How to Write Short, Powerful Text Messages

Kevin D. Hendricks
How to Write Short, Powerful Text Messages

Text messaging is a short medium. So how do you keep your communication brief? We’ll explore how to do text message marketing that’s short and impactful, helping your nonprofit organization connect with donors and supporters.

SMS Text Messaging

Short message service (SMS) texting is an immediate but brief form of communication. In our busy world, that’s why it’s popular and effective. You can get instant notifications and real-time follow up right on the cell phone you carry everywhere you go.

  • Required: Messaging platforms limit each text message to 300 characters, which means you have to be brief.
  • Honor the medium: Part of the appeal of text messaging is that it’s not an interrupting voice call. While people do check their text messages quickly, it’s not nearly as disruptive as phone calls. So honor that by keeping it short.
  • Short conversations: Any mobile app conversation is short, whether it’s WhatsApp or iMessage. People get to the point in messaging apps, and that’s true for texting as well.
  • Delivery: Depending on your text messaging service, longer messages can be a problem. Sometimes it automatically breaks a longer text message into shorter ones, and then sometimes they can be delivered out of order. Rally has a workaround for that problem, but you can avoid it altogether by being brief.
  • CRM: You’ve worked hard to build your contact list, so protect those phone numbers by not flooding them with overly long messages.
Smart Brevity book cover and cell phone showing text message.

How to be Brief: 10 Tips to Shorten Your Text Messages

The founders of Axios have flipped the journalism world on its head by embracing brevity. They even wrote a (short) book about it, Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More With Less. We’ve gathered a few tips on how to write short text messages based on Smart Brevity and our own experience:

  1. Get to the point: Cut your message down to the very basics. Don’t ramble. Cut out anything that isn’t necessary.
  2. Use bulleted lists: A list can make your content easily scannable. Technically you can’t format lists in a text message, but you can go to a new line and use a dask or asterisk to indicate a new point. The goal is to make your message easy on the eyes.
  3. Call to action: Be direct and offer a clear call to action. What do you want people to do? Don't muddy the waters with multiple things. Be narrowly focused on a single purpose.
  4. Short sentences: Keep your sentences short. That makes for quick, punchy copy.
  5. Strong: Use strong verbs that indicate action. Drop the passive voice (that’s the classic “Mistakes were made” line that uses a weak verb and no responsibility). Avoid complicated and clunky verb constructions. Instead of ‘we are going to start now’ just say ‘start now.’
  6. Casual: There’s no need to be formal, flowery, or official. Too often people try to write fancy, using big words and complicated ways of saying something. Or they fall back on industry jargon. That kind of language falls flat in a text message. It’s a casual medium, it’s OK to let loose.
  7. 1,000 words: A picture is worth a thousand words, so include multimedia if you can. A photo, GIF, video, or even an emoji can help get your point across.
  8. Text speak: Since you are texting, it’s OK to use shortened text lingo, such as LOL, FTW, TBH, etc. Just be mindful of your audience. If your audience skews older, they might not get it. If your audience skews younger, be sure you’re using it properly and it doesn’t come across like you’re trying too hard.
  9. Practice: Social media has been good practice for writing short texts. Twitter used to limit posts to 140 characters, which forced you to cut a message to the barest essentials. Today text messages are limited to 300 characters, but even that’s a lot. Force yourself to work with a 140- or 200-character limit and edit until those texts are short. Can you cut it even shorter?
  10. Segmentation: Not everything has to be a bulk text. Make the most of your message by narrowing your audience. You can use two-way texting to answer questions and follow up. Save mass texting for the broad communication.

SMS Marketing for Nonprofits

With Rally, we’re here to help you get results:

  • Tools: We offer integrations with your preferred fundraising platform, CRM, donation form, and more. We also have pre-written text message templates for when you’re not sure what to say. Our functionality and workflows can boost donor engagement, encourage peer fundraising, increase recurring donations, and in general make your mobile fundraising more effective.
  • Support: We care about customer experience. We’ve got multiple options for help from FAQs to webinars. Plus, we’re happy to get on a phone call and talk through any issues. Read our case studies to see how nonprofits rave about our support and user-friendly system.
  • Not sure: If you’re still not sure, we’re happy to show you a demo, walk through strategy, and talk pricing options. We can also help you get your nonprofit leadership on board.

Get started: Check out a demo to learn more about Rally and start texting now.

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