“Consider the ease of setting up Twilio with a single developer relative to how many voters we’re able to reach. Not to mention what we’re able to bring them by choosing text over email. In many ways this was a no-brainer.”
Co-founder and CEO, Democracy Works
Engaging Voters with Every Text
When Democracy Works first built TurboVote in 2010, mobile phones accounted for only 15% of the app’s traffic, with desktops accounting for the rest. At the time, it made sense to engage voters primarily by email. “We set up text message reminders using Twilio, but only as a supplement to our email program,” says Kathryn Peters, co-founder and COO of Democracy Works. A single in-house developer built the texting platform using Twilio Programmable SMS.
But by late 2016, the numbers had flipped, and now nearly 70% of the organization’s traffic comes from mobile devices. So Democracy Works made engaging by text a priority.
“It’s still really easy when doing outreach-based projects to believe that email is the place to start,” Kathryn explains. “But we keep finding that the people who are talking to us on SMS are talking to us more. We’re seeing more people interact with the texts we send, and more people wanting these interactions.”
The app now uses Twilio SMS to send reminders about upcoming elections, along with links to voter registration forms and local polling place, with embedded maps. TurboVote also answers voter questions by text, with employees addressing each user’s question.
“We make sure our texting interface provides as much information as email and can provide a viable alternative, because so many people prefer it,” Kathryn says.
The impact of the human element is substantial. Sometimes employees are helping a college student or first time, non-English-speaking voter understand their voting rights and how to register. Other times they’re answering a more challenging question, such as determining which of four possible residences an active-duty member of the military should claim for voting.