How To Set Up Group Text Messaging

3 Jun

In my previous article, I mentioned setting up the Suffolk County Cop Block Helpline, and idea I got from the Keene411 service FreeKeene.com uses. There are many applications for this, but here’s the basic idea behind it.

Someone sends an SMS to a phone number,
That SMS gets posted as a tweet,
Subscribers sign up for mobile notifications from that twitter account,
One text message is received by an entire group of people.

My use of this process has been in relation to my activism and participation in activist communities, but the same process can be used for any imaginable application. I’ll explain in the simplest terms possible, how to set this up.

(You may want to do this in an incognito window/private browsing session, so it doesn’t interfere with your existing accounts)

First, create a GMail account,
With that account, request a Google Voice number,
Create a Twitter account,
Follow @voteforcantwell (you don’t actually have to do this, this is my shameless twitter plug),
Go to TwitterCounter.com,
Where it says “Check your own Twitter stats – it’s FREE!” Enter your twitter handle and click  “Show me”,
A pop up should appear with twitter asking you to authorize the app (perhaps asking you to log in first),
Click “Authorize App”,
Uncheck “Discover interesting people” and any other notifications in the next window,
Scroll to the bottom of the screen, and under “Free Tools” click “Twitter Mail”,
Confirm you want to set up Twitter Mail,
Copy your randomly assigned Twitter Mail address to the clip board, paste it into a notepad or something for now,
Uncheck “Post an attached image to Twitpic”,
In the box next to “Cut off phrase” put 5 periods like “…..” but without quotes
Click “Save Settings”,
Log into GMail,
Click the gear symbol near the top right corner,
Choose settings from the menu that appears,
Click “Forwarding and POP/IMAP”,
Click “Add a Forwarding Address”,
***You might want to make your tweets private before you do this***
Paste in the Twitter Mail address you copied early and send confirmation email,
Check the tweets of your twitter account and copy the confirmation code,
Delete that tweet,
If you set your tweets to private, set your tweets back to public,
Paste the confirmation code in the confirmation box in GMail,
In GMail, click the hyperlinked portion of “You can also forward only some of your mail by creating a filter!”
In the filter settings, put “SMS From” (without the quotes) in the subject line,
Click “Create filter with this search”
Check the box next to “Forward It” and select the Twitter Mail address you just confirmed,
Click “Create Filter”
While logged in as a different twitter account, go to the twitter account assigned to your group texting,
Click the button to the left of the follow button, looks like a person with a down arrow,
Select “Turn on Mobile Notifications”, (If you don’t have this option, check the mobile settings in your twitter account)

Send a text message from your cell phone to your Google voice number, in under a minute you should receive that message as a text from twitter.

If you don’t receive the message on your phone, check the twitter account that you created for group messaging, did it tweet the message? If so, there is probably something wrong with your mobile settings on twitter. If it didn’t tweet the message, then something broke between GMail, twitter mail, and twitter.

Do you have a message from Google Voice in your gmail account with “SMS From” in the subject line? If not, log into Google voice, click the gear near the top right, choose settings, then choose “Voicemail & Text”. Make sure “Forward text messages to my email:” is checked.

If you’re still having trouble, ping me on twitter @voteforcantwell and I’ll try to help.

Once this is set up, explain to your users how to subscribe to mobile notifications from the aforementioned twitter account. It is also important for them to understand that they cannot reply to the text messages they get from twitter if they want those messages to be received by the group, when they receive the message from twitter, they have to send their reply to the Google Voice number you configured earlier.

This might sound a little involved, but once it’s set up, it’s really easy to use and if you have a community that needs to stay in touch on the go, this will really make things run a lot smoother. Again, if you have any trouble with it, Contact Me

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