How Politicians Are Using SMS Marketing To Increase Voter Turnout
SMS Marketing is an effective promotional channel for brands. Its role in political campaigns was largely underappreciated. Not any more. Over a billion texts are expected to be sent this election cycle.
Is SMS a preferred communication channel to reach your potential voters? How effective is it in mobilizing people to join your political events and support candidature? Can it legitimately increase the turnout of voters and persuade people to vote for you?
The next section answers all of the above questions. Later in the article, you’ll learn practical use cases and see examples of real-life text messages from candidates.
I’ve also prepared a checklist for you to streamline launching your political text messaging campaign. Let’s start by looking at the potential of this medium in the political landscape.
Why Integrate Text Message Marketing In Your Political Campaigns?
If you need some convincing on the utility of text messages for spreading the word about your candidature, here are three reasons:
1. High open rates and quick response times
SMS stats point out that 90% of messages from brands are opened within 15 minutes. They also have a staggering 45% response rate.
Compare this with email marketing campaigns — a Morning consult study found 21.3% of presidential campaign emails end up in spam. Barely 3.8% of the messages end up under the primary tab on Gmail, where people are likely to read them.
2. Proven channel for fundraising
The likes of Obama and Romney leveraged text donations during their political campaigns.
Not only can you put your number on a TV spot and raise funds, but you can communicate with your supporters until Election Day. Obama’s social media toolkit numbers boasted 3 million people he communicated with regularly through their cell phone numbers.
Fast forward to 2019 – all presidential candidates have continued to rely on SMS marketing. Indeed, the welcome series of texts by Biden, Sanders, and Trump requested donations — almost 46% of messages were direct asks for fundraising.
3. Mobilize younger demographic
Data from the 2016 elections shows the importance of appealing to younger generations. Early analysis by Pew Research found that millennials and Gen Z could make 37% of the 2020 electorate. The younger demographic is used to text messaging and prefers it over voicemails or other forms of communication. Indeed, one in five voters says that text messages are the best way to reach them.
It’s an opportunity for you to educate them about how your campaign policies pertain to their issues and affect their everyday lives. Talk to them about how credit scores, climate change, and social issues are related to the fiscal, green, and other policies in your campaign.
Once people develop an interest, they will respond to your rally invites and even to the reminder to cast their votes.
5-Point Checklist For Launching A Successful Political Text Campaign
Are you ready to send texts to publicize your campaign? Here’s a checklist you can follow to ensure it’s seamless:
1. Be Compliant And Respect Campaign Regulations
Compliance with GDPR rules and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) protocols is important to text marketing for brands. For political candidates, there’s an additional layer to comply with – campaign regulations. Get started by reading the rules regarding robocalls and robotexts from FCC.
Some additional compliance precautions to consider are:
- Don’t buy phone numbers – It’s illegal to purchase such data from consulting firms. Most people will not appreciate receiving texts out of the blue and probably report your campaign. An unethical and illegal start to your relationship won’t go down well for your candidature anyway.
- Get consent – Even if you already have a list of contacts from prior efforts, you can’t import them to an SMS marketing software and broadcast your message. You need people to opt in to receiving texts from you. The most common way to get permission is by getting people to text a keyword to a number. Here’s how Bernie got consent from his previous supporters (the whole conversation is fun and a lesson in thoughtful automation).
While you can hire agents and leverage peer-to-peer texts (they don’t require opt-ins and are a loophole in the federal law) to bypass the need for consent, it can result in bad press like a citizen sharing negative feedback on their Twitter about you.
- Let people opt out – Allow your subscribers the option to opt out at the end of every message — you could use a word like STOP for the same. Once someone opts out, honor their request and remove the subscriber from your list.
- Remove inactive numbers – If a subscriber hasn’t responded to your texts for a few months, it might make sense to spring clean them off your list.
- Respect federal and state laws – Stay away from sending messages around firearms, tobacco, alcohol, adult content, or anything that can be constructed as hateful and inciting violence.
Also, only leverage FEC approved strategies for accepting political donations that were announced in 2012. One strategy permits the use of a premium shortcode. The other involves letting the voter enter their credit card details on your site. Read the complete guidelines for federal political campaigns here.
2. Leverage Existing Marketing Assets To Spread Your (Key)word!
Your flyers and handouts at events, political rallies, your campaign website, other media exposure, and existing campaign material could display your keyword — it’s how you get potential voters to sign up and support you.
Note regarding shortcodes: While Obama generated a lot of awareness for his campaign through his text messaging efforts, he used a dedicated shortcode to get people to sign up. It costs around $1000 per month to get a number like 62262. JookSMS supports long codes with 800 numbers, making SMS marketing way more affordable for your political endeavors.
3. Mobilize Support And Solicit Signups By Getting People To Text You
Here are a few ways to inspire people for your political campaign and garner momentum through SMS marketing:
- Run sweepstakes – A classic marketing strategy to get people excited for your political campaign and simultaneously get their contact information is running sweepstakes. The Obama campaign ran sweepstakes throughout its course, encouraging people to donate as little as $3 — one contest even included going to actor George Clooney’s house for a fundraiser.
