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New Counseling Service Harnesses Text Messaging

How DoSomething.Org Harnesses Text Messaging to Support Troubled Youth


In 2011, a young woman named Stephanie Shih was working in New York City at, a nonprofit that helps young people start volunteer campaigns. Shih was responsible for sending out text messages to teen-agers across the country, alerting them to various altruistic opportunities and encouraging them to become involved in their local communities: running food drives, organizing support groups, getting their cafeterias to recycle more. Silly, prankish responses were not uncommon, but neither were messages of enthusiasm and thanks.

Then, in August, after six months on the job, Shih received a message that left her close to tears for the rest of the day. “He won’t stop raping me,” it said. “He told me not to tell anyone.” A few hours later, another message came: “R u there?” Shih wrote back, asking who was doing this. The next day, a response came in: “It’s my dad.” had no protocol for anything like this, so Shih texted back with the contact information for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the country’s largest anti-sexual-assault organization. But the texter indicated that she was too scared to make a phone call. “This is the right thing to do,” Shih insisted. There was no reply. “Not knowing if she was safe or had gotten help or would ever get help consumed my thoughts,” Shih told me last fall. She printed out the text messages and handed them to her boss, Nancy Lublin,’s C.E.O.

“I’ll never forget the day,” Lublin said. “It was like I’d been punched in the stomach.”

That week, Lublin and Shih started work on what two years later became Crisis Text Line, the first and only national, 24/7 crisis-intervention hotline to conduct its conversations (the majority of which are with teen-agers) exclusively by text message.


Text Message Hotline, One to One Texting, Crisis Management, Teen Crisis, Text Messaging for Operations


How it Works:

Individuals can contact  Crisis Text Line  by texting in to 741741. They receive a confirmation message and a link to the organization’s privacy policy and compliance information.  The incoming messages are seen by counselors at the Crisis Text Line in a computer system. They receive an average of 15,000 texts per day, and the system looks for messages containing words that might indicate possible danger, such as “suicide,” “kill,” and “hopeless.” The counselors on duty use the system to text back to the troubled young people. They continue the conversation by getting clarify through open-ended questions.


The Impacts: 

The Crisis Text Line provides a one-to-one style texting chat service to those in need who are too scared or uncomfortable to call. Teens are shockingly honest via text message, so this organization has opened doors for honest communication.

Beyond the one-to-one counseling, the organization has gathered the content of the messages and quantified the results to deliver a unique collection of mental-health data based on five million texts. Their data collection has given the world insights such as “depression peaks at 8 p.m., anxiety at 11 p.m., self-harm at 4 a.m., and substance abuse at 5 a.m.”

“The corpus of data has the volume, velocity, and variety to really draw meaningful conclusions,” says Nancy Lubin. She hopes that the data can eventually be useful to school districts and police departments.





This is an excerpt from the article R U There by Alice Gregory in The New Yorker. See the original article here. 



Use Case: SMS Chat for Customer Support

Ways companies are improving upon their customer support and direct communications with “customers”


Pain Point:

Innovation in the area of customer support. Customers are always on the go, but they don’t necessarily want to chat on the phone or wait on hold to have questions answered. So companies are going beyond the call center, email support, and social media engagement to improve customer support

Mobile Tool:

SMS Chat (a one-to-one messaging feature)

Use Case:

A university wants to accomplish 2 key goals: staying engaged with current students who are disperse across multiple campuses (both on and offline) and introduce prospective students to their programs. University email addresses are used for assignments and staying connected with professors, rather than university-wide announcements. And students are spending more time on their phones than in past years – particularly sending SMS (text messages) or using mobile apps.

To address the first goal of engaging current students, we’ve setup a 411 type of SMS campaign. Using signage throughout the campus, the campaign invites current students to text a keyword (such as “CAMPUS”) to a shared short code (such as 33898*) so they can ask questions and send feedback about the school. When a student texts in, a new SMS Chat session begins with a live person from the campus administration’s support team. This team is equipped to answer questions about the university and document and feedback from students.

Each phone number is used as a way to identify each student as a unique contact. All messages exchanged between the support staff and that student are saved, and can be referenced back to. While the support staff are replying to students from a computer, students have the look and feel of texting with a friend from their own mobile phone. The information can even be synced with the university’s customer database software.

