Send SMS Anywhere in the World

Did you know you can use TextIt to send SMS anywhere in the world? Our channels module allows you to connect virtual numbers and short codes in any country to your account through services like Twilio, Nexmo, Plivo or carriers themselves. A perfect example of this capability is a recent SMS campaign conducted by the United Methodist Church, which used a combination of channels to send over 80,000 text messages to over 3,300 contacts across 12 countries in 4 languages in just 3 weeks (more here). You can read more about their budding mobile-based communication program here.

Virtual Numbers

Virtual numbers (VNs) provided by SMS aggregators like Twilio, Nexmo and Plivo send and receive SMS on behalf of your TextIt applications and bots. Aggregators are listed in the channel claim page in your TextIt account, and recommendations are given based on your account’s timezone:

In most cases, they can be purchased for $1-2 per month and connected to your TextIt account in seconds. All you need is an account with an aggregator; connecting your numbers is as simple as providing us your account Token and Secret. After that, your numbers will be displayed for use.

Local VNs vs International VNs

VNs can be either local or international, with local being the most common. Local VNs are sourced from a specific country and most performant there, while international numbers are capable of sending messages globally but may be less performant depending on the country you wish to send messages to. 

Local VNs are currently available in the following countries (and more are being added every month!):

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Lithuania
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Nexmo
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

If your country isn’t on this list, but you know of a local aggregator that provides VNs and/or short codes, let us know. We’d be happy to add them for you.

Android Relayer

If you plan to process 1,000 or less messages per hour, our Android application is a convenient alternative to MVNs and short codes. Simply download our application on your Android phone, connect it to your TextIt account, and start sending. We refer to Android devices running our app as ‘relayers’. Note that you can add as many relayers to your account as needed. You can learn more about Android relayers here, and use this guide to get started.

Short Codes

Short codes are your best option if you expect to process a high volume of messages and aren’t able to locate a local aggregator in a particular country. Short codes can be acquired by carriers themselves, and you can use sites like OpenSignal to determine which has the most coverage. Once you’ve acquired your short code, we can connect it for you.

Social Media

Of course, if SMS isn’t ideal for your use case, you can use TextIt to reach anyone on Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Twitter.

Considerations

Note that each account operates within a single time zone, and that accounts with multiple international channels behave the same as others. International channels are first matched with contacts by country, then by number prefix. If sending via Twilio numbers, you can create a messaging service that adds additional logic to channel matching through your Twilio portal.

Questions? Comments? Let us know; we love hearing from you. 

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Remind your Contacts to Respond to a Flow

Use this guide to build a system that automatically restarts contacts in a flow–or sends a reminder message to nudge them along–after a given period of inactivity.

What You’ll Need

To set this up, you’ll first need to create each of the following:

  • A group in which contacts who enter your flow will be placed, e.g. ‘Medication Reminder Timer’.
  • A campaign that operates on ‘Medication Reminder Timer’.
  • A contact field (e.g. ‘Timer Start’) that’ll store the time the active contact enters your flow, and will be updated each time the contact responds.
  • A flow:

  •  A campaign event that contains either a single reminder message or a flow to start. This guide uses a single message:

  • Set your flow to expire inactive contacts after a reasonable amount of time: 

Group Actions

After completing steps 1-4, you'll need to modify the flow to ensure all contacts who enter it are placed in the 'Timer' group and removed once they complete it: 

Contact Fields

Next, you'll need to add an Update Contact action that stores the time at which a contact reaches each step:

Add one to each ActionSet (except the last) to ensure the date and time of each response is recorded: 


That's all there is to it. Each time a contact reaches a new step, the 15 minute timer will restart. If they don't move to the next step in the next 15 minutes, they'll receive a reminder. This method can be used to start other flows, restart the current flow, and even keep track of the amount of timeouts each contact accrues. 

Questions? Comments? Let us know; we love hearing from you. 

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Easily Store & Retrieve Data Outside of TextIt w/ Zapier, Google Sheets

Quickly and easily configure your flows to communicate with a Google Sheets 'database' without writing a single line of code. Google Sheets are handy for storing data outside of TextIt that can then be distributed to any of your contacts. 

A few weeks ago, we announced a private TextIt Zapier app to gauge interest in a first-class integration. Since then, we’ve found Zapier to be an invaluable tool to users with use cases that require external services, e.g.: 

  • Distributing and verifying coupons and vouchers. 
  • Adding contacts who complete a web form to a flow. 
  • Adding Salesforce contacts to flows. 
  • Use HookPress to trigger flows from actions taken on your Wordpress site.

