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Saddleback Church builds sense of community with mobile

August 27, 2010

Saddleback's iPhone application

Saddleback's iPhone application

NEW YORK – Saddleback Church has a 360-degree mobile strategy in place that it uses to build a sense of community and increase charitable donations throughout its eight houses of worship.

The nonprofit uses SMS to make its services more interactive and to engage prospective members by integrating text messaging

“We want to be where the people are and mobile is where people are,” said Doug Hart of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA.

Saddleback Church is a 31-year-old church that was founded by Pastor Rick Warren. It has more than 200 ministries and eight locations.

The Church first began mobile marketing via SMS. The church used SMS to poll audiences. This was a means of building a sense of community. However, Saddleback also used the answers it got to segment its audience.

Consumers were asked to text SADDLEBACK to 313131.

Consumers that participated in the polls were asked a question, which they replied to with three possible answers. They were then asked to provide their email address.

Saddleback Church was able to send emails to participants based on their poll responses. There were three variations of the email communication; one for each of the possible poll answers.

“So many people responded that EZ Texting’s servers were almost shut down,” said Shane Neman, CEO of EZ Texting, New York.

A lot of call to actions ran via broadcast, since the church’s services are broadcasted.

For in-service polling, consumers were able to opt-in for bible verses of the day.

Saddleback Church integrates SMS into its Web, applications, Facebook and Twitter marketing efforts.

“SMS is used to complement all the various media being used to get the Church’s message out,” Mr. Neman said.

For example, on the church’s Web site, consumers can set their communication preferences.

SMS alerts is an option consumers can opt-in to.

The church is able to use mobile to grow its membership, donations and advocates.

In April the church had a service in Angel Stadium for Easter.

The call to action was publicized there and tens of thousands of people texted in. FYI: Angel Stadium’s maximum capacity is 50,000, so response rates were very good.

“What’s most amazing is that all of this happened in under a minute,” Mr. Neman said.

Next Saddleback launched an iPhone and Android application to provide live streaming video services for worshippers on the go.

A whopping 24,000 consumers downloaded the iPhone application in just six months. Thousands of consumers downloaded the Android application.

“The applications are great for providing people information on what’s going on at the church and what services are coming up,” Mr. Neman said.

Click here to view Saddleback’s presentation

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Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor at Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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