Ten Tips for Building Effective SMS Surveys

One of the most popular (and best) uses for TextIt is to build multiple question surveys. SMS Surveys have much higher completion rates than those done over email and are usually completed much faster as well. But while most people won't mind answering a few questions, there are a few simple things you can do to increase the odds of getting great response rates. Here are some tips to make your SMS surveys as effective as possible.

Introduce Yourself

Even if you have communicated to your users via SMS before, it is always good to remind them who you are in case they haven't saved you to their address book. As always, keep it short, just add your organization name to your greeting. Leading with something simple like "Hi from TextIt!" can go a long way.

Short Messages

Try to keep your questions clear and as short as possible. Though all handsets support messages as long as 160 letters, many do not display more than the first 50 or 60 without scrolling. Try your best to put your question in those first characters so your users know they are expected to respond and know to scroll down.

Limit your Questions

Along the same lines, don't get greedy with your survey, keep it to a manageable number of questions. Ideally try to keep your survey under five questions, though depending on the audience you may be able to ask up to ten effectively. You'll need to test this out yourself, but make an effort to think of what the critical indicators you want to collect are and stick to those. If you absolutely must ask more questions, then try to split them among multiple surveys asked over a longer period of time.


Nobody wants to feel like they are talking with a robot, so do everything you can to make the survey feel personalized and fun. If you know the names of your users, use TextIt's variable substitution feature to include it in your greeting, after all, everybody likes hearing their name. Even if you don't, personalize how you pose questions based on previous answers. This will make your users feel like they are being listened to and help them stay motivated to complete you survey.

Enumerate Choices

Unless you are asking an open ended question, you should give your users some clues on how you want them to answer. If you are asking a Yes or No question, end your question with "Answer with Yes or No". This removes one point of friction for your users, they don't need to ponder what formats are supported and it also reduces the chance of them receiving an error because they answered with something unexpected. Of course, even if you provide great prompts you'll still want to support synonyms and provide helpful error messages.

Make it Free

If possible, make answering free to your end users. In most countries you can configure a SIM card to be reverse billed, that is, you would pay for the incoming response instead of your users. This is especially important in developing contexts where the cost of responses over a long survey can add up. Sometimes it is tricky finding the right person at a carrier to set this up properly, but it is almost always possible. Oh and once you have this set up don't forget to tell your users that responding is free!

Give a Reward

Can't make responding free? Then set up some kind of reward for your users. This can be something that has real monetary value, like a coupon you send them upon completion or can be something fun like a quote, joke or motivational message. Another idea is to enter anybody who completes your survey into a drawing to win something. Be creative, there are lots of different ways of motivating users!

Timing is Everything

Think about what your users are going to be doing when they receive your survey and use that to your advantage. If you send them a question while they are asleep or having dinner, they might not see it or forget about it entirely. The "right" time to send out a survey is different for every audience, but with a little thought your messages will hit them right when they are most receptive.


Treat your users with respect: allow them to opt out of future surveys and don't send surveys too often. This is especially important in more developed markets which have regulations about how you can contact your users. Follow the general guideline of only contacting users who you have a relationship with and respecting their wishes if they choose not to participate, TextIt makes it easy to manage groups in flows to do just that.

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

Most importantly, keep experimenting!  Every audience and context is different, and your users' tastes may even change over time. Experiment and keep track of how many users finish your surveys and keep iterating based on those learnings. There is no catch all solution, but if you make an effort you'll have amazing response rates in no time.