Know Your Audience

Your text messaging efforts will be more successful if your intended audiences find them useful and relevant. Formative research will help you determine the communication needs of your intended audience.

Remember, text messages are received by individuals, and receiving a text message is a very personal experience. People carry their phones with them all of the time, and many even say they couldn't live without them! So, when you send a public health text message, make sure you're doing it in a way that fits the end user's wants and needs.

How to Learn About Your Audience

Public Health - Seattle & King County performed extensive research with our audiences that may help you better identify the needs of your intended audiences. We identified types of texters in the general population and in other audience segments. Even so, it's important for you to do some audience research of your own to answer questions specific to your program.

Consider holding focus groups, interviewing key informants, and/or distributing and analyzing a brief survey. If you're unsure about these methods, an online course which describes ways to do audience research, Data Collection for Program Evaluation, is available online at the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice.

What You Should Learn

At a minimum, you'll want to know:

Whether your audience uses cell phones
Whether they send and receive text messages
How often they send and receive text messages
To whom they usually send text messages
Why they send text messages
Whether they would trust text messages from your agency
The types of messages they want (entertaining messages, informative messages, reminders)
The kind of content they want from a texting program
Their preferred language for receiving text messages

This information will help you establish tone, frequency, content, and whether or not this is the right audience for a text message program in the first place.

Note: Some carriers don't support non-English characters, including accents on Latin-language letters. Find out if your audience texts most frequently in English or in another language. You may have to adjust your messages to avoid characters that aren't supported.

Keep reading to learn about Types of Texters.

Did you know? Texts are cheap!
Cost is rarely a barrier for signing up for text message programs. More and more people have unlimited plans. And those who don't? They actually rely on texting more because it's cheaper than making a phone call in most cases.


Real World Examples

Public Health - Seattle & King County wanted to know more about its residents' interest in a text message program. Read more about the results of a county-wide phone survey of over 400 current text message users.

As part of the Internet & American Life Project, Pew Research Center has performed several studies that explain texting in the United States in demographic terms. Learn more about this study and other text message facts and figures.