The high-level, low-requirement functionality Zapier provides falls in line with the purpose of TextIt: enable anyone, regardless of technical know-how, to build highly performant messaging applications and chatbots.

A first-class TextIt Zapier app is on its way. In the mean time, you can follow this link while signed-in to your Zapier account to gain unlimited access. Worried about managing the costs of both services? Don’t sweat it. The great thing about private Zapier apps is that you can use them to build multi-step Zaps on a free plan (a restriction if using only global apps).

This article highlights the integration we’ve observed to be the most useful: TextIt <> Google Sheets. Why Google Sheets? It enables you to create one or more external databases and connect them to TextIt in minutes. First, a primer on data storage within TextIt.  

Data Storage within TextIt

There are two ways to store and distribute data via your TextIt account. The first is via flows. Inside a flow, you can use RuleSets to collect data from your contacts which is then stored as a flow field with a corresponding flow variable, initiated by the '@flow.' variable prefix. You can then distribute data via Send Message actions. The second is via Contact Fields, which allow you to store data as attributes on each contact, though no contact can reference another (unless they're started in a flow when another contact reaches a Start Someone Else in a Flow action in a separate flow, in which case they can reference the previous run's fields (using the '@extra.flow.' variable prefix) or the contact (using the '@extra.contact.' variable prefix).  

Data Storage Outside of TextIt

While flows are useful for collecting and distributing data stored within your account, they can also be used to communicate with external services, like Zapier, allowing you to automatically store and edit data outside of TextIt so it can be accessed by all of your contacts. Storing data outside of TextIt is useful in a variety of contexts, particularly:

  • Storing, distributing and verifying coupons and vouchers.
  • Storing flow fields outside of TextIt instead of creating new contact fields. 
  • Managing signups for an event, service or job. 

A. Barr Simpson

What better way to demonstrate this configuration than an example? A. Barr Simpson, a distributor and manufacturer of fountain soda products, uses TextIt's Zapier app to manage its padlock spreadsheet. A. Barr Simpson delivers certain products with a lockbox. In order for customers to receive the product's code, they must interact A. Barr Simpson's TextIt application. 

Account Verification

Customers send the keyword 'code' to interact with the flow that distributes padlock codes: 

The flow (1) asks for the active contact's account number, (2) uses 'Split by Expression' RuleSets to convert the contact's name, phone number (in E.164 format) and the date and time at which the contact requested the code to flow fields and (3) posts this information to the URL that our 'Webhook Action' trigger provides (click here for a comprehensive guide to our 'Webhook Action' trigger).

The intended destination for this information is A. Barr Simpson's padlock spreadsheet. Here's a simplified example:

This spreadsheet will eventually contain the information of the customer who last looked-up the code and the driver who last updated the padlock's code. I entered the account number '1010101', so the row containing this number will be updated. 

This is where things get tricky. If you intend to lookup a row and update it, you first need to add an 'Update Spreadsheet Row' action to your Zap:


Once the spreadsheet and worksheet have been chosen, I click the 'Add a Search Step' button. This will add the lookup action that allows Google Sheets to find the row it will eventually update: 


In the 'Lookup Spreadsheet Row' action, I'll need to add the column you'd like Google Sheets to lookup and the value (provided by the first step in your Zap, the TextIt 'Webhook Action' trigger) I'd like it to match. In this case, I'm looking up the 'Account Number' column in the Google Sheet and matching it with the 'Account Number Rule Value' value ('Account Number' being the name of the flow field created by the RuleSet that collects the contact's account number, and 'Rule Value' being the value that's created after the contact's response passes through its 'has a number' response rule):


Once this step is completed, I arrive at the 'Update Spreadsheet Row' action I started earlier. You'll notice that the 'Row ID' field now contains 'Use a Custom Value' (the value taken from the TextIt 'Webhook Action' trigger: the contact's account number). I enter the TextIt 'Webhook Action' trigger values I'd like each column to contain, then complete the step:
 

Zapier will then update the spreadsheet with the sample data I've selected. From here on out, these will be the data updated to my spreadsheet when a contact completes the associated flow. 

Code Distribution 

Next, I add a 'Start Contact in Flow' TextIt action to my Zap that starts a flow that distribute's the padlock's code. Here's an example of how that flow might look:

Notice the '@extra' variables. These will be used to reference values in my spreadsheet. When the contact starts the flow, they'll be replaced with the values I choose. I've also added Send a Message to Someone Else and Send Email actions to notify me when a customer has accessed their padlock code. 