- Offer campaign volunteering opportunities – Take a page from Bernie’s notebook of setting ambitious volunteering goals. Here’s the landing page where potential voters can fill their details to become a volunteer with Bernie’s texting team and help the campaign reach 1 million supporters.
- Give priority access – Your diehard supporters would love to get front row spots to your rallies and early access to your fundraising as well as other events. Potential voters who might need a little incentive to sign up will also come on-board and subscribe to your updates.
4. Take A Stand
While text messages aren’t as saturated as other media formats, numerous businesses also leverage SMS marketing. To stand out in your subscribers’ inbox, you need to send a non-boring message. So if you care deeply about a problem, then take a stand. Educate your subscribers about your initiatives and don’t mind sharing controversial opinions. Here’s an example:
“#TeamBernie: It’s real, it’s bad, and we caused it. Read about my opinions on moving away from our dependence on fossil fuel and preventing climate change: [your link]”
5. Segment Subscriber Lists
Young demographics are most likely to use text messaging, but older generations are also opening up to this form of communication. So, find other common attributes among your subscribers and personalize your message. Otherwise, it will drown among other generic broadcast messages.
Want some segmentation tips?
Group voters by their location, support level, demographics, and their source of signing up for your updates. It is also a good idea to conduct surveys to know more about your subscribers so you can send them more targeted messages later.
Next, let’s look at a few examples from political campaigns and use cases.
5 Use Cases For SMS Marketing In Political Campaigns
Here are a few common ways politicians are using text messaging in their campaigns.
1. Election Updates And Voting Day Reminder
Did you know that you can increase your voter turnout by at least 4% by texting people? Indeed, those between the ages of 27 and 50 might turn out 8% higher if you send them an SMS reminding them about voting.
No wonder, these kinds of SMS updates are among the most commonly sent as well. Let me share some election-related templates you can use for sending text messages for your campaign.
1. Remind people before Election Day.
“My name is [Your name] and I am running for City Council District 1 in Cottonwood Heights Utah. The election is tomorrow!”
You can also share official resources from administrative bodies to help people find their polling site in your locality.
“Vote TOMORROW – [Your name and the post you’re standing for] – Endorsed by [Social proof] in NYC. Find your poll site: nyc.pollsitelocator.com”
2. On Election Day, remind people to cast their votes early:
“Hi! Please come vote as early as you can to beat the rush and then come to [Address] to check in with our team. Questions? Reach [Campaign Manager’s Name] at [Your Contact Number]”
Send updates a few hours before the deadlines:
“6 hours left to vote in the most consequential city elections in decades. Vote at [Local address where people can cast their votes] until 6:00 PM Vote [Your Name]!”
And send last-minute updates to gather votes from people who like stepping out at the last moment.
“1 hour left to vote! If you haven’t voted already, please come and do so ASAP. If you have any challenges, please call or text [Campaign Manager’s Name] at [Your Contact Number]”
3. You also need to stay connected with your subscribers after the announcement of election results — thank them for supporting you.
“Thank You for your support. We won 60% of the Vote! [Your name].”
Tip: If you have volunteers, you can try peer-to-peer texting to reach voters in a more personal manner like the example below:
2. Send Event Alerts And Important Announcements
With a calendar packed with events during your election trial, it’s important to keep your supporters and potential voters in the loop. Inform them about your rallies, town hall meetings, and even your appearances in TV debates and interviews. Regular updates ensure subscribers are connected with your campaign and remember your candidature.
3. Follow-up With Potential Voters
If you launched a door to door canvassing campaign, following up after your initial contact with people through SMS can be effective. You can share links to your website, your election manifesto, and the like.
As the door to door canvassers will understand the support level and individual issues that are important to these potential voters, they can segment and personalize their follow-ups through SMS. For identified voters who support your campaign, you can solicit donations to take your relationship to the next level.
Such follow-ups are also useful after you conduct events in your campaign. Once you collect the attendees’ phone numbers, you can send them talking points from your events and continue the conversation.
4. Request Subscribers To Volunteer
How would you like some help in running your political campaign? Inviting and recruiting your strongest supporters as volunteers can make your outreach more effective. You can start with a drip SMS campaign to find people who are interested in volunteering. The ones that respond affirmatively can be segmented for sending more information about volunteering later.
The “no” respondents can be presented with other ways to contribute to your campaign, such as donations, spreading the word about your candidature, or simply attending your events.
Beyond voting information and fundraising, sharing how you plan to tackle local issues is an effective way to get more people to vote.
Early benchmarks show that post-millennials (which include many first-time voters) will be the most diverse and the best-educated generation in history. So let your subscribers know your take on emerging issues and how you plan to tackle them. And feel free to send them links to your website and resources for sharing more details.
Fewer people are likely to respond to targeted social media ads, calls from unknown numbers, and door knocks at their homes by strangers because the landscape has become saturated with these tactics. Text messaging can cut through the noise and enable you to mobilize support for your political campaign.
So, rally those potential voters around you by sending them direct texts — and don’t forget to comply with the campaign and other regulations.
Want to try SMS marketing for your political campaign? Then get a free trial of JookSMS.