The People Power Texting Team uses an online tool called ThruText to send individualized, “peer-to-peer” text messages about events, actions, voting information, and more! Recipients receive the messages like any other text, but you’ll use the ThruText website to send messages to hundreds of people in just a few minutes.
But this isn’t just about sending lots of text messages. The Texting Team is about having real, person-to-person conversations that help people take action in their communities, fight for civil rights and liberties, and vote on important issues. Texting is easy to learn and really fun once you get going! This guide will walk you through everything you need to know.
We use two tools to power our team:
ThruText: The texting website (where the texting happens). ThruText is only available as a website; there is no app.
Slack: A way of communicating with staff and other volunteers in real time, including requesting and receiving texting assignments, asking questions or asking for help, and providing feedback. Slack is available as a website, a mobile app, and a desktop app. New to Slack? Check out their Getting Started Guide.
To get started texting please complete the following:
- Read our Texting Guide (this document!)
- Watch the ThruText Training Video.
- Create a People Power Slack account to receive important updates and assignments. When you create your account, please make your Slack display name your first and last name.
- Fill out this form and click the link to join ThruText. When you create your ThruText account, make sure you’re using the same name that you used for Slack.
- Announcements are made in the Slack #texting channel when texts are available. When an announcement is made, post in the channel that you are ready for an assignment!
Step 1: Getting a Texting Assignment
Check 👉LOOK HERE 👈 at the top of the texting channel in Slack for information on our daily texting schedule. When assignments are ready, we will post another announcement in Slack that we need texters. Do not post your availability until we specifically ask for texters.
Post in the Slack #texting channel to request an assignment after the announcement! Assignments are given out in a manual process handled by staff and volunteer moderators.
When you make a request, a 👍 below your request will indicate the moderator has seen your request and is working on it. A ✔ below your name means the assignment has been given and it is ready for you.
When requesting an assignment, you commit to:
- Sending all your texts, ideally right away, or at the latest within two hours of being assigned
- Checking replies several times over the next 48 hours to handle new responses.
- We understand that life happens and you may not be able to fulfill these obligations; that’s ok. Please post on the Slack #texting channel that you need someone to take over your texts, and a moderator will reassign them.
Pro Tip: To be notified of all new assignments, in the Slack Preferences menu, set your notification preferences to “Direct messages, mentions & keywords” and in the “My keywords” section, add “@here” and “@channel”
Step 2: Starting a Texting Assignment
When you’ve received an assignment, open ThruText, click on the assignment and review the initial message to make sure there are no typos or missing information and all of the recommended replies and survey options to: review the initial message. ThruText will auto-fill certain portions in each message such as your name and the contact’s name. If everything looks good, click the “Send” button. Continue clicking “Send” until you’ve gone through your list of recipients; it takes just a few minutes to send hundreds of messages.
Step 3: Managing Replies
As you start your journey on the texting team, it is important to note that unpleasant conversations are a normal part of the democracy we enjoy. Add this to the freedom of staying anonymous behind a screen, and what starts as an opportunity for education or volunteer engagement easily becomes a completely different interaction. We want to set proper expectations while also providing support for our volunteers to navigate conversations that may go awry. While we typically send texts to our list of People Power subscribers (people who have signed up for communication from us), we do often send texts to public voter file lists. These lists are a bit more unpredictable as the folks on them have not signed up for communication and tend to be more aggressive.Our texting team leaders are always available to help answer questions on how to handle aggressive situations, and can and will intervene whenever necessary. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you experience an interaction like this, we will quickly remove them from our list or take over the conversation and escalate the situation accordingly.
Once you’ve sent all of your initial messages, you can begin managing the replies you’ve received. Note: you must send out all of your initial messages before you can view your replies. Managing your replies has four components:
Marking Survey Responses
Every campaign will have one or more “Survey” questions, which show up in a tab on the right-hand side of your ThruText screen. The Survey Questions are the data we want you to collect based on the conversation. For example, if we are inviting someone to an event, the first Survey Question might be “Can they attend?” If someone says yes, simply mark them down as a Yes for that question.
Some campaigns have more than one survey question. Make sure you review the questions in advance so you know all the information we want to gather from the conversation.
Note: It is important to click back onto the Survey tab for every conversation to mark data.
Once you’ve recorded the survey response(s), you need to send a reply back. Use the Replies tab in ThruText to guide your conversation. If you click on the title of the reply, it will pop open to show you the reply. Click the plus button to use that reply. Feel free to tweak the responses as needed to tailor them for individual conversations, and then hit Send.
Important Note: The ACLU is nonpartisan. We do not endorse specific candidates. If a voter asks about who to vote for, or makes a comment about a specific candidate or party, please use the reply “Who should I vote for” or make your own reply along the lines of “The ACLU is a non-partisan organization, and we don’t take positions on candidates. Our priority is making sure you have all the information you need about civil liberty issues and voting to become an informed voter”. Please do not respond to partisan comments any other way.
Some campaigns may have the self-assign feature turned on, which will allow you, the message sender, to add additional conversations to your assignment.
If this feature has been turned on by your texting admin, you will see a pink button in the lower left-hand corner of the screen that says ‘Request Conversations.’
Note: It will not appear if this feature has not been activated on your assignment.
Clicking the “Request Conversations” button will assign you up to 300 additional conversations, if there are any left available to be sent on that campaign.
You must have sent all initial scripts and tended to all replies before requesting more conversations.
You will see an error message pop up if there are no messages left available or if you still have current conversations requiring action.
