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What Is Peer-to-Peer Texting?

It’s hard to break through the noise in an age in which people are bombarded with intrusive messaging every day. If you cold-call them, they probably won’t answer unless your caller ID identifies you as someone they know… Unless you’re my son who sees my name pop up and texts me back instead.

If you email them, they’re likely to scan right past your message in their inbox. And, you’re a cold-caller, people may get downright mad.

One thing people still pay attention to is text messages on their cellphones. In 2016 a major political campaign pioneered the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) messaging to communicate with potential donors and voters. Afterward, they reported that 98% of their P2P text messages were opened, the majority within three minutes of being received. That open rate more than twenty times the level an email campaign could expect (average email open rate is 17%).

As Peer-to-Peer messaging has evolved since inception, it has proven itself to be a highly effective means of communicating with volunteers, supporters, donors, voters, and constituents. And now, Precision Opinion has created the solution to incorporate P2P messages with market research public opinion polling.

What Is Peer-to-Peer Texting?

Let’s start with what P2P texting is not. It’s not spamming recipients by indiscriminately broadcasting automated, canned text messages to the phones of people who don’t want them. Rather, peer-to-peer texting allows someone to engage in one-on-one personal conversations en mass.

A keyword here is “conversations”. Recipients can reply to the text with questions, comments, or, on occasion, complaints. Regardless, it triggers a personal interaction with the individuals who sent the message. Here’s an example, from a National Public Radio feature story on P2P texting, of a message sent by a volunteer for a political campaign:

“Hey Donald, it’s Bethany volunteering for (candidate). It’s Election Day! The race will be close. Polls open 7am-8pm. Make your vote count!

In this case, the campaign achieves its aim when Donald reads the message reminding him to get out and vote. But, if Donald wants more information, such as the location of his polling place, he can reply to Bethany’s text and engage in a short conversation with her to get the information he needs.

How Peer-to-Peer Texting Works

It’s not just political campaigns that are using P2P texting; far from it. Organizations of various types, and especially nonprofits, are using P2P texting for fundraising, organizing events, recruiting volunteers, getting feedback from workers and the public, and for thanking supporters, volunteers, and donors. But for the purpose of illustrating how the process works, let’s use a political campaign as an example.

First, the campaign might use voter lists, phone banks, or door-to-door canvassers to build a list of voters who are likely to be receptive to the campaign’s message. (Other organizations, such as a charity supporting a specific cause, might already have a list of people who have donated or expressed interest in the past).

Information about these potential supporters is entered into a specialized P2P text messaging app. The name of the worker who will be sending the text is also entered, along with a prepared script. For each text message, the app inserts the names of the sender and the recipient at the appropriate places in the scripted message. The worker hits “Send” and the message is on its way.

Also, the texter gives additional scripts they can refer to if the recipient replies asking for more information.

Using this process, a worker can send thousands of personalized text messages per day. And they don’t have to be in the organization’s office to do so. Make calls from home or any other convenient location. For example, in the NPR story mentioned above, a volunteer works from a coffee shop in Des Moines.

Advantages of Peer-to-Peer Texting

A huge advantage of P2P texting is that it is far more effective than alternatives such as phone banks or email campaigns. Most organizations would be more than satisfied if even 30% of their emails were noticed and opened. The success rate of door-to-door campaigns is only slightly higher. People answer phone calls less than 10% of the time. But a P2P text sender can confidently expect upwards of 95% of recipients to read the message.

The most important advantage of P2P texting is that there is no legal opt-in requirement. In other words, it’s not necessary to obtain prior permission from recipients before sending them P2P text messages. That’s because, unlike broadcast messaging where texts are sent out using autodialing tools, each P2P message is individually sent by a human being.

How Peer-to-Peer Texting Meets Regulatory Requirements

Man using chat message app on smartphone, in response to peer-to-peer texting communication

P2P texting falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991. The TCPA forbids use of autodialed calls (including both robocalls and robotexts) to cellphones unless the recipient has previously and specifically opted in to receiving such calls from the sending organization. Under FCC/TCPA regulations it is illegal to simply broadcast autodialed text messages to individuals who have not indicated a desire to receive them.

But that’s not the case with P2P texting. What makes peer-to-peer texting acceptable under the law is that workers must manually press a button to send each message. This is the key requirement for compliance. As long as there is no autodialing involved, P2P texting does not violate TCPA or FCC rules.

It should be noted, however, that this interpretation of the FCC/TCPA regulations has not yet been tested in court. In 2018 the P2P Alliance petitioned the FCC to clearly state that P2P text messaging does not violate the provisions of the TCPA. Some consumer groups, such as the National Consumer Law Center and the Consumer Federation of America, have urged the FCC to reject that petition, at least until there has been a further study of how consumers are affected by P2P texting. As of February of 2020, the P2P Alliance’s petition has not yet been acted on.

Peer-to-Peer Text Messaging Is an Effective Outreach Tool

Since its inception in the presidential campaign of 2016, the use of P2P text messaging has grown rapidly. Many of those who are now using it report that they consider it far superior to email, social media, and other traditional outreach methods.


If you’d like to explore how P2P texting can help you get your message seen, and more importantly, get your public opinion poll completed, we’d be happy to help. Please contact us.