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Texting Across Generations: Reaching Voters of All Ages

Get to the heart of what your voters care about with these strategies for generational targeting in political campaigns

Illustration of four voters from four generations (Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, Gen Z)
June 20, 2024
Kathleen Crampton
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Reading time about 13 min

For political campaigns, reaching a wide variety of voters with different interests, concerns, life experiences, and perspectives is no small feat. Even with robust data, knowing how to speak to voters can still feel like a shot in the dark. But one thing you can control is how you text voters across generations.

Now, each generation comprises unique individuals, but there are some general markers of generations that campaigns should be aware of when texting voters in those groups. And we’re here to show you how.

 

The Power of the Text: Benefits of SMS Messaging for Your Campaign

There’s no doubt that SMS messaging is one of the best ways to reach your audience. We don’t need to wax poetic about the sky-high open rates of text messages, but we will delve into the other reasons why texting your voters is a crucial component of your campaign.

 

Texting Is Convenient

When you want messaging that is immediate, accessible, and convenient, texting fits the bill. Your constituents are busy and often don’t have time to sit down and consume much content throughout the day. You can reach them in their day-to-day lives with political texts that drive home your message in a concise, digestible format.

In a matter of seconds, voters can open, read, and engage with texts. For your audience, convenience is paramount because they want the freedom to engage on the go.

 

Texting Is Engaging

When you text voters, you’re motivating them to take action. While email and social media marketing are equally engaging, the key difference with SMS is that your contacts can engage quickly. Text messages typically have clear calls to action (CTAs) that prompt individuals to take a preferred action, and that paired with less content than, say, emails, means that your audience can understand the message and interact with it almost instantly.

Plus, with highly engaging formats, like two-way texting, surveys, and more, text messages can reach your audience the way they prefer while gathering more data to inform your next political SMS campaign.

 

Texting Can Increase Voter Turnout

With SMS messaging, your campaign can send the right messages at the right time. You can reach people when they need it most by scheduling different messages throughout the election cycle — like persuasion and donation-based texts, then get-out-the-vote (GOTV) messages.

Additionally, with the right customer segmentation strategies, your campaign can personalize messages, nurture relationships, and get to the heart of the issues your voters care about.

All of this can help to increase voter turnout.

Targeting Tactics: Tailoring Your Message to Each Generation

Despite the proven benefits of political texting for campaigns, there’s one question that many are trying to answer: How can campaigns effectively target different generations with text messages?

Campaigns can effectively target different generations with text messages by segmenting contacts and tailoring communication based on each segment’s preferences. In other words, know your audience and speak to them accordingly. One way to do that is by implementing generational targeting in political campaigns.

Generational targeting in political campaigns involves segmenting your contacts by location, preferences, voting history, and age. This strategy allows your campaign to reach each voter effectively by tailoring messages to their generation’s perspectives, values, and messaging preferences. But the key here is to not generalize, as every person — no matter their generation — is unique. Use generational targeting as a starting point, then dive deeper with microtargeted groups to reach the individual (asking questions like what drives them and which issues resonate with them?).

Here, we break down the generational differences in political communication and how to text voters of different ages.

 

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964) require clarity, conciseness, and a focus on issues that directly pertain to their stage in life (think healthcare and social security). As loyalists, they have probably supported certain parties or candidates for years, likely making them less willing to change their minds than other generations.

Sample Text Message

What this means, in terms of SMS voter engagement strategies for Boomers, is that your campaign needs to (1) talk to them about specific issues that they care about right now and (2) tell them precisely how their future health, security, and finances will be benefited by certain policies.

Practical Tips:

  • For Baby Boomers, clearly illustrate a problem/solution or quickly drive them to relevant content. Don’t make this generation search for information about your campaign or sift through unnecessary words to get to the crux of your message. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible.
  • Additionally, practicality is key with Baby Boomers and text messaging. Avoid embellishing your messages with too much personality or emojis.

Gen X

Gen Xers (born 1965–1980) are often defined as independent and resourceful, generally preferring no-nonsense communication approaches that include all the facts and data they need to feel confident in their voting decisions.

Sample Text Message

Regarding Gen X and mobile communication, some people straddle both the generation before and after them, appreciating traditional forms of messaging while still being tech savvy. This has caused many to feel that their needs and voices have been overlooked. It’s crucial for campaigns to take heed of this generation’s tendencies and unique blend of preferences to increase turnout.

Practical Tips:

  • Similar to Baby Boomers, avoid embellishing your message. Gen X individuals want communication that doesn’t feel forced or fake. Stick to the bones of your message and tell Gen Xers exactly what you want and need from them.
  • Text voters in the Gen X generation as if you’re arming them with information to make their own decisions. Don’t plead — just give them the details and explain the next steps.