SMS and Email, Integrated Marketing, text message marketing

The result of this upgrade is a more engaged student population. Students feel more empowered to provide feedback to the university and ask important questions about their finances or grades before it becomes a problem.

The second goal of reaching prospective students is an equally interesting prospect for leveraging SMS tools. Many high school students fill out applications online or meet recruiters at college fairs, but they often do not complete the application process or something is missing. Following up with these young people via email is not the most effective way to communicate.

So we will update the online forms to include a mobile phone field (along with SMS compliance content). The prospective student’s information is added to the customer database software, and the call center team can now follow-up with these teens in the fashion they prefer – text messages. Each call center team member can open an SMS Chat with individual prospective students to follow-up on their questions about the university, the application process, or any other burning questions.



*Note this is not a live campaign, so do not try to text in to see a sample.

SMS is Still Crucial to the Marketing Mix

With the recent boom in mobile apps, it’s easy to forget that the original one-to-one mobile platform, text messaging, continues to be an effective means of customer outreach.

According to an April 2015 Pew Research Center report, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 97% of these users used text messaging at least once during the one-week survey period. And according to a 2010 SinglePoint whitepaper titled “Conversational Advertising,” 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of them being delivered.


Text Messaging Drives Conversion

While in-app push notifications and beacons have enjoyed better buzz recently as the latest technologies to target customers, text messaging remains the unsung channel of choice for engaging existing consumers and attracting new ones.

Kiehl’s found that 73% of customers who elected to receive its mobile marketing messages bought something at one of its stores, according to its marketing partner, and 81% of those surveyed following a pilot program reported that they recalled receiving the mobile offers.

Cosmetics retailer Julep, generated a 34.2% click-through rate and 17.4% conversion on an SMS campaign. And an Ace Hardware franchise offering mobile coupons reported that 49% of consumers redeemed the initial coupon at purchase and spent an average of $72 each.

Not every message needs to be a sales pitch or offer, though. Text messages are effective at conveying big news, event reminders, and seasonal messaging. Like e-mail, text messaging is also useful for customer service, order confirmations, and shipping reminders.

“We have found that the key to our customers SMS success is to deliver timely, valuable and possibly exclusive content to consumers,” Dan Slavin, CEO of CodeBroker, told hyperlocal marketing site Street Fight. “Our customer’s SMS marketing lists continue to experience steady growth.”


sms-marketing-in-restaurant, sms marketing, restaurants, text messages, best practices, texting to buy

Mobile Opt-in is Essential

As with mobile apps, retailers need to get consumers’ opt-in to receive text messages. The recipient must take action, and sometimes must perform a “double opt-in” if the retailer plans to send multiple messages.

“The fastest way to see your database dwindle and to put yourself at risk for legal action is to pull a bait-and-switch with your audience and have them opt in to receive one type of message and then start sending messages unrelated to what they opted in for,” according to one SMS guide.

But SMS is hard to beat for cost and coverage. “It’s really attractive in the marketing mix because it’s very efficient from the cost side,” Dan Swartz, Upshot’s senior vice president of digital marketing, media and analytics said in a CONNECT Mobile Summit panel. “But also, it’s efficient because it’s very effective. We see really high read rates.”


True Dialog SMS, SMS Contact Opt-In, SMS Platform Plugin, Grow SMS Database

SMS is Still Crucial to the Marketing Mix: Originally published in Marketing Dive by By Ian P. Murphy. See the full article

7 Best Practices for SMS Marketing in Restaurants

From the National Restaurant Association:


SMS marketing – a short-form version of text messaging – is a powerful marketing tool. But even with open rates approaching 100 percent, and offer-redemption rates of 10 percent to 30 percent, the content of your messages is ultimately what drives customers to come back to your restaurant.


Here are some guidelines to improve SMS Marketing in Restaurants:

1. Watch message frequency and mix. Sending one to two messages a month is the most effective way to stay fresh in your customers’ minds. Boost your effectiveness by alternating incentive blasts (i.e., offers redeemable for discounts) with notification blasts. Incentive blasts bring your guests back into the restaurant. Notification blasts help you build your relationship with guests.Some of the most effective notification blasts:

  • Live music schedules for upcoming weekend
  • Reminder of upcoming events
  • Holiday greetings
  • Interesting content on your website or social media

sms-marketing-in-restaurant, sms marketing, restaurants, text messages, best practices

2. Spice up the verbiage. Make the text blast engaging and fun to read. This keeps customers excited about receiving offers from you. Stay consistently creative with the wording and you’ll capture their attention and increase open rates and redemptions.

