Peer-to-peer mobile is the new kid on the mobile messaging block. But for many nonprofits, using any type of mobile (SMS) as a communications channel is still very new. Nonprofits and campaigns who are just beginning to start mobile programs think that peer-to-peer and broadcast SMS platforms can be used in the same way. While they can both be used for similar tasks, usually it’s not done with the most efficient use of your resources (time, money and people) in mind. Consider if you have a limited window of time, the ability to spend more money per message, and the staff or volunteer capacity to send the messages.
Organizations should primarily use a broadcast texting (SMS) platform to organize volunteers, push for digital advocacy actions (click-to-call, petitions, etc.), general engagement or recruit for events. So what should you be using peer-to-peer texting (SMS) platforms for? Plenty! Here are the top three ways you can and should be using peer-to-peer texting platforms.
Voter Outreach, ID and Turnout (GOTV)
One of the most significant benefits of peer-to-peer is that you don’t need a mobile opt-in to text someone. This is excellent news for electoral and ballot initiative campaigns that want to have a better way to reach voters and get them out to vote. In the 2016 Presidential Election, peer-to-peer texting tools were a gamechanger in how campaigns operated and focused their field and turnout strategies. Unlike door-to-door canvassing or a phone call from a volunteer, a text message is more likely to receive a response and be read by the intended recipient. Mobile is the best way to reach Americans today, with over 90% of them reading a text message within 90 seconds of receiving it!
Campaigns can purchase lists of mobile numbers that match the identifying information (full name, address, etc.) to the campaign’s targeted voter records. Once you have this information, you can begin your voter outreach, which early on might include providing information about the candidate via text. Remember that with peer-to-peer you pay per contact, not per message, so you can send unlimited texts and have a full conversation that might include answering questions they might have. The texting campaign targeting voters after a candidate introduction might be your basic IDing of voters and determining whether they are supportive and likely to vote for your candidate or not. Lastly, texting is an integral part of your get out the vote (GOTV) effort. The ability to check in, and make sure the voters supporting your candidate have their absentee ballots, have a ride to the polls, and know where to vote, etc. is absolutely crucial. Studies in previous election cycles have shown that text messaging for GOTV increases turnout by 1-2%.
But, remember despite not needing to have an opt-in to message these voters, if they ask you not to message them again, you must remove them from future communications.
In my blog post “Mobile (SMS): Broadcast vs. Peer-to-Peer” I refer to the benefits of using both peer-to-peer and broadcast mobile to complement one another, and that broadcast is usually more affordable and a better investment of your resources depending on your goals. But, a lot of the time when you want to start a broadcast mobile program you have no mobile list. There are ways to build that list of opted-in mobile subscribers organically (advocacy forms, emails, etc.) OR you could invest some money in a short-term acquisition campaign of your existing supporters.
For instance, if you have an email list of about 100,000 supporters and have mobile numbers for 20,000 of them, but no mobile opt-ins this might be a good tactic for you. Put together a campaign with a script that includes language asking the supporter if they’d like to get important alerts and updates from your organization or campaign over text message. Once they opt-in via the peer-to-peer platform you can export the opted-in #s and upload them to your broadcast platform, where you will ideally send them a welcome SMS within 24-48 hours of opting in.
Vwala! You have an opted-in broadcast mobile list that you can continue to grow and use.
Text-Centers to Reach Prospective or Lapsed Donors
This is a newer tactic that is being tested by several organizations as I type. The concept is similar to a “Call Center” which a lot of larger organizations and colleges/universities use to reach out to prospective and lapsed donors. In fact, the other day I received a phone call from a student call center at my alma mater asking if I would make a one-time gift. Now, a lot of the time students or call center staff don’t get through, and they are told not to leave a voicemail. A lot of time is spent by call center staff dialing numbers, and not connecting to the person they wanted to reach. Whereas, using peer-to-peer texting for the same purpose is often less time intensive, the message or ask is more likely read by the targeted donor, and the call center staff can still have a conversation and provide a one-click donate link or mobile responsive form via text that can be tracked.
Give it a shot, and let me know how it turns out! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your case studies, A/B testing, and learnings!