There are three ways to start a contact in a flow via the TextIt 'Start Contact in Flow' Zapier action:

  • Specifying their group(s)
  • Specifying their UUID(s)
  • Specifying their phone number(s)

Note: To pass a contact's UUID to Zapier, simply create a 'Split by Expression' RuleSet that converts the variable '@contact.uuid' to a flow field: 

The contact's phone number will work just fine for this example. Note that the 'Restart Participants' field must always have the value 'Yes'. This ensures contacts who've already completed this flow will be able to enter it again.  

Finally, I'll add the extra fields that will correspond with the '@extra' variables in my flow: @extra.account, @extra.code, @extra.name and @extra.date:

Note that field names entered in this step are case-sensitive; always use lowercase letters. 

That's it! Turn on your Zap, organize it with a folder, and sit back as TextIt and Zapier automate the rest!

Questions? Comments? Let us know; we love hearing from you. 

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How to Restrict Access to Flows

TextIt is a visual programming language used to build messaging applications and chat bots. A core concept of this language is the flow: a series of of actions and rules used to build branch logic (also called "conditional branching" or "skip logic"). An application or chat bot may comprise a single flow, or many connected by Start Another Flow or Start Someone Else in a Flow actions. Being that any single account may contain more than one application or bot, we'd like to explain how you can restrict access to each of your flows (and, by extension, your applications or bots). 

First, it's helpful to understand how the modules that comprise your account interact. Each account contains channels, contacts, flows, campaigns and triggers. In this article, we focus on channels, contacts, flows and triggers. 

Channels & Contacts

Your account may contain one or more channels, which are essential for messaging. Each time a new contact sends a message to once of your channels, they're added to the Contacts Tab and assigned to that channel. If you have multiple channels of the same type connected to your account, TextIt will prioritize the channel the contact last messaged. Once a contact is assigned to a channel, they'll only received messages from that channel (until they send a message to a different channel connected to your account). Specifically, the following conditions must be met for a contact to be assigned to a channel:

  1. You have multiple channels of the same type connected to your account.
  2. The contact's address type corresponds with the channel type (e.g. phone number) of one or more of your channels.
  3. The contact messages the channel.

Note that if you have multiple Twilio numbers connected to your account, you can create a Messaging Service via the Twilio console to add additional logic to modify your channels' message routing behavior. See this guide to learn more. 

Flows & Triggers

Flows can be triggered by keywords, dates and times, messages not caught by existing triggers, and more. In this article, we focus on keyword triggers. Keyword triggers are convenient because they enable contacts to initiate flows on their own time. When implemented correctly, they can serve the purpose of assigning a contact to a channel and a flow at the same time. All you need to do is choose the groups you'd like the trigger to apply to: 

Putting it Together

Once you've mapped your desired channel relationships, you can restrict access to your flows by assigning groups to your keyword triggers. If a contact doesn't belong to one of the keyword's groups, they won't be able to interact with the flow. 

Questions? Comments? Let us know; we love hearing from you. 

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TextIt Updates: Week of May 1st

Each week we highlight new articles and changes to the platform, as well as tips intended to help you get the most out of TextIt:

Updates

  • Consecutive messages sent to the same contact are now delayed by one second to ensure they're delivered in order. Stack away!
  • Your contacts' profiles now display failedunansweredbusy, and canceled calls.

Tips

  • Keyword, missed call, and uncaught message triggers give you the option of selecting the group(s) to which they apply. This allows you to limit flow access. 

  • The Message Tab allows you to see which messages are sent by your flows, and which aren't. The 'Inbox' tab displays incoming messages not handled by your flows, while the 'Flows' tab only displays incoming messages handled by your flows.  
  • Those looking to display flow results in real time can do so via a TextIt/Google Sheets Zapier integration. Follow this tutorial to build your own dashboard to display the results. 

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TextIt Updates: Week of April 24th

Each week we highlight new articles and changes to the platform, as well as tips intended to help you get the most out of TextIt:

Updates

  • Full-featured media support is on its way! This quarter, we made changes to enable you to collect images, videos, files and even GPS coordinates. First, we populated incoming Twilio MMS with URLs. Now, we're displaying media collected via Twilio and Telegram channels on each contact's profile (link).  

