The Textizen Blog

SEP 24 2013

3 Best Practices for Text-Based Civic Engagement

After delivering over 20,000 responses for communities across the country, we’ve learned a lot about what makes for successful civic outreach by text message.

These lessons are all included in our Best Practices guide (free for Textizen subscribers), which guides you through the process of launching a successful outreach campaign. Read on for 3 tips to supercharge your civic engagement.


1. Start Backwards: Define Your Goal

When kicking off a campaign, start with the ultimate goal and work backwards.

Are you focused on gauging the impact of near-term local development projects, or long-term master plan adoption? Preparing for school budget cuts, or trying to raise participation in programs? Or are you most interested in collecting demographics to better understand a particular audience?

What types of data, information, or engagement would be most useful for influencing decision-makers?

Examples: ranking of service preferences, support or opposition for a proposal, broad generation of ideas, contact information to bring people to in-person events.

Once your goals are clear, and you’ve identified the types of data you’ll need, all that’s left is getting people hooked and asking a few followup questions.


2. Get Participants Hooked with the Right Opening Question

The first question plays a huge role in the success of your survey. Once people text in to your campaign, completion rates are usually quite high: 90% for 3-question surveys, and 50-70% for 5-8 question surveys. But only if the first question is compelling!

Here are a few ideas for how to get people’s attention:

  • Get people interested or emotional: take advantage of both topic and phrasing. Topics such as a new minimum wage or proposed rapid transit line may have broad appeal. Using imaginitive language, making it clear that respondents can truly make an impact, and presenting visually descriptive options will further encourage people to respond.
  • Start with a simple question. Make it as easy as possible for people to get started. A yes/no or multiple choice question makes it faster for people to respond. You can ask for more detail in follow-up questions.

Example Questions:

  • Does this [picture] look like a good idea? Text Yes or No
  • How is the city doing on transparency? Give us a letter grade from A-F.
  • Business Owners! Which of these 3 changes would make it easier for your business to grow?

3. Aim for the Sweet Spot: 5-8 Questions

Textizen supports surveys of any length, but 5-8 question surveys hit a sweet spot for most campaigns. They provide plenty of room to collect enough data and demographics to make informed decisions, while respecting peoples’ time and keeping response rates high.

Hungry for more?

Find these tips along with plenty of our other findings, examples, templates, and more in our Best Practices guide, now available to all Textizen subscribers.

Our innovative mix of offline outreach with online engagement has transformed civic engagement for communities small and large across the country. Is yours next? Get in touch!