Group Texting – Part 3 – Paid Services

phoneonwood

This is the final post in my series on group texting options for churches. The first post covered some of the things you need to consider before choosing a provider. The second post reviewed two free options for churches with no money to get started.

Today, I will review some of the top players in the paid category. I know some churches have absolutely no budget dedicated to new technology. However, even if you have $0, I suggest taking a look at these. The paid providers offer so many more options, more room for growth and easier to use interfaces. It may be worth spending some time trying to raise some money or convincing leadership to get behind a system that will really work for your church.

I am going to start with the two free services I wrote about in the last post but, this time, review their paid options. If you want to know about all the options listed below (keywords, text-and-response, etc.) be sure to read the first post in this series.

A Word on Monthly Message Allocations

First a word about monthly message allocations. Most of the services below base their pricing on the number of texts sent each month. That can be a little confusing and requires a little math. The total of messages you use each month will be the number of unique “messages” (i.e. a reminder to come to worship on Sunday or an announcement about a new sermon series.) multiplies by the number of people you send that message to.

Total messages = Messages x Contacts

For instance, if I have a plan with 200 messages a month, and I have 50 contacts and I send a message to all of them, I have used 50 messages. I can do that three more times before I run out of credits. If you use groups, you have a little more flexibility. Let’s say I have a leadership group with 10 contacts. I could send one message to everyone (50 credits) and then send 15 additional messages to just the leadership group. (15 messages x 10 contacts-150 credits.)

There is one more thing to take into account, auto-responses. When someone joins by text, a SMS service is required to send a welcome auto-reply with information on how they can opt out. That counts as a message. Going back to my 200 messages a month scenario. If your 50 people all signed up via text in that month, you would use up 50 credits with auto-replies and only have 150 remaining messages that months. Also, don’t forget to count the auto-replies you set up yourself. Some services allow you to instantly reply to texts sent to certain keywords. If you do, each one is a message.

TelefioTelefio

The biggest drawback of Telefio’s free plan was there use of the email-to-SMS gateway. Since that is still the case with their $5/month plan, I am going to skip that and review the service starting with their $10/month tier. Telefio isn’t the fanciest service out there but their pricing is very reasonable. They do have most of the features a church would need. The one they lack is the text and response options though I am unsure how many churches are looking for that. What makes Telefio somewhat unique is that, instead of a text shortcode, they assign you your own unique actual telephone number. Instead of texting a keyword to a five or six digit shortcode, users send messages to and receive messages from your assign phone number.

Price: $10/month, $15/month, $20/month and up
# of Messages Per Month: 500, 1,000, 1,500
# of Contacts: Unlimited
Signup/Opt-in: Text to Join
Groups: Yes
Keywords: Yes, #?
Message Scheduling: Yes
Message Forwarding: Yes
Text and Response: No
Replies? No
Phone Number or Shortcode: Custom Phone Number
Administrators: Multiple?

ez textingez-texting-logo-landing (1)

I really liked ez texting as a free plan and I like it as a paid service. What I really like is its scalability. If you want to start small, you can join their free plan. If the free plan works but you need a few more texts, you can pay as you go. Then, as you grow, you can move to the larger monthly plans. Even with the free plan, users can sign up via text messaging or a widget on the website. Once you move to the paid plan, you can have a custom keyword for signup making the process a little easier. What I don’t like is the confusing pricing structure on the lower tier and the big price jump to the paid plans.

ez texting’s free plan offers 250 messages a month. As you can see from my explanation eztextingabove, you need to remember that auto-response texts count toward that total. But this is still a great deal unless you want a custom keyword.  Say you want to add a keyword so that it is simpler for people to sign up. The free included keyword is a little hard to communicate. Mine is something like EZDCG9876. Users would text that sequence to ez textings’s shortcode (313131) to join. You might want to make that “text mychurch’sname to 313131 to join.”) To do that, you need to upgrade to a paid plan. The least expensive paid plan is the Pay & Go plan. There is no monthly fee unless you want that keyword (which is why you upgraded) which is $25 a month. Then, you pay per text at a rate of 5 cents per message. Let’s go back to the 50 users. If all of them sign up by text in the same month, you are already at 50 texts. Say you send another 4 text to the whole group, you are now at 250. At 5 cents per text, you are now at $12.50 plus the $25.00 keyword for a total of $37.50. You would actually be better off to go to their starter plan, which gives you 250 texts per month and one free keyword for $29. This starts to sound really confusing. The simple math shows that, if you want a keyword, and plan on sending out less than 80 texts per month (including the auto-replies when people join) the Pay&Go plan is a better deal. More than that and it makes sense to jump up to the starter plan. This is an unfortunately large price jump for some churches.

