So, you've configured SMS messaging and now you'd like to get started creating templates? Excellent!
You can create SMS templates from the SMS page. To get there, hover over the left side bar, then select Marketing. Under Marketing, select SMS.
Click on the "Create Template" button in the upper right to get started.
This will open the template editor.
Creating your Template
Start by giving your template a unique name.
This will be identifier for your SMS message when adding it to workflows, so make it as clear as possible. For example, "Welcome" may not be as clear as "New Donor Welcome Message."
Then, you'll begin entering text for the body of your message.
You can use the Merge Tags drop-down at any point to insert the First or Last name of the recipient. Your message has a maximum character limit of 918 characters. To better understand, check out the section on character limits below.
You can also craft a default response that will be sent if someone replies to your message by selecting the box and filling in the details. You will have the same character limits as your original message.
Once you've crafted the perfect message, you can test it out by searching for an existing Individual in your database.
Want to send a test to yourself? Sure thing! You'll need to be an Individual in Virtuous and have a mobile number associated with your record. Note that test messages will be billed to your account, so use them wisely. Each test will also have "SAMPLE:" added as a prefix.
Once you've completed editing, click "Save" to do just that. Now, you'll see your template listed on the SMS screen. Click the edit icon to the right of your new message to edit it at any time.
Character Limits, Formatting Considerations, and SMS Parts
SMS messages have a maximum limit of 918 characters (yes, we've said that already, but it bears repeating). But it's also handy to know how lengthier messages are delivered.
Messages longer than 160 characters will be split into multiple parts. When this happens, the first 160 characters will comprise the first message part, and all subsequent parts will contain up to 153 characters. These parts are sent separately, and then each message carrier actually splices them together, so they are delivered as one seamless message. So, a message with 450 characters will be split into three "parts," though the recipient will never know; they will just receive a single message.
NOTE: When using special characters, such as 👋, it's important to remember they will require Unicode encoding to send. This means you will have half the amount of characters available. This will create more segments/parts and increase your SMS send usage. Overlooking this important detail could lead to potential overage charges.
Well, since billing for SMS is based on the number of messages sent, this means that sending longer text messages will more quickly use up your allotment of SMS messages. Using our example of a 450-character message, each time that message is sent, it will actually be billed as three sent messages. So, you will use up your allotment of messages 3 times as quickly versus sending a 150-character message.
To better help you see how many segments a message may be, we've added a segment counter at the bottom of the body of the message.
*Note: If you are using a text editor (i.e. Word or Google Doc) to check character counts, you will not be given an accurate count. SMS messages require encoding that can change the final character count. There are sites (for example, Twilio) that can more accurately count your SMS characters.
From the main SMS page, you can click on the Actions menu in the upper right to view the history of sent messages. For each message, you'll see how many SMS Parts were used to send each message. You can learn more about the Sent Messages page in this article
A word of caution if you're considering shortened links to work around character limits: Using a public shared URL shorteners like TinyUrl or Bitly in your messages is strongly discouraged because they are frequently used by spammers and thus likely to be filtered/flagged as spam. If you choose to include a link in any of your messages, you may consider using a full-length URL, a service that provides a unique domain for your URLs, or a branded shortened URL identifiable to your organization’s domain.
There are specific keywords that recipients can use to control their SMS communication preferences. You can instruct recipients to respond with any of these keywords if you like.
The following keywords can be used to opt-in to SMS messaging:
These keywords can be used to opt out of SMS messaging:
So, for example, your first SMS message to a supporter may include something like this:
"Reply with STOP to opt out of future text messages"
Now you're all set to start creating your own SMS templates!