Millennials

Millennials (born 1981–1996) have grown up in an era of quickly evolving technology that has changed everyday life. This generation is marked by the unique experience of having grown up with digital tools but still remembers the days of no internet or smartphones.

Sample Text Message

Millennials value positive experiences and convenience over loyalty, crave authenticity, and want to discuss real issues that affect their future (housing costs, healthcare, and student loans).

Practical Tips:

  • Reach Millennials with relevant, authentic content — perhaps even real stories of people in their community — showing how they can impact or how their futures will be affected.
  • Lean into digital tools with this generation, incorporating SMS features to boost engagement.

Gen Z

Gen Zers (born 1997–2012) are digital natives who have only ever known a mobile-first world. With this generation, humor, personalized content, and creativity win the day. Similar to Millennials and their political engagement, Gen Z individuals value authenticity and transparency, meaning that campaigns need to walk the talk, so to speak.

Sample Text Message

Practical Tips:

  • To reach the youngest voting generation, it’s important to make it easy for Gen Z to get information. Text voters with content that’s short and sweet and link to social channels or incorporate RCS messaging for a feature-rich messaging experience with your campaign.
  • Strike the right balance between entertainment and education in your text messages. Even though they consume quite a bit of digital and social content, Gen Zers don’t want to be considered unconcerned about politics.

Counteracting Apathy: How to Rekindle the Voter Spark with SMS

Though segmenting your SMS contacts into groups by generation, location, voting history, and more will help you reach your audience, you need to know what to do if some of your contacts have a history of low voter turnout or seem disinterested in the political process. Reaching their generational needs and ensuring that they turn out to vote go hand in hand.

If you’re wondering, “Can texting increase voter turnout, especially among low-propensity voters?” the answer is yes. Texting can increase voter turnout, especially among low-propensity voters, through personalization, relevant information, educational content, and reminders.

 

Make It Personal

Mobile outreach for low-propensity voters should start with personalization in political text messages. This is where generational targeting comes into play, as each generation’s perspectives, concerns, and values should be top of mind when sending SMS messages.

Shine a light on issues these low-propensity voters might care about, and if engagement is low, it’s as easy as asking for feedback on what they do care about. Your campaign should also leverage voter data files for information on past voting behaviors to truly tailor messages.

 

Share Relevant Information

Many low-propensity voters aren’t necessarily apathetic, they’re simply overwhelmed by the details: polling places (how to get there and hours of operation), whether or not they can get time off of work to vote, state voter ID laws, early voting options, and more.

Campaigns can provide relevant information to these voters based on their location, meaning the messages they receive will cater to their needs.

 

Educate

Another crucial way to drive turnout with mobile outreach for low-propensity voters is to educate them on the political process, explain why their vote matters, focus on the top issues and dispel fears and rumors. Text these elusive voters with educational content that can clear up questions and help them realize that voting is the vehicle for their voices to be heard.

 

Send Reminders

Finally, text voters with a low likelihood of voting for GOTV messages throughout the campaign cycle. These include voter registration reminders, early voting options, and Election Day reminders. This “nudge effect” uses timely messages to help nudge your contacts toward voting.

Putting Theory into Practice: Essential SMS Voter Engagement Strategies

Now that we’ve touched on generational targeting in political campaigns and how to combat voter apathy with SMS engagement, let’s review the basics of any text message voting campaign.

So, what are some effective SMS voter engagement strategies? Some effective SMS voter engagement strategies include personalization, conversational texting, providing helpful information, concision and clarity, and including a CTA:

  • Personalization: Address voters by name and ensure content is tailored to their interests and concerns.
  • Conversational texting: Many Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z voters want to have a dialogue and provide feedback. Leverage the power of conversational AI and SMS to have a meaningful back-and-forth with your constituents. Learn more with our complete guide to conversational texting.
  • Helpful information: Share voting dates, deadlines, polling place locations, and more concrete details to ensure your contacts have all the information they need to turn out and vote.
  • Clarity and concision: Text voters impactful messages that are clear and concise.
  • CTA: Always include a call to action in SMS voter communication. Tell voters what you want them to do (and make it easy for them to do it!).

Beyond the Basics: Innovative Ways to Leverage SMS Voter Outreach

Voter outreach via text can and should go beyond the essentials that we covered above. After all, your campaign needs an arsenal of SMS voter engagement strategies to engage voters of various ages, locations, and preferences.

What are some innovative ways to leverage SMS for voter outreach beyond basic text messages? Some innovative ways to leverage SMS for voter outreach beyond basic text messages include sending polls and surveys, using chatbots or virtual assistants, leveraging MMS, and incorporating text-to-donate.

