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SMS Drives 85% of Biden Contributions During First Presidential Debate

From the time Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced – or at least tried to announce – his text messaging opt-in during a 2019 debate, Biden’s text messaging program has played a major role in his campaign.

That role was never clearer than during the September 29 presidential debate. According to Politico, Biden’s campaign raised a staggering $3.8 million during the 10-11pm hour – with 85% of contributions coming from SMS text messaging.

Not bad for a channel often considered old-fashioned!

Of course, Biden isn’t the only candidate getting results with SMS. From the White House to Capitol Hill, political campaigns and other nonprofits use SMS to raise funds, get out the vote, mobilize volunteers, and educate voters.

But what is it about text messaging that makes it so effective?

Why Campaigns Use SMS to Connect with Voters

With voters using mobile devices more than ever, SMS is an effective direct channel to supporters.

SMS is accessible, allowing campaigns to reach all sectors of their audience. There’s no app to download, making it ideal for reaching voters who don’t have smartphones or download few apps. When every vote counts, these connections can make all the difference.

It’s also easy to opt into SMS, as actress Julia-Louis Dreyfus wryly pointed out during the 2020 Democratic National Convention. New subscribers don’t have to fill out a form or visit the app store; they can simply text a keyword to your short code. This allows organizations to collect opt-ins by distributing handouts with a call-to-action, including it during a campaign advertisement, or (in the case of Biden) having their candidate recite it during a presidential debate.

The 160-character limit of SMS may seem like a disadvantage, but organizations can use this to their benefit. Because users can read text messages so quickly, subscribers are quick to open text messages. In fact, 98% of text messages are opened. When campaigns have must-read information to send, they turn to SMS to ensure this information is seen.

Finally, for campaigns, deploying targeted SMS campaigns is simple. No need to write email HTML, get developers involved, or ask the creative team to whip up images (though MMS messages with images are a great way to increase engagement). This makes text messaging perfect for teams with limited time or resources.

How to Engage Supporters with SMS

In addition to the standard fare, there are near-infinite ways to engage a political text messaging audience with creative campaigns.

For instance, Biden has used SMS to announce major campaign developments. As reported by the New York Times on May 12, a text message promised subscribers who signed up via link that they would be “among the first to know” when he made his decision. And, of course, Elizabeth Warren famously allowed supporters to opt into a text messaging list devoted to pictures of her dog, Bailey.

Whether you use text messaging to raise funds or deliver cute dog pics, we’ve got a few resources to help with your political text messaging program:

To learn more about driving political success with SMS, talk to your Customer Success Manager or contact us here.

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