Send and Receive SMS messages using PowerBase

Overview

SMS is a feature that allows you to send SMS text messages to cell phones in your database. They are sent either via the action menu on Advanced Search or from the Mailings Menu. We currently have two service options for being able to send SMS messages via PowerBase: Clickatell and Twilio. These are external to PowerBase. You must set up an account with one of them and arrange separate payment before you can start sending SMS messages

Both offer the option to receive SMS into PowerBase as well as sending them. If you plan only to send messages, and not to receive them, Twilio is the less expensive option (1 cent per SMS plus $1 a month for the phone number required to be able to send SMS). Twilio is also easier to configure. If you want to send and receive SMS texts, Clickatell seems to be less expensive, but it appears to vary depending on how many SMS messages you are sending every month.

Both Twilio and Clickatell software are included as extensions in your PowerBase which means they are not installed by default. If the extension you need is not yet installed, you can install it from the Extensions page.

If you are not sure which to use, we suggest Twilio simply because PTP staff has more experience working with them.

Short Codes

Typically, you will get a 10 digit SMS phone number to use and all your texts will appear to come from this phone number.

Unfortunately, this means you will be limited in a way similar to the way anyone with a normal phone is limited when sending text messages. Specifically, that means you may find that the number of messages you can send a day is limited. It used to be limited at 200 a day, but we no longer find that to be the case, but there may still be a higher limit that we are not aware of.

If you want to send more messages, you will have to get a short code. A short code is a 5 digit number that is specially designated for sending bulk SMS messages. Unfortunately, short codes are very expensive.

Both Twilio and Clickatell offer short codes. With Twilio, the price for a dedicated short code is published, however, Twilio does not offer shared short codes.

Clicaktell offers both dedicated and shared short codes but does not publish the cost of either.

Import things to keep in mind

  • Without a "short-code" you could be limited to a certain number of messages per day. Check with your SMS provider to find out if they have a limit.
  • By default any web address you put in your message will get converted to a web address that can be tracked by PowerBase. That means it might change your bit.ly or otherwise tiny URL into something much longer. If you don't want this - please contacts support and we will disable it for you.

Setup and initial configuration

Sending

The CiviCRM manual (available off the Help Menu in PowerBase) has a pretty good description of how to send SMS messages to individuals or a group.

Before using SMS to send an alert, you’ll want to test it on a few phone numbers. The best practice is to allow time to get this testing done before you have a need to send a mass text message.

Receiving

If you have properly configured your account to receive replies, then when you get a response SMS message, PowerBase will look for an existing contact with that phone number. If it doesn't find one, it creates a new contact. Then, it adds an activity of type "Inbound SMS". The Source and Target is set to the contact associated with the phone number and the details has the content of the SMS message sent to you. It will have a blank subject.

Opt out/Opt In

There is no automated method for opting in or out of SMS messages via PowerBase.

However, if you are using Twilio, they will handle all STOP and START requests (see their documentation).

It is not clear how Click-a-Tell handles STOP and START requests.

Category: 
PowerBase - General