How To: Set Up SMS Broadcasts in Five Minutes

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SMS messages are opened 98% of the time within minutes of being received. When you need to reach your constituents quickly and consistently, there’s no better medium than SMS.

Imagine having a magic phone number your organization’s members, volunteers, or donors could text in to, signing up for timely SMS updates from organizers. Imagine being an organizer with the ability to reach all your subscribers, at once, from anywhere via SMS. Could that help your organization move faster or engage with your community more effectively?

If you’ve got five minutes, you can set up such a phone number and find out. Follow along with the video tutorial below to learn how to deploy one of these phone numbers, without needing to write any code.

What we’ll build

In this tutorial, you will set up a Twilio-powered phone number that is able to send and receive SMS messages. When someone texts the word subscribe to your phone number, they will be signed up for broadcast messages from organizers (called “administrators” in the little application we’ll set up). Administrator phone numbers (that you can configure) can text broadcast, followed by the text of a message they’d like to send out, to send that message out to anyone who has subscribed to the service.

What you’ll need

Before we get started, you’ll need to sign up for a Twilio account. You can use your free trial account to set up and test your number out, but you’ll want to upgrade your account to be able to send to and receive messages from any phone number.

At this point, I’d point out again the Twilio.org program offering $500 (80,000 messages) in Twilio credit, and discounted pricing for nonprofits and social enterprises. Most definitely worth a look if a program you set up through Twilio becomes popular.

Further customization

After you get the basic SMS broadcast system set up, you may want to lightly customize it for your organization or use case. If you’re not a developer by trade, you might consider reaching out to a volunteer developer in the Twilio.org Impact Corps for help. If you’re able to dig into the code yourself, go for it! The source for the application will be in your Twilio console, and is available on GitHub as well.

Ready to get down to business? Follow along with the video above to learn how to get it all set up.