Our plans start at $25/month for 500 SMS messages and go as high as 50,000 messages for $625/month. If you plan on sending more than 50,000 messages, contact us to set up a custom plan. All plans include:

  • Free dedicated number

  • Free incoming SMS

  • Open balance rollover

  • No account fees

  • Unlimited contacts, users, and keywords

Selecting one of our larger plans or a custom plan will also include custom API integration and a dedicated account manager. We offer a 20% discount to anyone who pays for a year of service up-front.

Take advantage of templates, bulk messaging, two-way messaging, and advanced scheduling to make building your SMS messaging campaign fast and easy. At Appointable, text marketing is all that we do, so let us do the work for you!

Final thoughts

Choosing to embrace new technology to help your political campaign can seem scary. But it is proving to be the most effective way of recruiting and organizing volunteers, engaging supporters, and making campaign announcements. Give SMS messaging a try with Appointable; you’ll never look back.

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