- At the moment (posted during the COVID-19 pandemic), your church might be texting more than usual…and that’s a good thing. Text messages can go a long way to keeping your flock feeling cared for and connected. Yet, more texts mean using more messaging credits.
Though a system like PastorsLine allows you to send up to 1600 characters (10 text messages) where 1 text = 160 characters. Yet, the more texts you send, the more it will cost. Ideally, for most messages, sticking to 160 characters is the best. We’d like to give you some tips on how to make the most of these 160 characters (1 text per person) or even 320 characters (2 texts per person) when a longer text is needed.
For more details about using credits, read this Help Desk item.
Here are 4 ideas for maximizing your texting characters to minimize your message costs.
1. Use texting shorthand
No, it’s not unprofessional, and we are not speaking about slang. There are short forms that are globally accepted because they are very readable such as “thx” (thanks) and “tmw/tmrw” (tomorrow). Using them can save you credits while keeping your messages just as communicative.
One pro tip: if you are not comfortable with sending short form texts, communicate this from the beginning / first message, so your audience understands your intent.
Consider the following 4 tips when creating short forms.
- Remove vowels
“Text” and “next” become “txt” and “nxt”. This is effective when there is a low possibility of miscommunication. For example “ths” could be “this” or “these”, so not a good short form.
- Shorten your URLs
Solutions like PastorsLine typically offer a way to shorten your URLs. Alternatively, using systems like Bitly, etc. can work. Instead of sending your contacts to www.sudomain.mychurchdomain.com/something1/something2/thing (59 characters), you can shorten it to look like chr.ch/dert (11 characters).
- Eliminate apostrophes and dashes
Shorten “don’t” to “dont” and “follow-up” to “followup”. Even though it is grammatically wrong, your readers will understand your meaning, and these “tricks” are more than acceptable in texting.
- Convert words to symbols and letters
Stick to commonly known conversions such as: & (and); 4 (for); U (you); 1 (one); 2 (to/too); R (are); @ (at); and C (see).
Here are some ideas of how to combine these short forms into messages (with the character counts in parentheses).
In addition to the more “universal” short forms, your church can make your own abbreviations. For example, Small Groups Leaders can be “SGLs” as in this text: “SGLs-reminder: short meeting after sermon tmw.”
2. Send the reader to another source
Emails, for example, can be as long as you want. True, the email open rate is not as high as the text message open rate. Yet, if you send a text to “Check your email,” people will. Same for Facebook or other social media posts.
Step 1: Send an email or post a message on FaceBook, etc. that has ALL the information in as much detail as you wish.
Step 2: Text your contacts about the event and where they can find more information. For example: “Annual Church Summer Concert looking for performers of all ages. We’d love you to take part! Check [email/FaceBook/etc.] for full details.” (138)
By the way…Did you know that PastorsLine integrates with MailChimp? MailChimp offers 10000 free emails per month for up to 2k subscribers. They have great email templates, a great reputation, and comply with best practices to ensure your email can be delivered. Find out more here. They also give you a unique link with each email blast that you can shorten and include in your text to direct the person to your message.
3. Refer the reader to a previous text
Let’s say you’ve decided to put all the details into a text such as “Our virtual wknd ZOOM sermon will be on [Saturday/Sunday] at [10 am]. URL: zoom.com/something OR dial [number]. The password is [password]. Hope to CU then!”
After filling in the URL, the meeting number, and password, the message character count is probably going to be above 160, costing you 2 credits (2 text messages) per contact.
The weekly reminder doesn’t have to, though: “Hi [First Name]. Hope to CU this wknd! See my previous msg for full details. Praying for you, Pr. Mark.” (102)
This works if your virtual details stay the same week. They usually do. (Hint: if you are changing your virtual meeting details each time, consider keeping them constant. Maximum, change the password if needed.)
4. Think more concisely
Usually, there is a shorter way to say something by reorganizing the order of the words, substituting a word with fewer letters, or even eliminating words. Let’s look at an example.
Original: Hello [First Name]. Last week, we sent you a text about volunteering for our upcoming Health Fair. We haven’t heard from you yet. Please let us know if you are interested in helping out. Text YES/NO. -In fellowship, Pr. Mark (224)
Shorter form: Hello [First Name]. Did U get our text re:volunteering 4 our Health Fair? If not, txt NRCV. If so, RU in? Txt YES/NO. -In fellowship, Pr. Mark (142)
The shorter form leaves you plenty of characters for the first name (if needed).
#1: We plan to add a “textlonger” option later this year, hopefully in the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2020. The textlonger option stores your longer text (more than 160 characters) and creates a short link (URL) which points to the full version of the text. Your contacts get the short intro blurb and a short URL, instead of the original, longer text.
#2: Another option in the works is sending longer texts using our shortcode and adding an image, even if it is a transparent image. When sending an MMS, the message length can be up to 1600 characters at a charge of only 2 credits per contact (US and Canada numbers). In fact, you can try this now.
NOTE: Some of your people may not be set up to receive picture messages. This percentage may be so small that it may be worth the risk.