3 Best Practices for Sending Bulk SMS for Political Campaigns

🕒 6 min.

Politicians who want to engage with their voter base at scale face a challenge.

Data shows that around 20% of presidential campaign emails land in the spam folder.

While email may be very effective for brands, it’s much less effective for political parties.

On the other hand, SMS is emerging as the most effective way to get your campaign messages seen and engaged with.

In this post, we’re going to show you why text messages work so well for political parties, and why you should consider using them as part of your political marketing strategy. 

We’ll also show you best practices and highlight the rules you need to know about.

Ready?

Let’s dive in.

Why Use SMS Campaigns for Political Campaigns?

It’s hard to get people to vote. No matter how inspiring your campaign mission, even in the 2020 United States Presidential Election, only an estimated 70% of eligible voters actually cast their ballot (and this is far higher than usual).

People have other priorities in life. It’s up to you to help encourage them and remind them to vote.

Text messages are the perfect way to do that.

Text messages have a 98% open rate (when was the last time you didn’t read a text message?). When you compare this to email, which has an average open rate of just 21.33%, it’s clear why text is a great channel.

It’s also an ideal way to connect with your audience no matter their demographic make-up.

Everyone with a cell phone can receive and read texts, old or young. Not everyone is an active email user, or will be willing to download a custom mobile app.

It’s also an extremely affordable channel to communicate with your subscribers, compared to email or social media advertising. 

How to Use SMS in Your Political Campaign

There is a wide variety of use cases that text messages can be used for in a political campaign.

Some of the most effective tactics include:

  • Reminding people to vote in the run-up to election day
  • Inviting voters to events and rallies
  • Sending important announcements that your voters care about
  • Reminders about important dates in the electoral calendar
  • Accepting donations

You’ll be able to group your audience into categories based on factors like their location, whether or not they’re a volunteer, and whether they’re a postal or in-person voter.

This will help you personalize your messages in an effective and easy way.

Based on data from the run up to the 2020 US election, the most popular type of text message to send were requests for donations, and these accounted for 46% of all political texts sent by major parties and candidates.

Another highly effective text to send is the vote reminder.

People who receive text messages are 1% more likely to turn out to vote. In a tight race, that 1% can make a huge difference.

While there’s a difference in almost all age groups, the age group that responds best to text message campaigns is the under 50s.

Turnout rates by age

Best Practices

Best practices for SMS during a Political Campaign

Personalize with Merge Tags

To improve engagement, personalize your texts using merge tags.

These let you insert personalization based on data you already have.

For example, someone’s first name and the state they’re based in are enough to show you’re not just sending generic messages but care about each voter.

For example:

Example of a personalized SMS

With just a few elements of personalization, you’ll improve your text message engagement rate and relevance to each voter. You can then split up your campaigns based on factors like location to ensure every message is relevant, timely, and has a positive effect on your campaign.

Have a Simple Opt-In Flow

You can’t buy text message lists and expect good results. In many places, such as the EU, it’s against the law thanks to regulations like the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

If you text people who haven’t specifically agreed to receive them, you’re breaking the law.

Like with your other marketing campaigns, build a simple opt-in system.

This could be as simple as running an email campaign to your list asking them to sign up by texting your short code with a certain message, such as “Opt-In” or “Sign up”.

Most SMS gateway providers make it easy to create a way to build a subscriber list without hurting accessibility and opt-in rates, and you can easily create a system to verify each subscriber phone number you have is linked to a real person.

Follow the Law

There are a variety of rules you need to follow as a political party/marketer.

For example, you can only use one short code to identify your party or candidate. There is a key benefit to this though – every time you text your audience, they’ll know who’s sending it and your unique short code will help to build trust with your voter base.

When it comes to accepting donations via text, you can only accept $50 per month per mobile phone number. This helps stop people from committing campaign fraud or accepting donations that they shouldn’t. 

There are multiple other laws to abide by, but these will depend on your location and jurisdiction. We’d recommend talking to a lawyer with experience in your political area before launching a large bulk SMS campaign to ensure you’re complying with all of your local laws.

Is Sending Bulk SMS Campaigns to Your Voter Base Legal?

Simply put, yes, sending bulk SMS campaigns is legal.

But, as mentioned above, you’ll have a variety of laws to follow.

For example, in the US, you’ll need to follow laws laid out by the FCC like:

  • Make it clear who you represent
  • You must have prior consent before texting (unless you don’t use any auto-dialing technology)

In the EU, you’ll need to follow laws around the GDPR, as well as any other country-specific laws.

The upside of text message marketing for political candidates can be high, but you’ll need to ensure you don’t violate any laws. They’ll get you in trouble and may lead to fines or other penalties.

Wrapping Up

If you can leverage bulk SMS campaigns in your political campaigns, you’ll see higher engagement with your base, and you’ll get more votes on election day.

It’s a great channel to communicate with your voter base and ensure they never miss an important memo, announcement, or event. You’ll be able to accept donations over text, and ensure your messages get opened more often than they would if you were just using email.

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