Quick Start Guide: Inbound Campaign

An inbound survey is a survey that invites the public to text in in order to start the survey, in response to a prompt on a poster, flyer, or on social media. An inbound campaign relies primarily on one or more of these inbound surveys to conduct public engagement.

Common uses for inbound campaigns include:

This article will explain how to plan and launch a campaign that invites the public to participate by texting in. A successful inbound campaign relies on two parts: a robust outreach strategy with great visual materials, and strong survey design.

As you read this guide, keep in mind that we use the terms survey and poll interchangeably.

Looking for info on conducting an outbound campaign (sending polls and messages to past participants, or to phone numbers you've uploaded)? Check out the Quick Start Guide for Outbound Campaigns.

In this article:

First Contact: Outreach Strategy

Inbound campaigns rely on using public prompts, such as posters, flyers, and images on social media, to invite people to text in. In order to succeed, you need to inspire people to take out their phones and send that first text. This relies heavily on the savvy design and placement of outreach materials.


Design your visual materials with a clear, compelling call-to-action and minimal clutter. See 5 Tips for Creating an Effective Outreach Poster for detailed tips. You can use our ready-made Outreach Templates to get started.

Placement and Distribution

The best placements catch people when they're idle, not in a hurry, and often already using their phones. Transit stops, onboard buses and trains, on or near park benches, waiting areas, and cafés are popular locations for physical placements. Direct mail and live events (like public meetings) are also effective. 

Avoid hectic places where people are unlikely to stop and engage, like storefronts on a bustling downtown street. Check out 4 Tips for Creative Outreach Techniques for more on outreach strategy.

Tip: Piggyback on existing audiences for maximum impact. Many transit agencies offer free or reduced-cost public advertising. Many clients also network with other organizations to drop in on each other's events and cross-promote their campaigns.

At a live event, an energetic announcement from the host and a PowerPoint slide with your hook question is usually enough. If there is no projector at the event, handing out flyers at the door is another option.

Anatomy of a Survey

The second essential component of an inbound campaign is a well-constructed survey, particularly the initial "hook" question that appears on your outreach materials. A typical Textizen survey includes three parts: the "hook," the main body of the survey, and any demographic or wrap-up questions you want to ask at the end. In general, a total survey length of 5-8 questions is ideal.

We recommend you draft your survey outside of the Textizen website initially, for easier collaboration with team members and to not be distracted by the technical configuration while you craft your questions. However, bear in mind that your questions must ultimately fit within the character limit, so keep them brief and to-the-point!

#1: The Hook

Your first question—the "hook"—plays a critical role in the success of your survey. This is what is printed on your outreach materials to attract people to text in. Generally, once people text in to a survey, completion rates are very high: 80-90% for a typical 5-8 question survey. But this hook question must be compelling enough to get people started.

  • Get people interested or emotional, through either the topic or phrasing. Topics such as a new minimum wage or a proposed rapid transit line may have broad appeal and inspire passionate opinions. For more nuanced topics, present options that are visually or verbally descriptive; it helps the project feel more real.
  • Start with a Yes/No or Multiple Choice question. These formats make it faster for people to choose a response and type it into their phone. You can ask for more open-ended detail in subsequent questions.
  • See 3 Tips for Writing a Great Survey Hook for more pointers on crafting a great hook.

#2: The Body

Once you've piqued people's interest and they've texted in their first response, what are the 2-3 most important questions you want to ask? These are the questions to put in the body of your survey. Multiple-choice and yes/no questions should usually come first, with Open-Ended questions later in the survey body.

Sometimes it can be challenging to figure out your 2-3 most important questions, so it can be helpful to think in reverse:

  • First, what specific decision or action will this survey inform or influence?
    Examples: transportation upgrades, regional plan, improving school programs
  • Then, what types of data or information is most useful for that decision or analysis?
    Examples: support/opposition to a proposal, personal experience, idea collection

This method can make it easier to narrow down to the most essential questions for your survey. Also consider how you intend to analyze and use the data you collect, so that you can use appropriate question types (e.g. Multiple Choice rather than Open Ended, or vice versa).

#3: Wrap-Up

Finally, consider asking 2-3 demographic questions to provide additional factors for analysis. Common questions include age, ethnicity, ZIP code, and community role (such as business owner, homeowner/renter, or commuter).

If you plan to contact these participants in the future, this is also your opportunity to ask for permission to text people again, or ask for their email addresses.

Fine-Tuning, Testing, and Launch

Step 1: Create and Test Your Poll

Once you've finished drafting your survey content, it's time to log into your account to create and test your poll. Careful attention to this step is very important to ensure the public has a great experience taking your survey, and that you get the data you need. See Creating and Testing Polls for a detailed walkthrough of this process. 

As you type in your content, you may find that some of your questions exceed the maximum Character Count and need to be shortened. When you and your colleagues text in to the poll, you may also find that some wording is unclear or awkward. Don't be discouraged—this ultimately leads to a clearer, better survey-taking experience for your participants.

Step 2: Finalize Launch Plans

Set your launch date and plan out exactly what is going to happen on that day, and what you aim to accomplish in the days or weeks after launch. This includes planning your press push and looping in your stakeholders, so they can better help you as you launch. It can be tempting to rush this step, but a well-coordinated launch pays off with better results for your campaign.

Example Launch Plans:

  • Week 1: Monday, 300 outreach posters will go up on buses and trains citywide. Tuesday-Friday, street team will travel to targeted neighborhoods and place 500 flyers in coffee shops, corner stores, and public open spaces.
  • Week 2: Post-Gazette and Tribune will publish stories about our campaign, featuring our poster and prompt. Street team will visit community events and spread the word about the project.
  • Week 3: First public meetings, Tuesday and Saturday. Invite meeting attendees to participate in the Textizen poll, if they haven't yet.
  • Weeks 4-6: Three more public meetings, continued data collection through Textizen. Partner organizations will promote our poll internally and at their public meetings. 
  • End of Week 6: Close the Textizen poll and begin analyzing response data.

Step 3: Launch!

If you've followed the proper steps and planned in advance, launch day is relatively easy: set your plans in motion and make sure everything runs smoothly. You’ll find that your extra effort up-front pays off in the form of more responses and greater engagement around your campaign.

Following Up: Outbound Surveys & Messages

Fast forward to the weeks after your launch: You've got some great survey responses, but now that you've got an engaged audience you're ready to ask some new questions. Maybe you'd also like to let people know about the public event you've got coming up.

With outbound polls and messages, you can reach out to your previous respondents by sending texts directly to their cell phones. For more information on creating and launching an outbound poll, see our Quick Start Guide to Outbound Campaigns. If you'd just like to send a one-way message to your past respondents, see Messages.