3. Keep messages succinct. Keep text blasts simple and fun to get your point across. SMS marketing limits you to 160 characters (including compliance language). Use as many as you can, and avoid allowing your ideas to flow into a second message. Succinct messages improve the chances your customers will read and respond.


4. Mix up your offers. You can be spontaneous with the offers you send or cycle through a list of incentives that work well for your restaurant. Having several offers ready to go is handy and can make planning ahead easier. One advantage of SMS marketing is the speed with which offers can be changed and delivered. You can use these messages to get rid of excess food supplies or make room for an upcoming food order, for example. If your food provider runs a special on an item, focus your next blast on that item to take full advantage of the special pricing.

5. Keep incentives exclusive to mobile VIP members. When a customer opts in to your Mobile VIP Club, it’s because they like your restaurant and want to receive future offers. These are your most loyal customers. Providing them with exclusive offers will show them that you are grateful. These loyal customers can also help drive more people to your database by generating word-of-mouth buzz about your restaurant.

 6. Incorporate Facebook and your website into the SMS Marketing Campaigns. Pushing customers to your social media pages and website helps you build ongoing relationships and grow your social-media footprint. This will help you reach the maximum number of customers with your promotions and offers, greatly increasing your ROI.

7. Incorporate website links in a SMS Campaign. If you have too much information to fit into a text’s 160-character limit, then link to a website with details. Integrating links not only helps you bring customers to your restaurant in the short run, but helps you track where customers are coming from (if you use tracking links such as


This article was originally posted on



New Feature: Contact Opt-In Form

One of the popular ways for clients to grow a SMS database is with an online form. This adds an extra step to your development work and could possibly slow down the launch of your SMS marketing program. Now you don’t have to build your own contact opt-in form, because 3Seventy has done it for you.

Customized Plugin for Gathering SMS Opt-Ins

We’ve built a simple plugin that allows you to generate a code for a Contact Form on your website.

True Dialog SMS, SMS Contact Opt-In, SMS Platform Plugin, Grow SMS Database


When you log into your 3Seventy account, you’ll see a new feature in the left navigation called “Contact Optin Plugin”. When you click on that feature it’ll bring you to the screen seen above. This is a 3-Step Process to get it live.

1. Fill in the form with the short code and subscription (which are likely to be pre-set anyway). Then you can either upload your Terms and Conditions or link to the existing Terms on your website*. And click the Submit and Generate Code Button.

     *Make sure your T&Cs include details about your SMS marketing program for compliance

2. The code for your plugin will be generated in the box on the left. Copy it to your clipboard and email it to your website administrator.

3. Your website administrator will add it to your website, and you are LIVE. Ready to go!


As customers visit your website and enter their phone number into the form, they will be added to your SMS marketing database so that you can message them in the future.


Ways to Grow Your SMS Database

  • Use a keyword on your SMS marketing campaign and promote it in other mediums (print, radio, digital, etc).
  • Online form (like the contact opt-in form above)
  • Over the phone with a call center
  • In-person at an event

No matter how you grow your database, always make sure that you are including mobile compliance best practices.

We Want Your Feedback

This is a brand new feature, and we are all very excited about it. There are always ways for us to improve upon new features, so if you’re using it and want to provide some helpful feedback on ways to make it work better then please email us.



Mobile Innovation is Fast. Are You Ready?

Mobile innovation is moving at incredible speeds

It’s pushing technologists to work double time to satisfy the needs of the public.


The Bad News: There aren’t enough developers out there to tackle and test out every wild idea that bubbles to the surface

The Good News: The community has become more tech-savvy and it’s an exciting space to be in.

Text message infographic, sms infographic, benefits of text marketing, mobile innovation
Click to view the full infographic


What You Need to Know About SMS


1. Mobile is Permission-Based. This means that you cannot spam random phone numbers with promotional text messages – even if you think the person would be interested. Your audience must choose to opt-in to receive SMS (text messages) from you. This can be done a few different ways:

Texting a Keyword to a Short Code,

Entering a phone number and agreeing to terms on a website form,

Verbally signing-up over the phone with a support/staff member, or

In-person printed form.

