Friday, November 29, 2013

Using SMS to Acquire Visitor Data

Recently we've been trying to figure out how to do a better job of acquiring visitor data.  The old "Friendship pads" are difficult to replenish and collect (we have a very large sanctuary) and it takes a long time to pass the pad down a pew and have everyone sign in - and most people don't bother.

At Christmas we have a number of special events where we have large numbers of visitors who will probably escape our existing visitor data collection efforts.  So we are implementing a SMS (text message) collection system in time for Christmas.

It works like this: using a vendor ( that we selected on the basis of price, we are using keywords on a shared short code.  An SMS short code is a 5- or 6-digit number that receives text messages.  The keywords we purchased are "FPCE" (for First Presbyterian Church of Englewood) and "FPCFAMILY" (for our Family Ministries).

A visitor texts "FPCE" to the designated short code and the exchange looks like this (a screen capture from my phone):

Sending the text produces an auto-response that welcomes the person and includes a link to a form on our Web site asking the person to enter their name, email, street address, etc.

The Web form looks like this on the left.

Using a commercial vendor ensures that we will comply with FTC/FCC requirements for controlling SMS spam.

Using SMS rather than relying solely on paper-based data collection will also allow us to collect data more easily at events that don't take place in our sanctuary.

A one-year subscription to TXT180 cost us $105 for up to 500 outbound text messages per month and includes one keyword.  We also paid $27/year for the second keyword.

We don't know how effective this will be, but for $132 it seemed like a good bet.
This fits with our continuing strategy of being "smartphone/tablet-friendly" in church.  We're putting up sermon notes as a YouVersion (Bible app) live event.  We provide Wi-Fi access in our worship spaces.  Devices are increasingly such an integrated part of our lives, we need to help people integrate them into their worship life.

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