Peer-to-peer SMS: Is the party over?


Peer-to-peer text is changing: understand the landscape

Whether you like peer-to-peer messages or hate them, it’s essential to understand this if you’re running an organization or political campaign. This is due to an evolving landscape with real implications for fundraising, organization and turnout activities in the short and long term.

Pallooza lyrics:
Over the past two election cycles, the volume of peer-to-peer and political messages has grown almost endlessly. There is a lot to like about texting as a means of communication. The speed, clarity and responsiveness make it a point of reference for fundraising, organization and mobilization. However, peer-to-peer text messages are different from activation messages.

Due to changes in regulation, peer-to-peer text messages can decrease in scale. This reduction is not only a voter reaction to the abuse, but also from regulation that will make it more difficult to use and less likely for voters to engage. As regulation takes hold, voters become wary of texts they have never accepted. Organizations and campaigns can expect many circles to continue with peer-to-peer.

SMS from numbers:
According to RoboKiller, there were over 2 billion political text messages and over 93 million political robocalls in 2020. The huge number of messages from campaigns and companies led the FCC to create the necessary regulation on SMS. The regulation addresses peer-to-peer text messaging, creating a way for carriers to record and track campaigns.

Text and landscape definitions:
The landscape of the texting world is somewhat technical. Here’s a quick glossary of texting terms and recent regulation (feel free to skip ahead):

What is the TCPA? The goal of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act is to stop unwanted telephone solicitations. TCPA regulates telephone and messaging programs by limiting the making of telemarking calls and the use of automatic telephone dialing systems. Campaigns register with an industry trusted hub

What is 10dlc? New regulation that forces users, campaigns and high-volume text message organizations to archive with the campaign log or will likely be blocked from using text messages. Organizations are then assigned a “trust score” which determines the daily message throughput.

What is SMS sending? Broadcast message is when you receive general text from an organization to a list that is either opt-in or non-opt-in.

What is peer-to-peer text? It is a personal message, often from a stranger. An example is when someone writes to you from a campaign to go out and vote or when a rideshare driver writes you that they are out.

What is SMS activation? SMS triggering occurs when a member, donor, volunteer, activist or voter agrees to receive text messages.

What is sending SMS without consent? Sending SMS without consent is when you receive an SMS via peer-to-peer or SMS broadcast without agreeing to be SMS. In most cases, sending broadcast messages without consent is illegal and will result in a fine for each infringement.

What happened to peer-to-peer messages? Peer-to-peer text has been around for some time in a gray area, and while technically still acceptable to use, it’s much more difficult. This is due to regulation and excessive use of the medium. Major networks are making it more difficult to send peer-to-peer messages by having their campaigns registered to people and this process is currently vague.

Can I still do this? Most peer-to-peer messaging platforms are TCPA compliant; However, compliance with TCPA does not mean that operators will make it easy for campaigns and organizations to use peer-to-peer messaging. TCPA will now seek to monitor text messages through an industrial hub, which will be a slow process. Organizations now have to register their campaigns here, a process that will take a long time. The previous speed advantage with peer-to-peer SMS over opt-in is now gone.

How about GOTV? Bulk peer-to-peer messaging will be more difficult for groups to implement. They will need time to register their campaign and make sure it isn’t closed by a courier.

What about peer-to-peer fundraising? Raising text-based funds via an opt-in list will create long-term returns. While peer-to-peer text messaging has a better chance of working towards engagement, you’ll need to overcome current obstacles to make it possible.

The future of peer-to-peer messaging: We believe peer-to-peer will survive as an organizational tactic, a way to gather resources such as videos and for some non-political uses such as encouraging participation in events and raising awareness among nonprofits. It is too early to say whether peer-to-peer will be widely used or of the same caliber as before.

How can I continue with a text program? Focus on activation first. In the words of the Kinks, we’re back to square one. Opt-in texting is still the best way to build and create a texting program, and people using opt-in engage at a faster pace than peer-to-peer. Activation messages take time, patience, and money to create and maintain a text list. Membership sms will also mean a growth policy with multiple opt-ins over time, if you stick to and include the opt-in as an option in all communications. But … even with opt-in, there is more regulation and you will likely need to register as an organization and register every text program you do. This is evolving.

What is the future of the text? It’s complicated. Consulting a lawyer who speaks to colleagues in this space is a must. Third-party text blocking, increased enforcement, and other technology solutions will reduce the amount of non-opt-in texts and will also result in the need for careful compliance and planning for opt-in texting. Hopefully, this makes it a better place for people to receive and respond to the texts they want and helps limit bad actors in the message space.

Bottom line:
We are not against texting, on the contrary, we think texting has a long-term future in politics if used appropriately. Like any political tactic, abuse leads to regulation and distrust among voters. Activation builds trust, but takes time.

Our text recommendations:

  • Don’t give up on texting: understand the landscape and plan accordingly.
  • Have a plan for the text – A good program takes years – make sure you plan it
  • Don’t rely on peer-to-peer or broadcast text – sending SMS is the gold standard
  • Have a strategy for growing your opt-in list: Real growth only happens with a plan
  • Promote your opt-in everywhere – Use a shortcode in all communications
  • Have collection points – Do an opt-in drive a couple of times a year
  • Multi-layered communication: Use multiple tactics including email, digital, mail, and phones to communicate
  • Get legal help and keep an eye on regulatory changes

Have questions about peer-to-peer SMS and opt-in messaging for your organization? Write us a note!

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