All that said, I don’t think their pricing is unreasonable. They have one of the nicest, easiest to use interfaces and getting started is a breeze.

eztexting.com
Price: $0/month, $29/month, $49/month, $94/month and up
# of Messages Per Month: 0, 250, 1,000, 2000 and up
# of Contacts: Unlimited
Signup/Opt-in: Text to Join, Web Widget and Manual Add
Groups: Yes
Keywords: 0,1,1,2
Message Scheduling: Yes
Message Forwarding: Yes
Text and Response: No
Phone Number or Shortcode: Shortcode 313131
Administrators: Unlimited

Flocknoteflocknote-logo

Flocknote is unique in a couple of ways. First of all, it is designed for churches. Second, it bases pricing on members instead on the number of messages. They count members base on unique contacts in their system. This is a great option for churches who want to send out a lot of Flocknotescreencaptmessages. Flocknote should have made it into my review of free plans (and I plan to go back and add it.) They have the most generous free offer of any of the plans. If you have 40 or few contacts, you get unlimited everything at no charge. And it is easily scalable. (See pricing structure below.) Flocknote also gives you unlimited administrators. That means you can give your youth leaders permission to log in and send texts to the youth group, your music leader can log in and send messages to the band or choir.

flocknote.com
Price: $0/month, $5/month, $10/month, $15/month, $25/month, $35/month and up
# of Messages Per Month: Unlimited
# of Contacts: Depends on package
Signup/Opt-in: Text to Join, Web Form, and Manual Add
Groups: Yes
Keywords: 1 Free, $4/month each additional
Message Scheduling: Yes
Message Forwarding: No but replies are collected and accessible to administrators
Text and Response: No
Phone Number or Shortcode: Shortcode 84576
Administrators: Unlimited

 

Text in ChurchTextInChurch

Text in Church is the Cadillac (or Lexus) of the group. It is really designed for churches who are looking for an integrated communications package using email and text messaging for a number of different functions. They have a number of features not found with the other services like text and response. You can offer a keyword for guest to request more information and it will send it to them and then remind you to follow up. They have automated campaigns that allow you to schedule a series of texts, sent to all or just some, over a period of time. It is really designed to help automate a lot of communications tasks in the church over email and SMS, especially guest follow-up. If you are just looking for a service to send announcements to your congregation, this may be more than you need. However, if you are looking for a new comprehensive system, they have a lot to offer. Their pricing is certainly in line with the other services though it will be a big leap for smaller churches with their smallest plan being $37/month or $297 a year.

textinchurchscreencapt

www.textinchurch.com
Price: $37/month, $67/month, $97/month (With yearly discount: $297, $477, $797.
# of Messages Per Month: 200, 1,000, 2,500
# of Contacts: 500, 1,000, 2500
Signup/Opt-in: Text to Join, Web Form, and Manual Add
Groups: Yes
Keywords: 1 Free, $4/month each additional
Message Scheduling: Yes
Message Forwarding: No but replies are collected and accessible to administrators
Text and Response: No
Phone Number or Shortcode: Shortcode 84576
Administrators: Unlimited

Textify Mobiletextify

As you may see, the right service for your church depends a lot upon the number of contacts you plan on having and the number of messages you plan on sending. Textify Mobile bases its pricing on messages sent and allows you to have as many contacts as you want. Just remember, 200 messages a month can go quick. First of all, with TextifyMobileScreenCaptMTextify Mobile, the only way to join is via text message. Everyone who joins receives a required verification with opt-out information. So, again, in month one, if 50 people sign up, you start off with 150, that leaves you three messages that month that can be sent to all 50 people. If the math works for your church, Textify Mobile is extremely easy to use. I was set up and had sent my first text in minutes.

www.textifymobile.com
Price: $9.95/month, $29.95/month, $49.95/month,
# of Messages Per Month: 200/700/1500
# of Contacts: Unlimited
Signup/Opt-in: Text to Join Only
Groups: Unlimited
Keywords: 1/1/2
Message Scheduling: Yes
Message Forwarding: Yes to email or select group
Text and Response: Yes
Phone Number or Shortcode: Shortcode 34444
Administrators: 1/3/5

TextMarksTextMarks-Logo-2014-OnTrans-460x120

With a starting price of $49/month, TextMarks is one of the most expensive options out there. However, it may also be the easiest. I set up my trial account, signed up two users and sent my first message within 5 minutes. Their custom web widgets are also an easy to use method to get people signed up on your church’s website.

www.textmarks.com
Price: $49/month, $99/month, $199/month
# of Messages Per Month: 1250, 3500, 10,000
# of Contacts: Unlimited
Signup/Opt-in: Text to Join and Web Widget
Groups: 5,10,15
Keywords: 5,10,15
Message Scheduling: Yes
Message Forwarding: SMS Conversations in Alpha Testing
Text and Response: Yes
Phone Number or Shortcode: Shortcode 41411
Administrators: Co-Managers can send messages via SMS and receive alerts.

That’s it for now. There are some others that didn’t make this list. I took the time to thoroughly review the services that appeared to offer the best service and value. If there is another service you are interested in, let me know in the comments and I will add it. Also, if you still need more help deciding, leave a message in the comments with some of the features you are looking for and your budget and I will customize some recommendations.

 

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