In all cases, the user will receive a confirmation text message that reads something along the lines of “You’ve just opted in… reply YES to confirm.”


2. Highly Personal. You are sending a message to someone’s personal phone. This is the device that he or she has at hand for most of the day, which is great – but it can also be intrusive if you don’t deliver the right kind of content. Be thoughtful and selective about the messages you send to your contacts. Just as you have learned to segment your email campaigns, the same concept should be applied to SMS.


3. Opting-Out. At any time, your contacts may text the word STOP to opt out of receiving text messages from you. This is a built-in compliance mechanism that protects consumers. Once someone has chosen to opt-out, he or she will receive a message confirming that opt-out. To opt back in, he will have to go through the same process as previous (texting in, or web form, etc). By delivering quality content at a consistent frequency (not too often), you will prevent opt-outs.


4. Integration. Since reporting and customer relationship management are such high priorities, one of the best ways to track what’s happening with your contacts is by integrating the mobile messaging portal with your existing systems. When you connect the messaging portal with your CRM system, then you can create a complete view of each customer as well as view reporting in either platform. 3Seventy has a pretty robust API that allows our clients to make this easy to setup.


Mobile innovations continue to grow, but can only keep up as fast as the people are requesting.


Three Ways Your Restaurant Should Use SMS

Restaurants Are an Unpredictable Business

The hurdles you must jump to achieve success are broad and overwhelming at times. From the local restaurant competition to reputation, customer service to food quality, and even the weather. Getting customers through the door of your restaurant is one of the challenges you face – not to mention return customers and developing loyalty.  So how can you compete when your budget is planned around just running the business, and not marketing it? One of the most affordable choices you have is SMS (text message marketing).


3 Keys to Success for Restaurants to Use SMS

On a regular basis, a restaurant owner is likely to be thinking about at least one of these business issues: increasing revenue, reducing costs and improving the company operations and culture. SMS (text messages) can be used to support these restaurant business issues.


1.Loyalty and Promotions

The first step is gaining SMS subscribers through texting in or a web form*. In-store promotions are often the most effective means of driving customers to opt-in and join your SMS Loyalty program.

Print posters, window stickers, table tents – or whatever else you usually have out in the restaurant to communicate with customers – and include a short code (shortened phone number) and keyword with a tempting incentive. A&W Restaurants chose to offer a Free Burger, with some clever stipulations attached to prevent abuse or fraud.

Once a customer has join your SMS loyalty or rewards program, you can do several things to drive further revenue. Ask some questions about food preferences. Send limited time special offers, holiday discounts, and promote your existing offers like happy hour. Announce events, such as live music or special football game watching parties.

>Keep in mind the frequency of messages – sending too many can cause customers to opt-out and possibly be turned off by the over-communication.

>Ask questions that you can use to send targeted text messages later. For example, ask about the kinds of updates the customer wants to receive – special offers, events, new menu items, or all of it.

A&W Restaurants, Text Marketing, Text Message Coupons, Text CRM, Case Study

2. Feedback

The old method of collecting feedback on a printed card or receipt has been replaced with a website link, but that is not always so simple. What happens when the customer loses the receipt or just forgets to complete the survey?

SMS addresses the immediacy issue. Being able to text in and reply to a few questions within a few minutes (often while still in the restaurant) will increase your response rates. You can ask the questions completely through texting or send the customer to a mobile website with the feedback survey. And if you are asking the right questions, then you may be able to reduce costs on broken procedures or unpopular menu items.


3. Internal Operations

When it isn’t food or atmosphere being improved, the restaurant staff and their procedures are the next most important to be worked on. Improving restaurant operations and communications allows business owners to reduce costs and improve the culture of the business. This ranges from hiring employees to managing deliveries, internal communications to optimizing menu mix, and improving the overall dining experience.

“Employees use messaging to broadcast alerts, such as when a toxic spill occurs on the worksite or information technology systems are down. Employees text to schedule last-minute meetings or announce date and time changes of events. Employees working off site can give a supervisor or co-worker instant updates on a remote project. And an employee can send a critical message to a supervisor who’s tied up in a meeting without disruption.” (Houston Chronicle)


When restaurants use SMS in the right context, they create a more attractive situation for customers to participate. Customers can derive more value from the instant and accessible channel of SMS, which will often drive them to return to a restaurant.

