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Persuasive Texting: Lessons from Dr. BJ Fogg

Contacting voters via text message is the next frontier of political communication. With manual texting, campaigns and non-profits can contact an increasingly mobile-only electorate.


Plus, these tools allow texting directly off the voter file.


But why is texting a good way to persuade voters to join your cause?


Dr. BJ Fogg runs the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, where since 1998 he has been studying how to change human behavior using technology.


He devised the Fogg Behavior Model, which shows that a behavior will occur if three elements are present:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Trigger

If someone is motivated to do something, if the task is not terribly difficult, and if a trigger reminds them to act, the behavior will occur.


Fogg says that “texting on mobile phones is an excellent channel for triggering behavior. The trigger message is short, easily done within the 160-character limit of texting.”


Additionally, people nearly always have their mobile phones on them. The average American checks his or her phone 46 times per day, virtually guaranteeing that they will see your trigger message.


“I’ve found that, to succeed with behavior change, you must leverage a channel people already know and use. You can’t add a new technology to their lives,” says Dr Fogg.


Fortunately, texting is an existing cultural behavior, especially among young people who are hard to reach through traditional communication channels.


One reason young people gravitate toward texting is that it is quick, efficient, practical. There is no need for small talk or wasted time, nor do both parties in the conversation need to be active at the same time.


The use of text message-based persuasion has taken root in the health industry, but has mainly been limited to reminder texts for attending appointments and taking medication.


Texting has many promising applications in the realm of politics, from campaign fundraising, to GOTV efforts, to rally organizing. It is a powerful, persuasive, and convenient trigger that can tap into a hard-to-reach segment of the electorate and get them to act.

Voter File Texting