Text Messaging Use in Helplines, Hotlines and Info Lines

Help and Info is Only a Text Away

Yesterday Scarleteen, a free sexuality information resource for teens and young adults went live with their Text Scarleteen service. I’ve been quite impressed by the buzz already surrounding their launch of the service in the first day (and their graphic, above, is great as well). Owned and operated by Heather Corinna (plus a handful of volunteers), Scarleteen provides service to approximately 20-30,000 young adults per month internationally. Heather and her team seem to have no trouble getting traffic to the website where they can ask questions via email or read and respond to messages on their message board.

Scarleteen’s use of text messaging in this way isn’t augmenting a phone line, but rather using it as an additional way for young people to get in touch with someone who cares when they’re out in the world. Last month I wrote a post on our mobile answers blog called “sex and health education for teens and young adults via mobile text messaging – private, personal, anonymous, and effective” pointing out some of the reasons we’ve been contacted lately by health centers and services on campuses and in the community. In a recent meeting with an organization that provides youth lines, they told us that their phone call volumes were going down. It makes sense. Americans on average, text twice as much as they talk on their mobile devices. If teens aren’t talking to their friends as much on the phone, preferring texting, then it’s not going to be their first choice in communication tool for speaking to hotlines or helplines. The organization that we met with knows using text messaging to communicate will prove to be more successful. I’d argue this is the case not only for teens, but 20-35 year olds as well, even if for different reasons.

Consumers expect businesses to have a website. They expect many businesses to have a toll-free number. If your audience carries a mobile phone, they’re going to expect to communicate with you on that device and behaviors are showing that it’s not going to be talking.

More and more libraries are beginning to understand this and moving that way. They use text messaging as a way to extend their outreach, expand their walls and communicate with patrons wherever they are. It’s an exciting movement and very fun to watch. What we’re seeing with our customers is the understanding that simply having texting capabilities isn’t enough. There has to be a way to collaborate, archive, search, run statistics and become more efficient in responding through the mobile medium. We’re happy they’re choosing us to do so and are getting more and more interest in our text messaging for hotlines, helplines and info lines software.

Below I’ve reposted the “9 reasons to use mobile messaging for sex and health education for teens and young adults” in case you haven’t seen it yet. Most of the reasons below can be applied to any organization in communicating with all U.S. mobile phone users these days, not just the younger demographic, but that’s for another post.

9 Reasons to use Mobile Text Messaging for Sex and Health Education for Teens and Young Adults

1. Their mobile phone is everywhere they are. Phones are in their pockets and in their purses, everywhere they go. Text messaging offers a quick, discrete method of communication whenever and wherever advice is needed.

2. Text messaging technologies exist that provide anonymous interactions, allowing conversations to be private and confidential.

3. It is difficult to get over the hurdle of calling or coming in face-to-face for advice or help. Starting the conversation via text messaging can lead to more personal interactions (phone or appointment) once a level of comfort has been reached.

4. 80% of 18-34 year olds report cell phone as “lifeline” in a recent survey conducted by Sprint.

5. “Sexting” is a real problem. Utilizing the same medium to educate students can make a positive impact on negative behavior. They are obviously communicating about sex with their peers through text messaging & mobile photos, so this channel is open for healthier conversations.

6. 71% of teens and 90% of college students own a cell phone (Pew Internet and Student Monitor, respectively).  Not all own computers or have the privacy at home to be able to consult health professionals and sex education specialists.

7. Young people already understand texting can be used beyond peer-to-peer interactions. American Idol and youth-targeted marketing campaigns have done this for years, so there is no obstacle or major challenge for them to understand how a text messaging service works.

8. Quick, immediate, real-time availability by health services/information specialists can help prevent delayed, long-term issues.

9. It is a lot easier than you may think to implement a text message service and information helpline to reach more teens and young adults.

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