How to use the SMS feature

You can now send mass text messages/SMS via the app. Please note: these mass text messages are a PUBLIC BROADCAST that you can send out to any person in your directory that has a mobile phone number in the USA/Canada and has not opted out of receiving SMS messages. 

Important - before you send out your first text message - we recommend sending out an email to all parents letting them know how they can opt out of receiving text messages.  You can also let them know that if they don't have a mobile number in the database, they can add their number so they receive the text messages.  To make your life easier, we have created an email template for you called "Welcome to SMS" that does exactly this!

When you send a text message through our software, recipients will receive a short URL that when clicked will bring them to the public broadcast page within your school database where they will be able to see your entire message. The reason that we have done it this way is because of character limitations in text messages - this way you can get all the information you would like to convey to your parents and users via one quick click of a link!   They will not have to log into the software - they simply can click on the link to see your message!  You can also circulate this link/URL via your other social media platforms to get the message out.  The link can be posted on your Twitter account, Facebook, Instagram, and your school website!

Because it is a PUBLIC BROADCAST, you will not be able to use any personalized merge fields in your SMS messages such as names or passwords. Please remember that even though the short URL is unique, you do not have to be a parent or user of the database to see the Public Broadcast. Therefore, any content or information you post is not password protected, so please do not share any sensitive information via the Public Broadcast. 

Please follow the steps below to send out an SMS, and please see the frequently asked questions section at the bottom of this article for additional information.

To begin, navigate to the Communications tab in the software, and click SMS. In this screen you will be able to see your past SMS messages and what stage they are in (either draft or published).

To create a new SMS, click on "Compose New Public Broadcast" 

You will see that the Compose Public Broadcast is very similar to the layout of composing an email, but it only has 4 steps.

Compose

The first step is where you will compose your Public Broadcast. This is NOT what will be shown in your actual SMS to parents/users, instead they will receive a SMS message with the school name and a short URL that will take them to your Public Broadcast when clicked. Therefore, you can format however you would like by adding images and changing font size throughout the body of the Compose field.

If you would like to create your SMS from an existing email, click the drop down and select Yes. Then you will be able to select from an existing email you have sent in the past 30 days - please remember that merge fields will not work in SMS. If the software detects any merge fields, it will provide you a warning so that you can remove them.  The merge fields have % around them.

If you would like to link to a specific page within the app, you can select it from the App Links drop down. Pre-loaded for you will be App Login & Join Request. The App Login link will bring people to the login page for the app, and the Join Request link will bring people to the join request page for the app. Any active events and products in your software will also be in the App Links drop down-- so if you want to link to a specific event in the software or encourage people to buy a specific product make sure they are published (for events) or active (for products) and you will be able to select them in the App Links drop down. You can add as many links as you would like to your Public Broadcast.  Obviously only people that have logins to your database will be able to access the products/events when they click on the "App Links".

When you are finished composing your public broadcast, click next.

Recipients

The recipients defaults to all parents who have opted in to receive SMS from your school and that have a mobile phone number. To edit recipients, click the Edit Recipients button.

You can then filter the recipients the same way that you would in the email section of the software, and can even apply advanced filters like grades and teachers.

Select Preview Recipients once you are finished to see who will receive your message. Then select next.

Review & Test

You can test your SMS by putting in your cell phone number and the cell phone numbers of anyone else you would like to preview the message separated by commas. Please make sure you use 10 digit phone numbers. You can enter the phone number with or without dashes. 

In order to make sure that your Public Broadcast is formatted the way you would like and that any AppLinks you used work, go to step 4 and click the Save & Publish button (this does not use any credits, it simply publishes the Public Broadcast and activates the link). Then, go back to step 3 and send out any test SMS messages. Click the short URL from your text message to preview your Public Broadcast page to make sure that all the links work and the formatting is as you like.

Once you are satisfied with your test, click next.

Save & Confirm

In the last step of the SMS process, you can select the channels you would like to broadcast your message to:

Select SMS to send to the recipients you have selected. If you would like to share the public broadcast to Facebook or Twitter, you can also select those channels as well. If you select Facebook or Twitter, a separate pop up window will open asking you to log in to your respective accounts- we do not post for you automatically.

If you would like to continue editing your public broadcast later, select Save As Draft.

If you would like to post the broadcast but not send out via SMS, select Save & Publish.

If you would like to post the broadcast and send the short URL out to your SMS recipients, select Save, Publish, & Send.  Each SMS sent will "cost" one credit.  See below for information on credits.

FAQs:

1. Help, I'm out of credits! 

Depending on your agreement with AtoZ Connect, each school will start out with a certain number of SMS credits. When you click on the SMS tab, you will see how many credits you have available. 

If you have over 100 credits, your background color will be green. 

Once you have less than 100 credits, the background color will shift to yellow. 

Once you have no credits left, the background color will change to red and you will not be able to send SMS messages anymore. Please email support@atozconnect.com to buy additional credits. Credits cost $9 for 1000.

2. I made a mistake in my SMS, what do I do? / How do I unpublish an SMS I sent?

If you realize once you've sent out your SMS that you made a mistake but don't think anyone has clicked on it yet (i.e. you realize you had a typo or made a mistake immediately after you sent it) you can edit the Public Broadcast message by clicking the pencil button next to the Public Broadcast you wish to change. Then, you can edit the public broadcast in the compose section of the SMS steps, and click Save & Publish in Step 4. This will update your public broadcast message but will not change the URL short code that got sent out via SMS. This way, people who click on the message will be taken to the updated Public Broadcast page - no need to send out a new message.

If you think that people have already seen your message and acted on that information, you will probably want to unpublish your public broadcast and send a new SMS. To unpublish a post, click the pencil icon next to the Public Broadcast you wish to unpublish, and then select step 4: Save & Confirm. Click the yellow "Save as Draft" button to unpublish the post. Anyone who clicks the short URL after it has been unpublished will be taken to a page with this message:

3. What are Applinks?

If you would like to link to specific products or events from your Public Broadcast, you can select them from the Applinks drop down. All active events and products will be available via this drop down. 

4. How can I change the "From" name in the texts that go out?

The "From"  name is the same as the Entity Short Name that you have established in the School Settings - Setup area.

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