Handling Opt Outs and Wrong Numbers
Occasionally one of your texting contacts will want to be removed from our texting list. Some of these requests will come in the form of a reply just saying “STOP” or “UNSUBSCRIBE.” No matter the reason, we are obligated to follow through with their request. Whenever someone wants us to stop texting, you should click on the “Opt Out” button in the top of the screen. Not honoring opt-out requests not only shines a negative light on our efforts, but it also creates a legal liability for the team.
Please note that once you click this button, you won’t be able to send any further messages to that person. So if they say, “I don’t want to be texted anymore but send the the signup link,” you should send them the link first and then opt them out immediately after sending the link.
Note: You wouldn’t opt out the person above, just using this screenshot to demonstrate where the Opt Out button is.
When someone responds that you have the wrong number, please send the “Wrong Number (Opt Out)” reply and then opt them out. After clicking Opt Out, please uncheck the box that says “Send Opt Out Message”, so that the Wrong Number (Opt Out) message is the last one they receive. If a campaign has its own wrong number response, please use that.
Asking Questions on the Slack #texting Channel
Whenever you are unsure of how to respond to a particular text, mark a survey, or otherwise handle a situation, please ask questions on the Slack #texting channel. Please refer to the assignment name when asking a question because people may be asking questions about several different campaigns on any given day. A ⭐ below your name indicates a lead has seen your question and is working on an answer.
For privacy and security reasons, please use only the first name of a textee when posting a question or screenshot.
(Optional): Phone/Tablet View
If you’re using ThruText on your phone or tablet, ThruText will look a little bit different. To access everything that’s in the right-hand panel, tap on “Tools” in the top right of the page to be brought to the tab selection.
What if I don’t have a texting plan for my phone?
That’s no problem! Since we use a website to send our texts, your own cell phone doesn’t get charged for anything, and no one will ever see your phone number. ThruText asks for your phone number when you sign up so you can call your texting contacts if you get into a conversation that you would like to continue via a voice call (and this happens only if you choose to initiate a call).
Can I use ThruText and Slack on my smartphone? Is there an app?
As long as your phone can connect to the internet (either over data or wi-fi) then yes, you can use ThruText and Slack on your phone!
- For ThruText: you can log in as you normally would by going to https://peoplepower.thrutext.io in your phone’s browser. There isn’t an app; you’ll just use the browser. To make it easier to get back to ThruText, you can bookmark that page on your phone.
- For Slack: you can go to https://peoplepowered.slack.com in your phone’s browser, or you can download the Slack mobile app and use it instead.
When can I text?
We only send text messages between the local time of 9am to 9pm. ThruText will not let you text outside of these hours. Some campaigns may be to people all over the country, in which case we will be texting from 12pm to 9pm ET. Please be sure to come back several times during texting hours over the initial 48 hours to answer responses.
How will I know I have an assignment?
Once you have posted your availability on the texting channel, following a call for texters, a 👍 below your name will indicate that the lead has seen your request and is working on it. A ✔ below your name means the assignment has been made. Log into https://peoplepower.thrutext.io and begin your assignment.
What if I need more help answering a specific reply?
If the answer isn’t in your assignment’s FAQ, post your question in the #texting channel on Slack for real-time communication with staff and other volunteers.
When asking questions, please include the complete title and date of the campaign, along with the voter’s first name only as well as your question (a screenshot is optional).
How do I remove someone from our texting list?
Click “Opt Out” near the top right corner while on that person’s message. A reminder that we only opt people out if they have specifically and explicitly asked not to be texted again OR if it is a wrong number. When it is a wrong number, send the wrong number response AND then opt out, without the opt out message.
What if someone just replies STOP or UNSUBSCRIBE?
Click “Opt Out” near the top right corner while on that person’s message.
What if someone complains about getting too many texts?
Apologize and ask if they want to be removed from the texting list.
A message went to a wrong number, what now?
Send the “Wrong Number” recommended reply AND then opt them out. The wrong number reply has an opt out message in it, so opt them out without the message.
Where did we get their number?
If you are texting about an event, asking folks to call their elected officials, or asking them to take action, we got their number when they signed up on our website. If you are texting voters to talk about electoral races the ACLU is engaged in, we most likely got their information from the state voter file – the publicly accessible list of registered voters in the state that campaigns use to do outreach.
What should I do if a text contact tries to call me through ThruText?
Often, when a text calls you, it’s a butt dial. If they don’t leave a substantive message, you can send the “Someone Calls You” Reply . However, if you’re comfortable calling them back, then you definitely can! Click the callback button within your ThruText conversation. This will connect the two of you on a phone call without revealing your phone number to the contact. ThruText will automatically call you on its own phone number, then it will call the contact from the same number, and finally it will join the two calls together.
How can I close out a conversation that’s finished?
Click the “Archive” button near the top right corner while in that conversation to hide it from your ThruText screen, but only AFTER you’ve marked the applicable survey questions and responded. Don’t worry – if the person replies again, it’ll pop right back up like any other reply!
Note: Do not click “Archive” just to temporarily hide a conversation from your screen – you won’t be able to access that conversation again until the contact replies (which they might not if they were asking a question).
What if I’m asked a question about an event that I don’t know the answer to?
First, ask the question in the texting channel. If your question cannot be answered, there is a Global recommended reply called “Event Question – Ask the Host”. Please send that reply and add in the Event Page URL that can be found in the Yes or Maybe replies.
What if I have a technical problem with ThruText, or a suggestion for how ThruText works?
Please post in the #texting channel on our Slack! Our team knows lots of tricks and tips for how to work ThruText, and if they can’t fix the issue, they’ll contact ThruText support to address your problem.