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Q&A: Political campaigns in danger if they don’t do this right (Includes interview)

Fast Company reports that Republican and Democratic campaigns plan to send over a billion text messages this year. Within this colossal spend,how many of them got it right, and how many of them turned off voters? EZ Texting research found that only a quarter enjoy the texts they get from a political candidate – which leaves a lot of room for improvement.

To look further at texting as a means of communication, between a candidate and the electorate, Digital Journal spoke with Norman Happ, the CEO of EZ Texting.

Digital Journal: How effective is texting as a communication tool?

Happ: Most people check their phones over 120 times a day. This starts at the beginning of the day, with many checking their phones within 3 minutes of waking up. Nearly 100% of people check their phones within 30 minutes after they are out of bed.

If you go by app usage, texting is the number one phone app, more than other types of social media by a factor of 3 to 50 depending on the platform. There’s just no equivalent when you compare texting to either other apps or other communications methods.

Texting provides immediate reach, unlike other communication methods. Over 90% of people open and read the texts they receive in under 30 minutes. Further, increased text volume HAS NOT reduced the immediacy of open text rates.
Compare texting to email. The email open rate is roughly 17.9 percent; some say it’s as high as 23 percent. A text is 134 percent more likely to be read. Text click-through rates average 24.4 percent, while email is roughly 3.4 percent.

But the best strategy is omnichannel. .One cool thing we’ve found is if you text following an email marketing campaign, it increases email open rates by 30 percent!

DJ: What types of information do people generally like to receive by text?

Happ:At the top of the list are personally critical things like notifications of important events or anything that’s going to impact someone’s daily routine, such as upcoming appointments, school closings, road closings, and weather alerts.

After that, people respond well to promotions, especially “insider” deals. Everyone loves a bargain and a sale, preferably that they can immediately act upon. It might be something time-limited, with a link to a web page to take action.

Regardless of the type of text, messages must be crisp and concise. Going past 155 characters or sending multiple texts doesn’t work well, and you’ll see people unsubscribe if they are bombarded with information.

DJ: What is the public’s reaction to political messages by text?

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Happ:Increasingly, we are hearing about pockets of frustration and burn-out. Usage by both parties seems to be primarily built around fundraising, despite the original positioning for political text messaging giving people the feeling of “being an insider” with exclusive access to information.

Actually, we’re hearing signs of irritation agnostic of channel, be it email or text. But the fact that even Jimmy Carter is “sending” messages these days is evidence of its acceptance.

DJ: Do the public prefer a particular tone of message?

Happ:Handing over a personal phone number is a currency exchange, a fast track into an inbox that is actively monitored. There is an expectation of gaining access to information ahead of the rest of the world.

DJ: How do politicians obtain the mobile device numbers? Are there privacy issues?

Happ:Politicians are getting text-savvy and are continuously broadcasting their opt-in number. There are some unsavory actors and service providers not respecting the opt-in requirements and even sharing numbers across senders, which may possibly violate various privacy requirements.

DJ: How can politicians improve texting as a campaign tool?

Happ:Politicians need to provide “insider” information to drive candidate intimacy. There seems to be a material gap in political texting strategies that continuously focus on fundraising.

It’s such a simple concept that is being overlooked. Providing basic information to help voters feel well connected to the candidate between fundraising texts would significantly increase the impact when a request for donations comes around. People want to be part of an exclusive club, with access to select information, not a piggy bank.

The other thing is to make sure the end-to-end communications process is well thought out, so, in each message or channel, fundraising requests would not surface every time a text shows up. For example, my wife donated to a campaign and was immediately hit with another fundraising text. This was quite a turnoff and a quick way to ensure an opt-out or, even worse, a blocked number.

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