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Last Updated: 10/28/2016

SMS Text Messaging

Webinar video overview...

 

A few preliminaries...

  • SMS/Texting is only available to Administrators by default. To allow others to send text messages, see "Security" below.
  • Any message sent to a phone number outside of the United States will incur an additional fee (currently, 6 cents per message). This is due to the additional fees Elexio has to pay for these texts. They will be billed to your Elexio account on a monthly basis.
  • A suggestion: Since text messages can be considered as more private/ invasive to some people, administrators should be thoughtful about how you use this feature for your specific congregation.  
  • The first time someone in your ministry uses Text Messaging in Database, you will be prompted to add an SMS keyword for your ministry. Review the information below under "Reserve Keyword" to learn more.
  • Please Note: International clients must submit a support request asking for international SMS to be enabled before they can send text messages.

Sending Individual Text Messages

  1. Navigate to an individual's record in the People screen and click the Text icon that shows next to any mobile phone number.





  2. You will be taken to the SMS area of the Communication screen. There you can enter the text you want to send. A counter in the lower right corner will show you how many characters you have left before you reach the 160 character SMS limit.
  3. The Compress URLs button (lower left corner) will take any long web link you have entered and will turn it into a shorter, fully functional link (bit.ly) that gives you more room for your message. (If you've never done this before, try it. It's kinda fun.) 

Sending a Mass Text Message to any Group or List

The Output Wizard is available in many places through Database such as reports or lists of people in events. To use the Output Wizard to send a mass text message:

  1. Open the Output Wizard and in the Output column to the left select "Send Text".
  2. Click the Preview button.You will be taken to the SMS area of the Communication screen to compose your text.
    • You will see the same message editing window that shows for an individual message, including the Compress URLs button and character count described above.
    • Click on the To button and you will see a list of people fitting the criteria for this report or list.
    • Under Review/Send, tabs will show for:
      Opt Out - These have the check box
      No Phone - Those without a mobile phone listed.
    • Use the list in Review/Send to check or uncheck those that you want to send the message to.
  3. When you are ready to send the message, you can click Send Now to send the message right away or click Send Later to schedule it to be sent at a later time. 
  4. You are also able to mass message members of a ministry or group via Portal. More information is available here.

If the list of recipients is under 15, the messages will be sent immediately and each phone number will be replaced with a success or failure indicator. Hover over a failure message to see why it failed.

If the list of recipients is more than 15, the messages will go into a queue and will be sent out over the next few minutes.  

"Don't Send" Opt Out Controls

  1. On the People screen, the "Opt out of mass text messages" check box let's you prevent mass text messages from being sent to any mobile phones on the account. Individuals can also check this box in their Portal info area.
  2. In addition, when a mobile phone receives its first text from your ministry, a message will preceed the message you send. This will include an option (required by law and the text service) to reply "Stop" to opt out of all text messages. Click the screen shots below to see what these look like on a phone.
    Note: The reply "Stop" feature is handled at the SMS service level. It is separate from the "Opt out of mass text messages" check box that you can see and control in Elexio Database. See more under Troubleshooting below.

You can also see in the phone screen shots below that if someone tries to reply, they will get a message explaining that is an outgoing service only.

How the Message is Received

The first time, after replying "Help" and after replying something else:

Reserve Keyword

Currently, SMS Text Messaging in Elexio Database doesn't provide for replies to your messages, but stay tuned! We're planning to expand these capabilities.

But for now and the future, an important part of the system will be your ministry's keyword that will identify your specific ministry to Text Messaging systems.

We encourage you to reserve your code right away. From the Home screen of Database, click on Options. Then select the SMS Texting Options tab. Then you'll see the SMS/Texting Keyword field where you can set your keyword. 

Ex: Summit Community Church of Ypsilanti, Michigan may decide that SCCYP is a great code for them.

Every church must be using a unique keyword! It's first come, first served. So reserve your word today!

Security Permissions

By default only administrators can send mass texts. However, you can turn this feature on for selected security roles by changing their permissions.  

  1. From the Home screen, click on Common Tasks, Manage Security Settings. Select the Role you want to change.
  2. Specific permission settings are available for text messaging in these areas:
    • People > General Info > SMS/Text Messaging 
    • Reports > SMS/Text Messaging (via the Output Wizard)
    • Portal > Text All Members

Troubleshooting - Why wasn't a text received?

NOTE: The above applies to ELEXIO Database only - not ELEXIO Community.

