Billions of dollars are spent on advocacy in Washington, state capitals and major cities across America every year. But how effective is all that effort? Phone2Action’s State of Advocacy 2019 report suggests an answer.
The report examined advocacy by hundreds of organizations using the Phone2Action platform to gain insight into how they acquire and mobilize advocates to communicate with government leaders. An interesting discrepancy emerged.
America’s top three policy priorities last year were terrorism, education and the economy, according to a Pew Research Center study. Yet the three issues that generated the most connections between advocates and government leaders were the environment, health and government policies, according to the State of Advocacy report.
The difference between the two lists suggests that advocacy work is making a difference. As the report concluded, “This discrepancy suggests that organizations do have a real impact on the issues that constituents choose to write about in their communications to lawmakers.”
‘Text messaging is king’
To find out which tactics were most effective to mobilize advocates, the Phone2Action team examined how companies, nonprofits and associations communicated with their audiences throughout 2018, and how those audiences communicated with government leaders. The results were revealing.
Fully 98 percent of the messages sent to government leaders were delivered via email, the report showed. This is not surprising. Advocacy organizations have used email as a workhorse for decades.
What is surprising was that email is not the most effective channel to mobilize advocates. Text messaging beat email in every metric that matters, and the difference was not subtle.
For example, the average open rate for advocacy-related email is about 15 percent, according to the report. The average open rate for text messaging campaigns is fully 99 percent.
The average conversion rate (the percentage of advocates who take action when asked) for email is about 1.8 percent, according to the report. The average conversion rate for text messaging was 6 percent when people were asked to contact their lawmaker and 8 percent when they were asked to sign a petition. One industry, commerce and finance, saw conversion rates north of 13 percent.
That means text messaging is at least three times more effective than email when it comes to mobilizing advocates, and sometimes far more so.
“We learned that text messaging is King,” Ximena Hartsock, co-founder and chief operating officer of Phone2Action, said in a recent webinar explaining the report. “Text messaging is the best way to mobilize people.”
‘Largely a weekday activity’
The State of Advocacy report went on to study when and how text messaging was used most effectively, and again the results may be surprising, even to advocacy veterans.
Text messages were most effective on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with the Thursdays being most effective. Nineteen percent of those who took action did so on a Thursday, the highest percentage. Mondays were the least effective weekday at 14 percent, and participation fell off sharply to single digits on weekends. Advocates also tended to take action during business hours, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., the report showed.
“Based on the data, it appears that advocacy is largely a weekday activity for both organizations and advocates,” the report said. “Advocates may be more open to taking action as part of a regular digital campaign during the work week, when many of them are already doing some form of work and are not in a leisurely state of mind, as they may be on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Interestingly, text messaging also appears to generate more immediate action that email. Fully two thirds (66 percent) of action taken after a text communique took place in the first hour after the blast, the report showed. And roughly half of that took place in the first seven minutes.
Fast action can yield many advantages to an advocacy shop. The most obvious is the ability to mobilize advocates for a rapid response. But there are also benefits to organizations that monitor their performance. As the report pointed out, “Organizations can estimate the total number of conversions they’ll get from a given text message blast after the first hour.”
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