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Mike Paine
by Mike Paine
February 11, 2020

Short message service (SMS) burst onto the political scene in 2012, equipping Barack Obama’s campaign so handily that it nearly edged Joe Biden out for Vice President.

Since the Federal Election Commission approved fundraising via SMS, candidates have found it particularly advantageous to include this form of communication in their campaign strategy. Barack, Hillary and The Donald have all used it, with scores of politicians following their example of using a format that voters find irresistible.

Here are a few reasons why SMS is becoming indispensable for candidates:

Reaching Young Voters

Maybe you’ve heard the statistic that nobody under the age of 45 wants a phone call, and it’s true that SMS has proven particularly useful in reaching Millennials and Gen X voters. Not only can you request a vote, but SMS is also useful for sharing election dates and locations, as well as fundraising events and town hall meetings.


Think about the last time you were sitting in a wedding or a funeral and you felt your watch buzz. You were tempted to open that text, right? SMS campaigns capture the lure of text messages, which have a 90% open rate, compared to the 20% you’ll see with an email campaign.


People love to open a text, but it turns out that about half of those opened also receive a response, or 45%. And that goes both ways. If a supporter sends a donation or spends time volunteering, it’s easy for you to acknowledge their contribution via SMS.


It’s hard to quantify the ease with which you can send out SMS requests compared to canvassing door-to-door, or making phone calls to voters. SMS removes awkward conversations and rejections that waste the time of campaign volunteers.

What Works?

While SMS is becoming a staple of campaign communications, there are some best practices that can help solidify its value in your own election hopes:

  • Refer-a-friend programs, where voters are encouraged to suggest that others sign up to receive messages.
  • Positive messaging, such as when Bernie Sanders encouraged supporters not to protest following news that Hillary’s nomination may not have been exactly straightforward.
  • Quotes by your opponent that include a link to the source.
  • Gauging voter sentiment by inviting them to text a keyword in support of a particular policy.

What Bombs?

There are some practices that have proven to be ineffective at securing support or votes for candidates:

  • One-way communications that simply duplicate content posted on social media or elsewhere.
  • Unsolicited messaging campaigns, because SMS is highly regulated and recipients sometimes seek legal action.
  • Requesting voters to access long-code (think regular phone numbers) rather than short code SMS or using irrelevant or mismatched keywords.

SMS is effective, but it’s not foolproof or simple. A third-party specialist who is familiar with the regulations and best practices surrounding SMS for political use can be critical for your campaign.

When you need comprehensive marketing resources, consider DirectMail.io. We can successfully implement SMS into your campaign, along with complementary strategies for reaching voters with the right messages on your path to Election Day. Contact us to learn more.

Mike Paine
by Mike Paine
February 11, 2020