Here's how to check out how the Database texting system is working for one or more specific mobile phone numbers:

  1. Use the mass text messaging screen to send to a group that includes the numbers you want. (This might be from a report or an event... you just need the texting option that goes to a group that includes those numbers.)
  2. Select Options > Clear All, then check only the boxes for the numbers you want to troubleshoot. Keep it under 15 so that the screen gets immediate results.
  3. Send a test message to the selected recipients. As long as you kept the group under 15 recipients, you can hover over a "Send Failed" message to see why it wasn't sent...
    • If the mobile number is on the global opt out list (they replied "Stop"), it will show Error: The Mobile Number you are trying to send a message to has globally opted out of all messages from Elexio. 
      The mobile number would need to send a text to 30131 with your church's primary SMS Keyword and Start (i.e. "OurChurch Start") to begin receiving messages again. 
    • Other specific messages may indicate a possible problem with the mobile number or with that number's service provider.

Also, keep in mind that SMS text systems across the U.S. and internationally function on a "best effort" basis. The vast majority of messages are sent successfully, but you may see occasional delays, repeated messages, or message failures due to wider SMS system  or services area issues beyond Elexio Database.

So what that last paragraph means is... undelivered or repeated messages are not necessarily your fault or Database's fault. That's the nature of SMS text messaging today.

For specific phone numbers that aren't receiving messages, you could try this process:

  • From the phone that isn't getting the messages, try sending HELP to 30131 to see what happens. (30131 is the short code for Elexio's SMS service.) 
  • If the phone gets a response back referencing elexio.com/sms, that means they are connecting to the service and they should be able to get messages in the future.
  • If the phone gets a response about not being subscribed to any services, reply to the response (or send to 30131) with your church's primary SMS Keyword and Start (i.e. "OurChurch Start")
  • If the phone gets an error message back from their mobile operator or gets nothing back, that means there's an issue with basic SMS messaging on their account. The owner should call the mobile operator's customer support and ask them to remove any blocks or provisioning issues.

If you run into persistent issues, please let our support team know the below:

  • specific number(s) and the specific date and time(s) you sent a message,
  • The end result (& any error messages)
  • The cell phone provider of the number you were sending to (i.e. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc.

With those specifics we can check to see if more information about the issue is available.

 

 

FAQ

1. How much does SMS Text Messaging in Elexio Database cost?

It is FREE to all US-based mobile phones. It costs 6 cents per message sent to non-US phones. Your church will be billed monthly and your payment method on file will be charged automatically.

2. Can people opt out of receiving all texts from the church?  

Yes. Individuals can either reply to any text message from the church and send the word "Stop" or the church staff can access the People, General Info screen in Database and check the box, "Opt out of Mass Text Messages" for the selected person.

*note - when a church staff member selects the "Opt out of text message" option, they will receive a pop up confirmation.  When "yes" is selected, the only way for the individual to opt back into text messaging is to text "Elexio Start" to the Elexio SMS service - 30131 - from their personal mobile device.  

3. Can we be notified when someone opts out? 

Not at this time. However, you can see who's opted out before sending each text.

4. Do we need to tag all the mobile numbers with their carrier (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, etc.)?

No. Elexio sends real SMS Text Messages, not "fake" messages via email. 

5. Can people reply to our mass texts?

Not presently. If people reply to the message they will receive a reply that says, "We didn't understand your message. Reply HELP for help or STOP stop all messages."

6. Does the mobile number need to be in the communications area?

Yes. And it should be tagged using the system code called "Mobile" or else the number will not be used.

7. What does a message look like when it is received? Who does it say it is from?

See the sample message above. Elexio uses a shortcode of 30131 to send messages. This is the number all your people will see. So you might want to tell them to save a new contact record in their phone with your church's name using this number.

8. Can our church have a unique shortcode number or use a phone number instead?

No. Every number used for SMS has to go through a thorough vetting process in order to identify who is sending text messages. This is very costly, especially for businesses who send a lot of texts. Elexio pays thousands of dollars a month for this unique shortcode on your behalf.

9. Will recipients be charged for receiving texts? 

This depends on the policy of the recipient's phone provider. Most phones today are not charged for receiving texts. However, you should be sensitive about this and listen carefully to your people's requests to limit the amount you send out or at least help them opt out of receiving messages.

10. How does a user Opt back In to receive text messages?

To comply with spam regulations, a mobile number cannot be opted back in from Database.

If the mobile user has the text message that they opted out through, they can reply "Elexio Start" to opt back in. If they do not have that text, they can simply send a new text of "Elexio Start" to 30131.

They may also uncheck the box in their Portal info area to opt back in.

11. Can we send a text message if we are running an offline copy of Elexio Database?

No. You are only able to send text messages when your database is online. If you "send" a text message while you are offline, it will not actually go through until you sync your data. 

We recommend using an online database to send mass texts or to sync right after creating / "sending" a mass text.

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