Sending SMS messages through Textlocal

You can send and receive text messages directly from ChurchSuite by adding an integration with Textlocal. One advantage of this is that you can send the messages to certain groups, for instance, a small group, or all the leaders in the church, or everyone serving on the welcome team.

In this article

Setting up Textlocal integration
Setting the "API Key" for your integration
Sending text messages through ChurchSuite
FAQs and common issues

Textlocal SMS Costs

It's free to open a Textlocal account and there is no minimum spend or ongoing monthly subscription - you simply purchase bundles of credits on a pay-as-you-go basis. Textlocal credits are available in bundles from 100 to 10,000 credits. Textlocal will alert you when your credits are getting low. Top up is online through your account control panel.

Prices (correct as at 31st March 2017) are 4.9p + VAT per SMS (5.88p inc VAT). A single SMS is 160 characters, so messages exceeding that length will use more than 1 credit.

For registered charities, Textlocal offer a significant discount to 2.8p + VAT per SMS (3.36p inc VAT). We recommend you request the charity pricing be applied to your account before purchasing your first bundle of credits.

When you open a free account with Textlocal they will assign you with a free Keyword. However, for an additional monthly cost, Textlocal can provide you with a "custom" Keyword; perhaps something that better represents your church name e.g. "KHC" for "Kings Hope Church". Further details can be found on the Textlocal  website.

Message lengths

An SMS message is 160 characters in length, however longer messages can be sent, resulting in multiple messages being strung together to create a single long SMS message. 7 hidden characters are used to join each messages together so that it arrives and can be read as one long SMS.

This can make calculating long message costs complicated, as a single message can be up to 160 characters but multiple conjoined messages are calculated in multiples of 153, 160 characters minus the 7 hidden characters to merge the messages together.

<= 160 1 credit
> 160 2 credits
> 306 3 credits
> 459 4 credits
> 612 5 credits
> 766 The message will be truncated to 765 characters.

Note: Message lengths are a restriction of SMS and are imposed by the networks, not Textlocal. The above credit costs are based upon sending to local numbers.

Setting up Textlocal integration

In order to start sending text messages through ChurchSuite, you need to first complete the Textlocal integration wizard. Go to the "Administrator" tab, which is in the top right-hand corner of your screen. Select "Integrations" from the sub-menu.

Click on "Textlocal".

Proceed following the integration steps - for the first step, you need to enter your Textlocal account details, so if you haven't signed up with Textlocal yet, you need to do that first - click here. After each integration step, click the "Save and Proceed" button.

Having created a Textlocal account, enter your Textlocal "Username" and "Password" and click "Save and Proceed".

Next, following the instructions in the shaded box on the left, complete the configuration within your Textlocal control panel before returning to this page.

Setting the "API Key" for your integration

The Textlocal API key ensures your users can continue to send SMS messages if your Textlocal password ever changes. It also means your users can send messages without needing to know your Textlocal password.

To obtain your church's API Key from your Textlocal account, in a separate browser tab, begin by logging in to Textlocal.

Hover your cursor over the "Settings" menu and select "API Keys" from the drop-down menu.

Here you will see a list of every API Key that you have set on your Textlocal account (although the likelihood is that you will only have one). If there are no API Keys listed, simply click to "Create New Key". 

Obtaining your API Key within Textlocal

When generating a new API key, or editing an existing one, if prompted, do not assign any IP addresses to your API key for the ChurchSuite integration - this will result in "Invalid username or password" errors, as ChurchSuite will not be sending SMSs from the IP address you specify - leave the "IP Addresses" and "Notes" fields empty,

Select to "copy" the API Key (all the numbers and letters) from Textlocal and "paste" it into the "API Key" box in the ChurchSuite Textlocal integration page.

If pasted correctly, a success message in the Integration will confirm "Your Textlocal API key has been verified."

Continue by entering your Textlocal Keyword in the space provided. When you open a free account with Textlocal they will assign you with a free Keyword. For an additional monthly cost, Textlocal can provide you with a "custom" Keyword; perhaps something that better represents your church name e.g. "KHC" for "Kings Hope Church".

You'll now need to send the test message from a mobile device to your Textlocal number. Allow a few moments of the message to be delivered and processed; then click "Check for message".

An error at this stage indicates the Textlocal configuration steps have not been correctly completed. Try checking for the message again - it can take a few moments for the message to deliver. If you continue to receive an error, check your Textlocal settings or re-send the message, checking that you are sending the correct message to the correct number.

A success message will confirm that a correct integration with Textlocal has been verified.

Click "Save and Proceed".

You can now optionally set which authorised users can use your church's Textlocal account to send SMS messages, and also set the "Default From" sender name.

Click "Finish" to complete the process. The Integrations page will now show that the Textlocal integration is complete.

You can return to the Textlocal integration at any time, perhaps to make changes to the authorised users. Click "Finish" to save any changes made.

Once this is done and Textlocal is integrated with your ChurchSuite account, you are ready to send SMS messages through ChurchSuite!

Sending text messages through ChurchSuite

Go to any of the Communication pages, for instance "Address Book" > "Communication" (most modules have a Communication page). At the top of the page, select who you want to send the text message to, for instance, you could select a Tag group that you wanted to send the text message to.

Scroll to the bottom of the page and locate the SMS option.

Click "Compose SMS'. The "SMS From" field is pre-populated with the Default From entry in the Textlocal integration, but this can be substituted for an mobile telephone number (which will receive replies to that number). Note that Merge Fields can be used for personalisation, or you can select a template message from the Preset SMS list. You can also save your SMS as a Preset and schedule your SMS if you wish. Now you can type your message.

If the message character count exceeds 160 characters, you are alerted to the fact that the message will use more than 1 message credit.

You can optionally schedule your message to be sent on a particular date/time. When you have done all this, click the "Send SMS" button to preview your message and review the distribution. Note that you can add or remove recipients at this stage. You will also see the distribution. Click "Send SMS" to send or schedule the message.

FAQs and common resolving issues

Q: When sending an SMS why do I keep being asked to enter Textlocal login details?

A: Authorised users, as set in the Textlocal integration, are able to send SMS message without needing to enter their Textlocal username and password. For all other users who have not been pre-authorised, they will be required to provide valid Textlocal login details in order to send an SMS through ChurchSuite.

Q: When sending an SMS why do I keep seeing an "invalid username or password" error message?

A: This is usually because another user has changed the Textlocal account password, or you have not supplied an API key as part of your Textlocal integration. When an API key is supplied during the integration process, it doesn't matter if the Textlocal account password changes as ChurchSuite will use the API key to authenticate with Textlocal in order to send a message. To add an API key, reset your Textlocal integration and follow the instructions in the article above.

Q: Can I see a log of sent SMS communications?

A: Yes. You can see sent communications listed in the Communication report in the corresponding Address Book, Children or Giving module reports section. You can also see further, more detailed logging in your Textlocal control panel.

Q: Textlocal's Terms of Service say that failure to include a STOP "opt out" message in all outbound SMSs is a breach of their terms of service. How does ChurchSuite handle this?

Since ChurchSuite already includes comprehensive communication preferences to enable people to easily opt in/out of receiving SMS messages, Textlocal have agreed with ChurchSuite that they will not enforce that term from their terms of service. It's therefore not necessary to include a STOP "opt out" option in your outbound SMS message. 

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