Engineers Without Borders Canada Uses Twilio To Create a Reminder Tool and Rock the Vote

199593_10150445757025594_165548995593_17705927_5865514_n Engineers Without Borders Canada found itself climbing the list in a contest run by Wind Mobile. With a top prize of $50,000, EWB decided to reach out to their membership to help with voting. However, the contest involved getting people to vote everyday for 30 days, and EWB’s initial voting frenzy was starting to wear off just a few days after their e-mail.

EWB decided a daily, opt-in voting reminder would be just the thing and created one using Twilio’s SMS API. To their surprise, a third of their members opted in to the SMS reminders (one reminder per day), and it helped win them the grand prize of $50,000! Here’s what Francis Kung, Director of Technology at Engineers Without Borders Canada, had to say about the entire experience.

How did you hear about Twilio?

“We first heard about Twilio when looking to set up a text-message notice system at our National Conference, in January. We were unimpressed with expensive, “fully managed” texting solutions and liked the flexibility and easy API that Twilio provides.

“After using the service quite successfully for the conference, we’ve been looking to increase our use of these tools to engage with our members.”

How did you decide what to build your application? What problem were you trying to solve?

“The Wind Mobile contest allowed people to vote once a day, every day, for a month to determine which charity would win. We knew right away that our biggest challenge would be maintaining sustained interest—we have a highly-engaged group of members, it’s a lot to ask to vote every day!

“In addition, we are acutely aware of “email overload”, so we were looking for ways to engage people beyond a mailing list…and in came text messages. It was a great way to remind people to vote—quickly and easily (and even on their smartphones!)”

How long did it take to build your app, and what technologies did you use?

“Building was a breeze—for this specific app, we had everything running within a day using PHP.

“Our other app was built in python (on the Django framework), and only took a couple of days to put together (but also had much more functionality—segmenting recipients, etc).

“In both cases, the Twilio integration was the easy part of building our app!”

What are your plans going forward?

“Our last two apps were solutions to one-off problems, but given their success we are looking at integrating Twilio and SMS services into more of our work.

“We have an online community platform, http://my.ewb.ca, with thousands of active users—and there are lots of opportunities to use SMS to deliver a more cohesive, unified experience for our members and to build our online community.”

If you had all the time in the world, what would you build with Twilio?

“Oh, that’s a good question! I think the barrier between the online world and the offline world is breaking down rapidly…you can’t really separate the two like we did a few years ago. And this is a great thing! I think our communities and relationships are strengthened when we bring both online and “offline” components to it…and SMS is one of those key bridges between the two. Twilio offers an exceptionally easy and cost-effective way of building interactive applications to bridge this online/offline divide—I look forward to using these services more!”