How is your restaurant using SMS text messaging to grow and retain customers? What mobile marketing strategies have worked best for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


*Be aware of SMS compliance rules about opt-ins


Why Being CTIA Compliant Is A Must – The Papa Johns Example

In a world dominated by mobile strategy, few things are as sacred as CTIA compliance on your text message campaigns. The compliance laws are often updated and if your text marketing provider isn’t keeping up your company can end up with heavy fines.

CTIA Compliance Strategy Disaster

The mobile marketing world made national headlines on November 13th when a US District Court Judge certified a nation wide class action suit against the Papa Johns pizza chain for SMS spam marketing. The lawsuit alleges that Papa Johns used its existing customer database (numbers that were kept on file for pizza delivery) to send over 500,000 spam text messages. The law firm representing the plaintiffs is asking for $500 per message which tallies up to $250 million dollars.

How did this marketing campaign lead to such a disastrous end? The short answer is that their mobile marketing partner wasn’t CTIA compliant and broke the following cardinal rules of SMS marketing.


Users must opt in to your program for you to legally send them SMS messages.

You cannot buy a number list from another company. You also cannot convert a customer database that was generated for other purposes into your SMS marketing. This was the case for Papa Johns. Just because you have access to customers numbers doesn’t mean that you can legally use them.


Users must be given the chance to stop receiving messages at any time.

A CTIA compliant SMS message will always give you the option to reply STOP to end all messages. Anything less is an invasion of your mobile phone and privacy. In the case of Papa Johns the customer never opted in to a program and had no option to opt out of receiving these offers.


Keep message frequency to a minimum and never text between the hours of 8pm and 8am.

The frequency in which you can text your opted in customers varies by the short code. For something as simple as sending marketing ads to customers best practices are about 1 to 3 messages per month. Its also illegal to send SMS marketing messages between the hours of 8pm and 8am in most states. In the case of Papa Johns their customers were receiving multiple messages per day, sometimes even several in the middle of the night.

SMS is still the best and most cost effective way to interact with your customers to build revenue and customer loyalty. Just make sure your SMS provider is CTIA compliant or your company could end up with a huge lawsuit or heavy fines.

Four Ways to Build Your Mobile Database

Mobile marketing is an important part of any communication strategy, yet many marketers are faced with the dilemma of how to build a mobile database.
There are many ways to build your mobile database, which is likely to become the most valuable piece of customer data marketing and operations teams will possess. Studies show approximately 234 million Americans own a mobile phone, and 91% of those claim to have their phones with them 24/7, which gives companies a unique opportunity to literally be in the hands of their customers at all times.

Build Your Mobile Database

Companies can build their mobile database through a number of channels and tactics. However, these four methods are most effective because they offer customers value, a key reason to opt-in to a mobile campaign.

1. Add your short code and keywords to all print materials and website. Short codes are 5 to 6 digit numbers, such as 70626, that a customer texts to opt-in to your mobile marketing program. Marketers select a keyword, such as PIZZA or REDSKINS, to opt-into a specific offer. In order to create an effective mobile campaign, marketers should choose campaign relevant keywords that are memorable for the consumers.

2. Offer an incentive to opt-in to your mobile campaign. Mobile numbers are the most valuable piece of customer data today, largely because of the intimate nature of a mobile phone. Most consumers always have their phones with them, and many carry the same mobile number for years, regardless of their geographic location. Offering a free sample,loyalty club signup, or other mobile exclusive offers adds value for the consumers and will drive your mobile database numbers higher.

3. Share promotion on social channels. The line between social and mobile are blurring, and one of the fastest way to drive customers to a mobile campaign is to make it available through social channels. Another way to add value through social channels is to offer exclusive rewards for social sharing of the campaign.

4. Follow Mobile Marketing Best Practices. By following mobile best practices, companies gain trust and build loyalty with their customers. A complete list of mobile best practices and compliance can be found through the Mobile Marketing Association and CTIA Wireless. In addition, executing a mobile campaign with a trustworthy mobile agency will ensure every campaign adheres to these standards.

These are just a few of the many ways to build a quality mobile database. Maintaining the database and building value over time are of equal importance in a long term mobile strategy, but it all must start with a solid mobile database. By doing this, mobile is likely to become the most valuable channel within your communication strategy.

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