Sen. Ted Cruz stumps for SMS role in election campaigning

Sen. Ted Cruz turned to SMS messaging to mobilize voters and raise money as he kicked off his 2016 run for president, reflecting politicians? growing awareness of the necessity of including a mobile program in campaigning today.

During a speech at Liberty University, Mr. Cruz, a junior United States senator from Texas with conservative views, called on viewers watching via a live ABC News stream and students in the audience to text the words ?constitution? or ?imagine? to the number 33733 if they believed in his campaign. The call to action, which took the user to Mr. Cruz? mobile-optimized campaign Web site, reflects how mobile?s role is significantly increasing in electoral politics, although it remains to be seen whether the demand is met by the 2016 presidential campaigns.

?It?s very clever and smart for Ted Cruz to combine multiple established technologies in his strategy and recognize that he needs to connect with his audience on mobile,? said Sean Gera, strategic analyst for marketing at CallFire. 

?Tactics like voice broadcast and robocalling have been the staple of most campaigns at this point. Integrating SMS has been a challenge to a lot of candidates but traditional outbound voice calls can only reach landlines now. 

?The idea of combining different strategies like keyword texting, mobile optimized-sites, traditional voice calls, and SMS messaging that work in sync together will allow candidates to reach new audiences,? he said. 

Texting ?Constitution?
Near the end of Mr. Cruz?s speech, supporters were urged to text the words ?constitution? or ?imagine? to the number 33733.

A response followed that thanked the user for opting in to get updates and added that more information would be available at tedcruz.org.

Mobile-optimized Cruz campaign Web site.

The text also informed the user of the option to text STOP to end or HELP for help.

Clicking on the link took the user to tedcruz.org, a mobile optimized site bannered by the title, TedCruz 2016. 

Clicking on three banners took the user either to a page where they could make a donation to the Cruz campaign, join the campaign team or stay abreast of Cruz campaign related news.

On the donation page, the user was given a selection of buttons in the amounts of $10, $25, $100, $1,000, $2,700, $5,400 and an ?other? amount.

Clicking on an amount button took the user to a page of boxes for name, address, phone number, employer and occupation information. 

Clicking on the Get Involved button took the user to a page where he or she could support the Cruz campaign by giving his or her name, address, email and Twitter handle. 

Clicking on the Cruz News page took the user to topical items such as Sen. Cruz naming South Carolina?s LaDonna Ryggs as a senior adviser.

Mr. Cruz?s call to action came at the climax of a speech that streamed live on ABC News and other news outlets, and emphasized Mr. Cruz?s religious Christian upbringing and views. 

Some candidates have understood the value of mobile quickly, while others have taken more time to implement technology that reaches their constituents on the go. 

During a non-election year, candidates are going back to the drawing board to look at all of the different tools available, Mr. Gera said. They have seen the success mobile marketing has had in the private sector and are following the trend to boost the success of their political campaigns. 

?It?s obvious that politicians are realizing this is a trend they can?t ignore and more and more campaign dollars are going towards figuring out the best ways to reach voters through their mobile devices,? Mr. Gera said.

Jon Stewart, the liberal host of the Daily Show that polls have shown is a major source of news for millennials, especially college students, panned Mr. Cruz?s call to action in his show.

?The thing is, he never explained what 33733 is,? Mr. Stewart told his audience. ?He just wanted them to text it. 

?So let me clarify this a little bit,? he said. ?Students at Liberty University were required to attend a partisan political speech where a small government conservative who had just promised he would respect privacy rights, told them if they cared about freedom, ?Text your information to a mysterious address that collects your cellphone number for undisclosed purposes.??

Replaying strategy
Mr. Cruz made a similar SMS outreach last year during a speech to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, in which he called on supporters to text the word GROWTH to 33733. 

Mobilizing the electorate via SMS.

?I believe we?re going to see a trend this year of political candidates using mobile marketing, and hopefully SMS marketing to kick-off their campaigns,? said Derek Johnson, chief text messaging officer for Tatango, the SMS platform used by Mr. Cruz.

?And Senator Cruz?s use of SMS marketing at his announcement speech is a great example of this.

?I think all political candidates have recognized the power of mobile, either through their own use, or by watching the use of others,? he said. ?This election is not going to be about which political candidates are using mobile marketing, but how each political candidate is using mobile marketing, and to what extent.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter for Mobile Marketer, New York.