Political SMS Campaigns for Elections and Fundraising
Learn how to keep voters engaged, organize volunteers, and increase event attendance with text messaging.
When the aim is to reach as many people as possible, text messaging is the number one method of communication. With a 98% open rate, you can send your political text messages for campaign marketing straight into the hands of voters.
From collecting donations to accruing more votes, political text messaging can make or break your campaign efforts. Here’s how (and why) to introduce it into your strategy.
Is Political Text Messaging Effective?
Text message campaigning is one issue both parties can agree on. In 2008, candidate Barack Obama announced his Vice President pick of Joe Biden to nearly three million Americans via text messaging.
Obama went on to use those three million contacts to organize rallies, inform supporters, and generate record-shattering donations from grassroots contributors. Many analysts credit Obama’s win to this strong engagement through emerging media.
The Romney campaign championed texting as well, stating that “the American public has embraced texting as an important form of communication and commerce.”
When you’re running for political office, whether it’s the Oval Office or a spot on city council, staying closely connected with voters is the key to victory.
Texting can turn the tide of an election. When everyone has the right to vote, you need to reach everyone, and that’s easier said than done. 97% of Americans own a cell phone, making it the most efficient way to reach your audience.
If your opponent uses political text messages to market their campaign, you’re going to get left behind. Here are some political text message examples you can apply to your campaign strategy.
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Political Campaign Message Examples
Prominent politicians have used texts to their advantage. What are the best ways to use political text messages for your campaign?
From voter registration to sharing your politics, here are just a few common uses.
1. Voting day reminder
Send registered voters a friendly text on election day reminding them to cast their vote. You can even include a link to help them find their polling place! Leading up the election, be sure to give constituents notice of early and absentee voting deadlines.
There are millions of U.S. citizens who still aren’t registered to vote. Regardless of your party or beliefs, texting can also be a great way to encourage people to get active and exercise their 15th amendment right. Use your voice to encourage voter registration. That way, win or lose, you’ve made a difference!
2. Event alerts
The campaign trail keeps your calendar packed with events. The success of each one is often related to how many people you can get in the room.
Maximize your success and invite your supporters to rallies, town hall meetings, and other campaign events all via text message. If they can’t make it, be sure to alert them about important media appearances they won’t want to miss as well.
3. Important announcements
Like Obama’s historic text message, making anticipated announcements via text is a great way to actively involve supporters.
Releasing information in politics is always a carefully crafted process, and you want to make sure your message is heard when you want it to be. With 90% of text messages read within three minutes of receipt, you can take control of your narrative when you need to.
Examples of political announcement text messages could be: election day vote count updates, running mate decisions, debate highlights, and event reminders.
4. Organize volunteers
Text messaging makes grassroots organizing a snap. If your constituents can’t donate money, a great alternative is asking them to donate time. Organize rallies and recruit volunteers all with a simple text.
5. Take a stance
Stay ahead of the media curve. Communicate your politics on emerging issues with registered voters instantly and let your supporters know where you stand.
You can even text out guides or infographics via MMS that let your supporters know a rundown of your opinions on key issues. This will help keep them educated and your political text messages understood.
6. Mobilize the youth vote
Among young adults 18–34, texting is the single most preferred channel for personal communications. Connect with young people personally to win their hearts, minds, and ultimately their votes.
You can also tap into your SMS subscriber list to raise money or donations for your political campaigns. Follow the FEC rules to comply with US regulations.
Rules and Regulations For Political Text Messages
Text marketing is guided by all things compliance . But when it comes to political text messages, extra precautions should be taken to ensure no campaign regulations are broken.
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission’s rules for political campaign calls and texts states: “Political campaign-related autodialed or prerecorded voice calls, including autodialed live calls, autodialed texts, and prerecorded voice messages, are prohibited to cell phones, pagers or other mobile devices without the called party’s prior express consent.”
The FCC’s rules go on to note there are exceptions to needing express consent only if you were to text each recipient individually without the use of autodialer software: “As text messages generally go to mobile phones, robotexts require the called party’s prior express consent. However, political text messages can be sent without the intended recipient’s prior consent if the message’s sender does not use autodialing technology to send such texts and instead manually dials them.”
If you plan to fundraise using SMS marketing, the Federal Election Commission has additional regulations about receiving contributions by text message. These guidelines reiterate that your text message subscribers must opt in, you may not receive contributions from a prohibited source, and other rules to which the “recipient political committee is solely responsible for ensuring that a text contribution is lawful”.
Long story short, building an opt-in SMS subscriber list and using SMS marketing software like SimpleTexting is a perfectly legal and ethical way to reach your constituents (and likely save yourself from massive amounts of manual effort). Read up on the FCC and FEC’s additional rules to understand how these may apply to your situation, and check out our guide on political texting rules.
Additionally, as you build your text subscriber list, ensure that you’re advertising the fact that replying to messages with STOP will unsubscribe someone at any time.
Know that it is illegal to buy phone numbers or contact lists and send them messages without express written consent. And, as always, check with your legal counsel for any other campaign rules you’ll need to follow.
How to Get Voters to Sign Up
You’ve seen how powerful political text messages can be to a campaign.
By turning supporters into contacts, you can better engage the public, organize rallies and events, and ultimately mobilize the vote. Below, we share strategies to help your campaign get as many contacts as possible.
While there are many ways to collect your supporters’ cell numbers (a digital or physical sign-up form, for example), there’s one method that consistently gets the most contacts: ask them to text you!
Just have your supporters text your keyword to your toll-free number (just don’t forget to have your toll-free number verified to avoid traffic disruptions by carriers). They’ll be subscribed automatically—no paperwork and no forms. This makes for a concise call to action and encourages impulsive contacts.
Your keyword confirmation, which can be an SMS or MMS message, also gives you a great opportunity to welcome new contacts right off the bat!
- Text “TRUMP” to (833) 602-8038 to get messages from Donald Trump!
- Text “BIDEN” to (833) 602-8038 for text alerts from the President!
Get the Word Out About Your SMS Updates
With such a simple sign-up, the only thing left to do is spread the (key)word! Before anything else, you should integrate your keyword into any existing campaign materials. Here are just a few places to include your call to action:
- Lawn signs
- Bumper stickers
- Flyers and handouts at events
- Campaign bus design
- Campaign website
- Rallies and events
- Media appearances
How to Use Political Text Messaging to Motivate Voters
Tons of supporters will subscribe to your text campaign simply because they support you. But there’s even more who need just a bit of motivation to get interested.
Maximize your contacts by employing one or more of these enticing incentives.
A classical marketing strategy, sweepstakes have been used by politicians to generate interest, donations, and valuable contacts.
Example: Text WASHINGTON to (833) 602-8038 to enter for your chance to win a personal dinner with George!
As Obama did with his announcement of running mate Joe Biden, an anticipated announcement is an excellent incentive. Offer supporters who subscribe the chance to hear it first.
Example: Who will John pick for his veep? Find out first! Text “ADAMS” to (833) 602-8038 to get an alert the minute of the pick!
Give contacts early access to fundraiser tickets, front-row spots at rallies, and other promotional perks.
Example: Want a chance to get tickets to Abraham’s fundraiser before everyone else? Text LINCOLN to (833) 602-8038 for early access to tickets and other opportunities!
Begin Your Political Text Messaging Campaign for Free
If you’re ready to give text marketing a try, we encourage you to sign up for a two-week free trial account with us.
When you’re ready to upgrade to a paid account and get the full features, just change your billing plan from the dashboard. Simple!
This piece was originally published June 15, 2016. It was most recently refreshed May 15, 2023. Nathan Ellering contributed to this piece.