Interested in learning about texting?
So much to learn! Whew–I just learned a lot, and I’m not sure I can explain very well, but thanks to TechSoup and ReadyTalk’s awesome FREE webinars , I know more and you can, too!
July 16, 2009 TechSoup ReadyTalk Webinar: Using Mobile for Outreach and Education
And guess what?! This webinar was pulled together by a VOLUNTEER at TechSoup–hmmm….what else could be done by harnessing the power of a knowledgeable volunteer?!
58% of all Americans have sent or received a text message, and 80% of high-school age students have cell phones. (See more in the following post.) Mobile is an instant and immediate method of communication that captures people’s attention, and it spans income levels more so than online communications.
Mobile campaigns typically use ‘short codes’ or thosee 4-6-digit phone numbers that have started appearing in ads. A short code is like a phone number for an organization’s text campaign. Short codes direct users text messages to you. Of course, you can use the ‘old-fashioned’ cell phone number to send and receive texts, too. Here are some ways you can use texting:
Text Alerts: Sends out reminders to your ‘subscribers’
Text to Data: Your basic informational text message, where your message is sent to cell phone numbers.
Text to Voice: This sends action messages to phones, asking people to call electeds. By replying to the text, the caller can hear a recorded message with key points prior to being automatically connected
Text to Screen: Great for live events, for example, a giant screen with the call to action (also posted online) asking respondents to offer their opinions was placed outside the California legislature, where a text ‘conversation’ is displayed on screen.
Also, MMS and Video and Smartphone Applications are expensive, advanced techniques.
Text message recipients can request or send information. This is known as ‘push’ or ‘pull’. For example, in a pull technology example, users can request info by texting a keyword to a specific shortcode. For example, Blue Ocean Institute’s FishPhone ‘safe’ eating campaign:
To find out about your seafood choice, text 30644 with the message FISH and the name of the fish in question. We’ll text you back with our assessment and better alternatives to fish with significant environmental concerns.
Boston Navigator uses a text service so that Boston-area youth can request out-of-school program info by subject area and zip code using their mobile phones. Other cool text project ideas include SMS Poetry Contest and SMS 160-character (or 140 in Twitter) storytelling. When pondering a text campaign, the goal is to build your list–not only of cell phonee numbers, but also emails and users, and to ask for people to opt-in to your messages versus opting-out, as many users and senders can pay up to $0.20 per text message.
Full-on text programs cost $17-20,000 annually!
This does not include marketing of the text campaign (without which shortcodes and messages will be unknown!) Lower-cost services can charge $1700+ for setup with $250+ monthly fees in addition to $0.05 each for in/outbound messages.
One place that campaigns usually start is with leasing a shortcode, which costs $500+ per month. These short codes are typically directed through an aggregator who channels messages. (My glance at an explanation of SMS routing and the accompanying diagrams confirmed that I need to keep reading to have any inkling of what that might mean!) Another option is a management service like Mobile Commons who owns shortcodes and manages the data of subscriptions, sending, collecting emails etc., for you; organizations interface with Mobile Commons rather than directly with the shortcode operator or an aggregator. A lower fee (but higher in-house management required) level is a messaging service, allowing texts to be sent and also managing subscriptions, incoming text, data gathering, etc.
One very low-cost solution: The NYTimes covered the Birds and Bees Hotline text messaging program. Run by a North Carolina non-profit reaching teens with sex education info, they used a single cell phone with unlimited texting capabilities, and staff take turns answering text messages that come in as a result of their marketing campaign.
Another low-cost, or even free, option is to use a marketing service that sends texts for no cost, but attachs an ad. For example,
4Info.com was referenced as a sending out bulk messages for free, but their site refers to publishers and advertisers contacting them for a sales call. This is one I’ll pass on until further demand warrants research. Tatango is another text marketing service that seems more transparent and also has some features for the individual user. FrontlineSMS is an example of free software which will still require leasing a shortcode and evidently quite a bit of technical interface assistance.
MobileActive is the expert in the non-profit mobile campaign arena, so check them out for lots of good info!