Mass Text Messaging for Municipalities
What's the best way to get an important message to a large group of people in a matter of seconds? Mass text messaging. When controlling community based communication, spread a quick alert with one simple SMS.
In the past, most municipalities and government based institutions relied on direct mailers for the majority of their communication. Some have used "robocalls" which people never answer. But times have changed, and this shift calls for a new communication solution. That's where mass text messaging comes into play. It presents itself as the perfect solution for modern day alerts and notifications.
How Mass Texting Works for Municipalities
Every text messaging program starts with a simple keyword. Community members can opt in by texting your key-word to your long code ( the virtual number that you have chosen in your Textafied account )
For example, let's say you control all customer communication for the London area water plant. You want to send out important bill payment reminders and seasonal usage updates. You might create the keyword LONDON-WATER, and allow customers to text this keyword into your longcode so they can receive regular SMS updates.
The Auto Reply
Your auto reply simply confirms the opt in. It lets subscribers know they've joined the right list, and how many messages to expect per month. It's an automated text that is sent to the subscriber immediately after they opt in, or at what ever time interval you choose .
When using mass text messaging for your community based communications, choose your messages wisely, because you're more than likely to have a large, diverse list, make sure messages apply to most, if not all community members involved.
Some great examples that fit the bill are emergency alerts, leaf pickup reminders, and community event invites; just to name a few.
Lets say that The Woodstock utilities plant serves over 10,000 residents. Beyond bill payment reminders, they're looking for an easy and effective way to spread usage tips. If just 30% of their residents can cut their electricity useage on high usage days, this would reduce everyones monthly bill by at least 10%.
Mark, their Director of Communications, has tirelessly tried to keep customers in the know, but unfortunately, his messages are usually a day late and a dollar short. Sure, you can print up usage reminders at the bottom of each paper bill, but some people have opted for paperless billing. Beyond that, this bill only comes out once a month, and the chance of a customer glancing at that note, while simultaneously remembering to execute these usage tips weeks later is highly unlikely.
Here's where bulk texting comes in. Pending the customer actually opts in, Mark can fire out a message on high usage days, explaining the importance of lowering activity during peak hours.
He can't quite fit every single detailed tip into a text message, so to make the most efficient use of this alert, Mark links to one of his pre-built mobile pages or a blog post on their site that runs through easy to follow tips. Something as simple as running a small load of laundry at 8PM instead of 5PM makes a huge difference.
How Mass Text Messaging Streamlines Communication
We've run through the what, now let's talk about the how and why. We're not saying nix email reminders and direct mail communication all together. We simply think you should add SMS to the mix. It helps you unify your global message and pushes your announcement to every set of qualified eyes. From local election updates to utility reminders, text messaging encompasses a variety of community based communication.
Why Choose Text?
Out of all other communication solutions, what makes texting perfect for communication?
- Mass texting is a widespread communication medium.
- Over 90% of all SMS messages are opened within the first five minutes.
- The average person looks at their phone 150+ times a day.
- It's affordable. At just pennies per message, it's extremely cost effective.
What does this all mean? This is the best way to keep residents abreast of important and sometimes urgent community information.
How to Get Started
1. Sign-up, Create your Groups & Keywords
Should your keyword be unique to you? Yes, absolutely. But, should this keyword be complicated, hard to spell, and borderline unidentifiable? Absolutely not.
For example, Mark, the head of communications at the Woodstock water plant, might create the group "Water Clients" with the keyword City-Water. The keyword should be easy to remember, but also not overcomplicated. Make the opt in process as easy as possible.
2. Compose Your Auto Reply
Your auto reply serves one simple task; and that's to confirm the list subscription. This lets subscribers know how many messages to expect per month, and offers a link to important terms and conditions.
Here's an example.
You've opted in to usage alerts and reminders! We'll only message you when there's an emergency or an opportunity for you to save money, so thanks for staying engaged.
3. Promote the Text to Join Info
You can put together an awesome texting plan, but if no one knows about your new program, you're missing out on a huge opportunity.
- Include opt in details at the bottom of their paper bill.
- Share text to join info in your monthly email newsletters.
- Post flyers in municipal locations or create a sign-up widget form and place it on your City website.
4. Regularly Send Updates
You never want to fire out alerts for the heck of it, but make sure you're regularly providing your community members with timely, applicable information. Every text should provide value. In some cases, when you're using text messaging for reminders, you can even automate the process by scheduling text messages for specific hours or days of the week or month. This allows you to be hands off in certain scenarios while still delivering that value.
Sample Text Alerts
For municipalities, this is one of the most important functions mass texting serves. If you can cut usage, you lower your cost as a organization, as well as reduce monthly charges.
Today is a high usage day! To reduce your next bill by up to 30%, please avoid activity during the hours of 5 and 8PM.
From a community perspective, you want residents to be involved in local elections. The more involvement, the more progress you can make.
Voting for the East Ward takes place tonight at the 6th St. Fire Hall from 5-9PM.
What makes mass texting the go to option for municipalities? The open rate combined with the immediacy of this medium makes it nearly impossible to fail.
Keep your texts simple, all while making sure high priority alerts are received by all residents who participate.