 

Mobile Polls and Surveys

With SMS surveys and polls, you can gather opinions from your contacts about what issues they care about most and even their thoughts on aspects of your campaign messaging.

Inviting feedback makes your contacts feel like their opinions matter to your campaign — that you’re really listening to them. And that is crucial for prompting them to participate in an election. Surveys and polls will provide your campaign with insightful data that can inform future SMS voter engagement strategies.

 

Sample Text Message

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

Your campaign workers are busy and might not have time to answer your constituents’ questions, which is necessary for mobile voter engagement. You can still offer round-the-clock support and answer questions in real-time with generative AI chatbots and virtual assistants.

These powerful tools provide the immediacy your voters need — because, while every vote counts, every second does, too.

 

MMS

MMS (multimedia messaging) is an innovative way to text voters. The differences between SMS and MMS are the character limits and the ability to send multimedia features. Images and videos can capture attention, educate in an engaging way, and drive interactions. Just make sure that you’re using this texting option wisely, as some generations, like Baby Boomers, might not prefer MMS messages.

 

Text-to-Donate Fundraising

Fundraising fuels every political campaign, so make it easy for voters to donate. Text-to-donate fundraising is convenient, can reach a wide audience quickly, and ensures that anyone with a smartphone can donate. This is a simple strategy your campaign can set up to engage voters and motivate them to give.

Learn tips on how to engage Millennial donors.

Getting Started with SMS Voter Outreach

Now that you know all the best practices for reaching voters of different ages, it’s time to start with SMS voter outreach. Here, we outline what to know as you begin crafting your text blasts.

 

Understand the Legal Landscape

In the world of text marketing and communication, understanding the ins and outs of what’s legal and what’s not is paramount, so stay here if you’re wondering, “Are there any legal or compliance considerations for political SMS campaigns?”

Yes, here are the legal or compliance considerations for political SMS campaigns:

  • Federal regulations: There are four key regulating entities for text marketing (which political campaign texting falls under). Learn about all of them in our text marketing legal guide.
  • Consent: According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, every organization must obtain written permission (opt-ins) before contacting voters. They must not continue messaging a voter if they’ve opted out of texts. Learn more about EZ Texting’s SafeSTOP compliance tool.
  • Transparency: Every text message must clearly identify the sender.
  • A2P registration: All 10DLC (10-digit long code) numbers must be approved through A2P registration. Learn how to navigate the A2P process.
  • Data privacy: Secure voter information and be transparent about its usage.

 

Find the Right Resources

Your campaign needs the right digital political campaign tools to reach your audience effectively. What are some resources available to campaigns interested in implementing SMS voter outreach? Some resources available to campaigns interested in implementing SMS voter outreach include tools like campaign management software, voter data files, and even nonpartisan organizations, which can offer immensely helpful guidance for applying SMS voter engagement strategies.

 

Measure the Success of Each Text Campaign

You can text voters all day long (okay, well, you shouldn’t do that), but if you aren’t analyzing the performance of each SMS campaign, you won’t know if you’re really reaching and mobilizing voters.

You’re probably wondering, “How can campaigns measure the success of their SMS voter engagement efforts?” Campaigns can measure the success of their SMS voter engagement efforts by tracking metrics like click-through rates, event attendance, fundraising goals, whether contacts engage with interactive messages, and eventually, voter turnout.

Conduct A/B testing of different message formats for various voter groups to see which performs best. Then, use those learnings to tweak your next campaign.

Use a Text Marketing Platform

Even if you’re using all-in-one campaign management software, your campaign will also need a text marketing platform to help manage contact lists and provide the SMS features that will set your campaign messaging above the rest.

EZ Texting is your answer. We offer bulk texting, one-on-one messaging, easy contact management, compliance tools, SMS campaign metrics, and analytics, AI Compose, Team Inbox & AI Reply, and various integrations to optimize your entire campaign life cycle.

Now it’s time to text voters across generations, communities, lifestyles, and preferences seamlessly and effectively with this guide and your favorite SMS marketing solution.

FAQs

Yes, voters are generally open to receiving political texts, but it depends on the generation. According to a 2020 report, voters 50 and younger turned out to vote at higher rates than those who were older than 50, meaning that younger generations lead the way in being more receptive to political texts.

Some common mistakes to avoid when using SMS for voter outreach include the following:

  • Bombarding voters with too many texts 
  • Using misleading information 
  • Not tailoring messages to different generations, preferences, concerns, and so on 
  • Ignoring compliance and data privacy concerns 
  • Not personalizing text messages 
  • Not measuring each text campaign

The use of SMS for voter outreach might evolve in the future with AI through more robust chatbots and virtual assistants, better personalization, and more. Additionally, as RCS messaging is widely used, political campaigns can provide more feature-rich, interactive experiences for their contacts.

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