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Text messaging as a marketing tool

Farhad Manjoo writes about the effectiveness of text messaging in political campaigning:

Political scientists have run dozens of such studies during the past few years, and the work has led to what you might call the central tenet of voter mobilization: Personal appeals work better than impersonal ones. Having campaign volunteers visit voters door-to-door is the “gold standard” of voter mobilization efforts, Green and Gerber write. On average, the tactic produces one vote for every 14 people contacted. The next-most-effective way to reach voters is to have live, human volunteers call them on the phone to chat: This tactic produces one new vote for every 38 people contacted. Other efforts are nearly worthless. Paying human telemarketers to call voters produces one vote for every 180 people contacted. Sending people nonpartisan get-out-the-vote mailers will yield one vote per 200 contacts. (A partisan mailer is even less effective.)

These findings create an obvious difficulty for campaigns: It’s expensive and time-consuming to run the kind of personal mobilization efforts that science shows work best. Green and Gerber estimate that a door-canvassing operation costs $16 per hour, with six voters contacted each hour; if you convince one of every 14 voters you canvass, you’re paying $29 for each new voter. A volunteer phone bank operation will run you even more—$38 per acquired voter. This is the wondrous thing about text-messaging: Studies show that text-based get-out-the-vote appeals win one voter for every 25 people contacted. That’s nearly as effective as door-canvassing, but it’s much, much cheaper. Text messages cost about 6 cents per contact—only $1.50 per new voter.

We can assume the calculation is similar when selling things other than political candidates as well.

3 Comments

  1. It is very clear that consumers are driven by promotions in the physical world to use the mobile device as a RESPONSE MECHANISM TO INTERACT WITH BRANDS!

    At Adheadz.com, we continue to see Mobile Response rates higher than 15% when Brands run radio, TV and traditional advertising with their Mobile Tag like ‘Text BMW to 95613 for More Information”.

    The increase of Mobile Tagging, where marketers add their brands’ Keyword and Short Code (like ‘BMW to 95613 for More Information”) onto their brochures, collateral and marketing outreach, is similar to the use of URL tagging which happened at the onset of the Internet.

    All the best – Scott

    Scott Kline [email protected]

  2. Rafe – Thanks for posting this. I’ve been volunteering for the Obama campaign in Seminole County, FL, for over a month now. I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands, of phone calls, and have knocked on hundreds of doors. I’ve gotten mostly positive feedback, and some negative. The field organizer for whom I’ve worked has always said that door to door canvassing is the most effective means to reach voters, but I hadn’t seen an article like the one you quoted before.

    One more thing…I voted on Friday, and even though the line was very long, it didn’t take more than about 20 minutes to get through. Very well run!

  3. yeah, but you can get a list of registered voters (plus affiliations and more) for little or nothing, but a similar list of cell phones with text capacity is very hard to come by! (those who give theirs to a campaign directly probably didn’t need much convincing)

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