Texting

 

 

Text messages are a great way to communicate with your people! But proceed with caution when sending bulk text messages—nobody likes to get spam texts. Be sure to honor any opt-out requests, keep the texts relevant to your audience, and be sure to let people know how they can opt out at any time. Best Practice? Ask your audience to opt-in prior to sending that first bulk text message.

You've been using the powerful New Message Tool and its great features (Send to Parents! Messaging views! Delay send! Quota Limit! Templates!) to send emails. And now you can use the New Message Tool (and those same features) to send text messages via Twilio! Here's what you need to know to leverage this exciting new communication option. Want to see it in action? Check out the Texting in the New Message Tool webinar!

Getting Started

You already have the New Message Tool, but you'll need to take four simple steps to text using the New Message Tool:

  • Create (or update!) your Twilio account
    • You can use an existing Twilio number, be we recommend moving to a 1-800 number for faster sending ;)
    • Be sure to ask about Twilio's not-for-profit pricing
  • Update your Domain record in the Platform
  • Add Outbound SMS Numbers to the Platform
  • Update the new field "Mass Text Quota" on the appropriate Security Roles. Note: If a Users Mass Text Quota is 0 or null, they won't even see the text option inside the New Message Tool. User's All Security Roles "Mass Text Quota" will be set to 0 at installation. See Other Considerations below for more information.
  • Bonus: You can limit the use of an Outbound SMS Number by adding a User Group to the Outbound SMS Number record. So, for example, you can set up an Outbound SMS Number for your Children's Ministry and make sure that only Users in the Children's Ministry User Group will be able to send a text using that number.
Already have a Twilio account and want help getting everything configured? Reach out to Support and our Integration Specialist can help you get set up!
Update Your Domain

To successfully send text messages, your Twilio account must be configured on your Domain Record (System Setup > Domains/Accounts):

  • SMS Server Username: Twilio Account SID (Found under your Twilio's "Project Info")
  • SMS Server Password: Twilio Auth Token (Found under your Twilio's "Project Info")
  • SMS Server Callback Secret: Generate a new, random GUID
Pro Tip: Use a GUID Generator to quickly generate a random value.
Add Outbound SMS Numbers

One record must be created in the Platform for each active phone number on your Twilio Account. Navigate to Communications >  Outbound SMS Numbers and select new:

  • Number Title: a friendly name to describe this phone number
  • SMS Number: phone number or short code used to send the SMS message
  • Active: indicates whether this number is current
  • Default: indicates the primary SMS number. The number that will appear pre-selected in the New Message Tool as the “From SMS Number” value.
Note: The texting option won’t appear in the New Message Tool until at least one Outbound SMS Number is added and set to Active = True. 
User Quotas

A User's ability to send text messages is defined by their Security Roles. Security Roles have been extended with the new field "Mass Text Quota" and the highest value extended to a User through any of their Security Roles is honored. If a User’s quota is exceeded, the texts will not be sent and a warning will be displayed inside the New Message Tool after the User selects "Send."

Want to control who can send text messages? No problem!  We know every church handles communication differently, so you get to set each User's Mass Text. Quota.

Note: If a User's quota is 0 or null, they won't even see the text option inside the New Message Tool. User's All Security Roles "Mass Text Quota" will be set to 0 at installation. 
User Groups

A User's ability to send text messages can also be limited by User Group. For each OutBound SMS Number, you can specify a User Group that should be able to send text messages using that number. When a User is a member of the identified User Group, the number will be available in the drop-down menu of the New Message Tool. Important: If all of your SMS numbers are associated with a User Group, Users must be in one of those User Groups to send text messages. If they are not in a text messaging User Group, they will not see the option to send a text via the New Message Tool.

Sending Text Messages

New Message Tool

As promised, you get to use the New Message Tool to send text messages! This means, among other things, you can schedule the text to send in the future. Game. Changer.

  • Message Type: Toggle between message Email or TXT.
  • From SMS Number: A dropdown menu showing Outbound SMS Numbers the User has rights to send messages from.
  • Message Body: When TXT is selected, the message body is limited to 160 characters.
  • Text Preview: Preview a text using the "Send to Me” feature.
  • Send to Parents: Send a text to the parents of selected records using the "Send to Parents" feature. Note: Parent is defined as any Household Member with Household Position "Head of Household" who has a valid mobile phone number and is not inactive/deceased. It also includes any Heads of Household associated via Other Household with Household Type "Non-Custodial Parent" unless the relationship is end-dated.
  • Delay Send: Schedule the text to send in the future.
  • Character Limit: Texts are limited to 160 characters (up to 256 if using the API. See API below). Exceeding this limit will increase billing. If supported by individual carriers, messages exceeding 160 characters will be re-assembled as a single message.
  • Templates: Simple, text-only Templates supported. The text message is the Template’s "Subject" field.

See New Message Tool - Sending Text Messages for more details.

Templates

And it just keeps getting better! You can use the Template Editor Tool to set up text message templates to help your staff quickly send pre-approved text messages, and limit text templates to specific users, user groups, or a page.

  • Define (Required)
    • Template Name
    • Subject: This will be the text message!
    • From Contact
    • Reply To Contact
  • Define (Optional)
    • User
    • User Group
    • Pertains to Page
  • Leave Content blank. Any content added will be ignored by the New Message Tool.
  • After saving, edit the Template via the Template page and set Communication Type to "SMS Text."
Message Tracking

Want to see who actually received your text after it was sent? Just like you can with other messages, you can see the Action Status in Communications > Messages. 

API

If you have custom development that leverages our API, you can also create and queue texts just like emails!

  • We support two endpoints
    • /communications, which derive Recipients based on Contact IDs
    • /texts, which sends to Recipients based on phone numbers
  • Set CommunicationType to ID value of Communication Type Record "SMS Text."
  • Increased 256 character limit! But beware—you'll have less control over segments with this option (see Texting Segments below).
  • If supported by individual carriers, messages exceeding 160 characters will be re-assembled as a single message.

Other Considerations

Texting Segments

Segments!?! What's a segment? Ah, we're glad you asked because segments will determine what your texts look like and how much you pay to send them.

Every text message is limited to a certain number of characters. And that limit is called a segment. If your message is longer than the limit, it will create a new segment. Sending a really wordy text? Your long text will still send, just with more segments. And here's the kicker—you pay by the segment. So send those texts, but remember that, in the words of William Shakespeare, "brevity is the soul of wit."

How many characters do you get per text? Well, it depends ....

  • Traditionally, 160 characters
  • If using emojis, 70 characters
  • And certain accented characters, non-standard spacing, smart quotes, and re-assembly headers are more complex to encode and can further reduce the number of available characters available per segment.
Hyperlinks

Including links in text messages can be a very effective means of Communication. And pointing people to a webpage (or video or form) can let you send a succinct message and provide a resource so the User can take action. Here are a few times if you're going to include a link in your text message ...

  • You'll need to include the entire link. That's right, you need to start the link with https:// for it to work.
  • Every single character in the link counts towards your character limit. Including a link = fewer words.
  • Pro tip: Paste your link into the New Message Tool first and check the character count at the bottom of the tool to see how creative you need to be when crafting your shorter message ;)
  • Test! Test! Test! Send your text message with the link to yourself and check the link that comes through the text message before you send the text message to a wider audience.