Txt it!

IssueMay 2013
Feature by PN

Cheap and powerful

Texting can put important or urgent information directly into your supporters’ hands. Combe Haven Defenders (CHD) are the latest campaign group to venture into mass texting of supporters – here’s how and why they do it (cheaply).

In addition to Facebook, Twitter and their Wordpress blog, CHD has relied heavily on texting to keep people updated.

Over 90% of British adults own a mobile phone, and it turns out that the overwhelming majority of the active local opponents of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (a) have a mobile phone and (b) have been happy to give their numbers to CHD to receive texts.

When trees were being cut down and protest camps were trying to maintain themselves (see PN 2554), mass texting mobilised activists to go to the right places to try to stop tree-cutting, and got much-needed support to anti-road campers.


A really useful (and free) piece of software is ‘Nokia Suite’ (Windows only, sadly).

Nokia Suite only works with Nokia phones: CHD uses an unlocked Nokia Asha 201 basic or ‘feature’ phone (£45 contract-free).

Connect the phone to a computer with a cable and then use your (much more comfortable) computer keyboard and screen to write and send texts using Nokia Suite.

Using Nokia Suite, you can also organise your contacts into lists – ‘steering group’, ‘press’, ‘direct actionists’ and so on.

‘Unlimited’ plans

Most ‘unlimited texting’ deals are at least £10 per month. Giffgaff has a £5-per-month unlimited texts deal – they supply a free SIM card.

‘Unlimited texting’ doesn’t quite mean what it seems: ‘We are unlimited for personal mobile use – but not for commercial and automated use.’

‘Automated use’ probably includes using software like Nokia Suite to text over 100 local campaigners daily, which is why giffgaff tends to ‘choke’ (massively slow down) phones used for such purposes. This means having to use a number of (free) SIM cards.

In East Sussex, mass texting has replaced the traditional telephone tree in getting local anti-road campaigners to take prompt action, and in making them feel included and up-to-date with things, without having to check Facebook every day (or every few hours).

Tip: it is very important to have a separate ‘incoming’ mobile phone as well as an ‘outgoing’ texting phone (so you have a permanent contact number even if you have to change your ‘outgoing’ phone number).

It isn’t ‘free’ like email or social networking, but texting is a powerful tool, now within the reach of even very-low-income campaign groups. Plus the responsibility can be passed around different members of the group.

Topics: Technology
See more of: Tools & Resources