Tips

  • Those who wish to programmatically export data from TextIt can do so via the flow runs endpoint, which will give you the same data as an Excel export. You can grab contact fields separately using the contacts endpoint
  • You can account for inadvertent message send errors (like Twilio's invalid phone number or invalid phone number format errors) by starting contacts in a flow that asks them to respond (to confirm message receipt), then place only those who responded in a group that receives followup messages. You can view a channel's error log by navigating to your account page and clicking on the channel.

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Feature Update: Collect Media via Twilio, Telegram

Full-featured media support is on its way! This quarter, we made changes to enable you to collect images, videos, files and even GPS coordinates. First, we populated incoming Twilio MMS with URLs. Now, we're displaying media collected via Twilio and Telegram channels on each contact's profile. Message content will be displayed based on the format it matches:

Twilio

Check the 'MMS' box when searching for a Twilio number to ensure you'll be able to receive media:

Numbers that support MMS are indicated by a media icon:

Note that Twilio MMS addresses different carrier restrictions by automatically resizing images you send to meet the exact specifications of the receiving carrier. 

Supported Media Types

Supported media types include:

  • photos/videos
  • audio (voice recordings)
  • files (e.g. Google Docs)
  • GPS coordinates (location data)

Considerations

Media is currently loaded in each contact's profile. Elsewhere, it's represented by URLs. This includes flow results exports and contact fields. 

Questions? Comments? Let us know; we love hearing from you. 

TextIt Updates: Week of April 17th

Each week we highlight new articles and changes to the platform, as well as tips intended to help you get the most out of TextIt:

Updates

  • Last week, Facebook launched the Messenger Platform (beta), a platform that allows developers to build interactive chat bots to communicate with over 900 million monthly Facebook Messenger users on behalf of any Facebook Page (the promotional kind). This week, we released a Facebook Messenger channel that will allow you to leverage TextIt’s visual, drag-and-drop interface to build and deploy your own Messenger bot. Each bot will map to a TextIt account. Build just one bot, and your experience is available on all platforms where Messenger exists, including iOS, Android, and the web. Use this guide to submit a Messenger app for review and connect it to your TextIt account (link). 
  • A single account may now contain channels in different countries. How this effects channel-contact behavior: If not yet contacted, TextIt will assign channels to contacts based on their country. Once a contact has responded to a channel, they'll continue to receive messages from that channel unless they send a message to a different channel, in which case they'll become tied to the new channel.

Tips

  • To link contact fields to flow results, simply add contact fields to your flow results export. If you'd like to display results via your own dashboard, checkout TextIt's API, which will allows you to externally display contact fields, flow results and more.  
  • Those interested in visualizing a certain type of response (like the categories through which each contact passes in a flow) should consider updating them to contact fields once they've been evaluated by a RuleSet, then executing a contact export. This allows you to (a) ensure the correct values are assigned to your contacts' fields, and (b) skip the process of pulling specific columns out of a flow results export. Note that response categories can be called using the '.category' extension, e.g. @flow.response_1.category. More on TextIt variables here
  • You can determine a contact's group membership within a flow using a 'Split by Contact Field' RuleSet that evaluates the 'Groups' contact field: 

  • If your application solicits and updates contact information to specific contact fields (like a registration form or the like), you may want to search for contacts missing a value in specific fields. You can do so via the search bar in the contacts tab: simply enter the query contact_field="", where 'contact_field' is the name of the field you're searching. For example, if we want to look for contacts who haven't yet provided their gender, we can use the query gender="". 

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Feature Update: Reach your Contacts via Facebook Messenger

Last week, Facebook launched the Messenger Platform (beta), a platform that allows developers to build interactive chat bots to communicate with over 900 million monthly Facebook Messenger users on behalf of any Facebook Page (the promotional kind). This week, we released a Facebook Messenger channel that will allow you to leverage TextIt’s visual, drag-and-drop interface to build and deploy your own Messenger bot. Each bot will map to a single TextIt account. Build just one bot, and your experience is available on all platforms where Messenger exists, including iOS, Android, and the Web.

Bots on Messenger will have the same functionality as anything you’d normally build with TextIt, like weather and traffic updates, and receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages. Contextual, convenient, and delightful. 

Facebook is focused on facilitating business <> customer interactions that provide meaningful value to both participants—a cause that aligns with our own. 

We’ve always advocated for SMS and voice (IVR). They’re among the most effective communication channels in today's mobile centric world. That being said, bots are the next step in the evolution of mobile interaction and we’re bullish on their future. Use this guide to submit a Messenger app for review and connect it to your TextIt account. 

Getting Started

Login to your TextIt account to use the following links to access specific pages in your account. 

For this integration, you’ll need: 

  • a Facebook App: Your Facebook App will contain your bot’s Messenger settings. This is where you'll setup your Webhook, retrieve your page access token and submit your app for approval.
  • a Facebook Page: A Facebook Page will be act as your bot’s identity. When people chat with your bot, they’ll see the Page’s name and profile pic.
  • a WebHook URL: Facebook uses secure callbacks to send messaging events to your TextIt account. 

Creating your Facebook App

First, create an account on Facebook's Developer Platform. Once logged in, use the ‘My Apps’ menu in the top righthand corner to select ‘Add a New App’. 

An ‘Add a New App’ dialogue will appear, asking you to select a platform. Click the ‘basic setup’ link near the bottom; you can add your platform at a later step. 

Next, you’ll be prompted to create an App ID for your new app. 

Once you've registered your app, navigate to the ‘Messenger’ tab and click ‘Get Started’. 

At this point, you’ll need to generate a Page Access Token. If you already own a Page, you’ll be able to select it from a drop-down menu. If you don’t, a link will be provided to create a new one

Once you’ve received your Page Access Token, navigate to your TextIt account in a separate tab and claim a Facebook channel. Enter your Page Access Token to receive your callback URL.

Back in the 'Messenger' tab, click ‘Setup Webhooks’ to enter your callback URL and select all of the available fields. 

  • ‘messages’ allows your app receive text messages or messages with attachments (image, video, audio).
  • ‘message_deliveries’ subscribes your app to message delivery receipts. 
  • ‘messaging_postbacks’ subscribes to post back callbacks, in case your app incorporates buttons. 

Next, navigate to the ‘Settings’ tab and click ‘Add Platform’. 

Here, you can add the URL of your website as your platform. Once added, click ‘Save Changes’ to continue. 

Prior to submission, navigate to the ‘App Details’ tab and complete it. 

Submitting your App 

Now you’re ready to submit your app. Note that each new Messenger bot is subject to an internal review process; use the information in this link to ensure your content is acceptable per Facebook's approval criteria. 

Navigate to the ‘App Review’ tab and click ‘Start a Submission’. Select ‘pages_messaging’ from the list on the lefthand side of the dialog and continue. 

Once you've selected the 'items' you'd like to add, click the 'edit' links next to them to fill out their corresponding forms. 

Finally, click 'Submit for Review' to complete the submission process. 

Considerations

Note that the Messenger Platform is intended for customer-initiated interactions. As such, Facebook Messenger doesn't allow you to reach Facebook contacts without them contacting you first. Your contacts can reach you via your Page, or search for your bot via the Messenger app. 

Also note that until your app is approved by Facebook, only admins will be allowed to message your app (even if you've made it 'public' prior to approval). 

Next, head over to TextIt to start building your bot! Questions? Comments? Let us know; we love hearing from you. 

TextIt Updates: Week of March 27th

Updates

  • We're testing a new Zapier integration that allows you connect more than 500 apps to TextIt. It's currently private, but we're giving out an invite link to those who'd like to give it a try (link). 
  • Use this guide to learn about the 'Start Contact in a Flow' action we added to Zapier. Specifically, learn how to use information collected by a Typeform to start a flow (link). 
  • Use this guide to learn about the Webhook trigger we added to Zapier. Specifically, learn how to post information collected by a flow to a Slack channel (link).
  • 'Start Another Flow' actions in IVR (voice) flows now route to the new flow without forcing a hangup. 
  • We shipped a new version of the Nyaruka TextIt Android app, version 1.8.1, which makes TextIt more aggressive when retrying failed messages. This change is intended to offset lack of network reliability in developing cellular markets. 

Tips

+ You can use a 'Split by Contact Field' RuleSet containing an 'is not empty' response rule to check contact fields for missing values, e.g.: 

+ DYK that you can view and export flow results? Flow results exports contain three tabs: 

  • Runs: the runs tab displays all the times your contacts have gone through a flow, as contacts can pass through a flow more than once. 
  • Contacts: the contacts tab shows the values in the last run, as well as the last value for each flow step, which may have been visited more than once if the contact was was ever redirected to it.
  • Messages: the messages tab displays every message sent from the flow to your contacts and vice versa. It provides the message direction (IN/OUT), text, date and contact information. 

Follow us on Twitter to interact with a chat application built with TextIt, or create a free account to build your own. You'll be sending messages in minutes! Get in touch anytime with any questions, comments, or suggestions.