As old as SMS messaging is (going on 25), is it surprising to know that for non-profits and political campaigns it’s just now catching on?
It might be, but if you think about it maybe it isn’t surprising. Until the last few years, people have been very reticent to hand out their personal mobile number. Now though, they’re more willing – if they care about the source of the messages.
It’s that caring that makes SMS messaging a powerful tool for anyone looking to promote their cause. When you get people to sign up to your list, you know those people want to help your cause. That means you can send requests for donations, ask for volunteers, raise awareness about events, and just about everything else you want your supporters to know about.
As an example of how SMS messaging is being put to work for causes, let’s take a look at the 2016 US presidential campaign and the EU Referendum.
US Presidential Campaigns
The highly contested US presidential campaigns will be remembered for many things, but most interesting (for the purpose of this blog anyway) is the use of SMS messaging by all the major candidates. Some of them are even doing it well.
By all reports, the one using it most effectively is Bernie Sanders, the Democratic challenger of Hillary Clinton. He is the oldest person in the race, but he has gathered a huge following of millennials.
How do millennials communicate? On their mobiles! Sanders is sending updates and locating polling stations via SMS. He’s also using it to rally supporters to his events, which often have over 20,000 people, most of them young.
A website, textforbernie.com allows volunteers to take shifts sending out SMS messages to Bernie supporters – instead of the usual phone calls traditionally made. The process involves downloading an app that protects the privacy of volunteers (so their private mobile numbers are not seen) and ensures that only supporters who’ve opted in receive messages. So SMS messaging has become a central component of volunteer activities for the candidate (though the website claims it is not endorsed or affiliated with the Sanders campaign).
If you’re interested in what the other candidates are doing, this article on Inverse.com has examples from the major candidates. The author compares them in an entertaining manner that’s worth a read if US politics and SMS messaging is your thing.
Some analysts say that young voters will be the deciding factor in the vote. Current polling indicates they are leaning more towards staying than leaving. If either side wants to sway, or secure, the young adult vote, their best bet is probably to use SMS messaging.
When you sign up to join the official Vote Leave campaign, you’re given the option to sign up for text message updates. There isn’t an explicit opt in for an SMS campaign, but you can get updates that way.
Another organisation in support of pulling out of the EU is Leave.EU. You can donate to them via SMS, though there isn’t any obvious opt in campaign for SMS messaging on their website. They were however, recently fined by the ICO for sending SMS messages to people who haven’t opted in (more on this in a future blog).
The official Britain Stronger in Europe campaign doesn’t seem to have any SMS messaging, perhaps in part because the younger voters appear to lean that way already.
SMS messaging may end up playing a key role in the vote, whether it’s simply reminding people to vote or persuading people to choose one side over the other. What do you think about SMS being used in politics? Would you want to receive information and updates this way?