As communication technologies continue to change, so will the way modern campaigns are run. While 2007 was the first year that text messages outpaced phone calls as Americans’ preferred method of communication, it seems that texting as a political tool is just now coming of age.
The dawn of voter file texting has accelerated this trend, and the development of new smartphone applications has made contacting supporters via text easier, cheaper, and more efficient.
With peer-to-peer texting, volunteers or staff use their smartphones to manually send out pre-scripted text messages. This manual intervention ensures that these texts don’t violate FCC regulations, and the pre-scripting makes contacting a supporter as easy as pressing “Send.”
The most high-profile use of these new methods comes from the Bernie Sanders campaign, which has used texting to harness the considerable enthusiasm of its grassroots base. The campaign asks volunteers to use an app to text supporters, urging them to attend phone banks, happy hours, and rallies.
But they also use this technique to massively contact young, cell phone-only voters through numbers pulled from voter files. This is an extremely important voting population that has been more resistant to traditional voter outreach methods.
Many of these texting campaigns are organized through the SandersForPresident community on the bulletin-style social news website Reddit. When it comes to peer-to-peer texting (sometimes called “textbanking”), the reception from volunteers is overwhelmingly positive.
Some have said that texting is a good way for more introverted people to get involved in organizing efforts. Others love the convenience and flexible time commitment of texting. Many are impressed by how many people they can reach and how effective texting is for mobilizing.
A recurring theme is that texting is a good way to move people up the engagement ladder. It can turn latent support into active support, for example by encouraging folks to participate in phone banking.
But one of the most important advantages of peer-to-peer texting is its power to facilitate real conversations. These are not mass texts or blast texts. “It’s about building relationships with people. You can just do it much faster,” says Sanders field organizer Zach Fang in an interview with political journalist Sasha Issenberg (Bloomberg).
Read what Reddit user Soreynotsari has to say about how texting campaigns forge real connections: