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October 20, 2008

Ask the CAE: Using Twitter for text announcements

I got this question from a reader the other day:

In addition to the paid gig, I am the president of a community based non profit - all volunteer of course! We use mailman for group emails...but I am looking for a similar platform for blast text messages for both the adults as well as the student constituents. I know I could set something up in Twitter but that is frankly a way more powerful technology than I need and it would overwhelm many of the adults who are still struggling with texting. I really am looking for one way technology to keep people updated on what the organization is doing. Can you recommend an easy technology that we could run with volunteers? And of course free is good...
Actually, dear reader, in this case, I think Twitter would be just fine for sending text based alerts to your constituents. It is free one-way texting, after all. I'd suggest that you ask them to sign up by using their cell phones (i.e. send 'follow org_name' to 40404).

Where you may encounter difficulty is when your constituents are already using Twitter, and they've turned off the SMS alerts because they're following more than a few people. (Or if they start using Twitter more extensively after signing up for your alerts and subsequently turn of SMS alerts.) But provided that they don't disable SMS alerts, I think Twitter should work just fine for you.

But if this sounds like too much to worry about, look into TextMarks. I've never used it, but they say you can send text alerts of up to 140 characters to a subscriber list for free. Opting in is easy; all you have to do is text a keyword to 41411. The ony catch: There are ads in the message footer.

Tagged: ; ; ;


Miss Lynn said...

On Thursday in the NTEN chat with Maddie, there was a guy from who has a similar product to Textmarks. It's pretty much the same thing, but with Tatango, they are on Twitter, which makes interacting with them really easy.

One thing that bothers me about Tatango though is that if someone stumbles upon your group they can join. Not sure yet whether or not there is a way to have to approve new members.

Miss Lynn said...

Something I just realized on Twitter... You can manage who you receive device updates from your list of who you are following. Thought I'd throw that out there. Guess that makes Twitter even more viable!

Ben Martin, CAE said...

Good info. Thanks!