Feature Update: Set your Contacts' Preferred Channels within a Flow

We're excited to announce the addition of the 'Set Preferred Channel' action, a feature made necessary by our growing list of channel integrations. 

Default Channel-Matching Behavior

TextIt previously only matched contacts with channels based on the following criteria:

If you have multiple channels of the same type connected to your account, the channel that the contact last initiated contact with will be prioritized. Contacts can be locked-in to a relationship with a specific channel (they'll only received messages from this channel) under three conditions:

  1. You have multiple channels of the same type connected to your account.
  2. The contact's address type priority corresponds with the channel type (e.g. phone number) that possess multiple channels (e.g. multiple phone numbers).
  3. The contact initiates contact through an incoming message.
If the contact has never interacted with a channel linked to your account, TextIt will prioritize the channel whose number has the largest prefix overlap. 

For example, if your channels are +12505661212 and +2505551212, and you are sending an SMS to or calling +2505661231, TextIt will use the +2505661212 Channel because it overlaps the most.

In most cases, TextIt is able to discern the carrier associated with a contact's phone number and prioritize channels based on carrier, though this depends on carrier behavior.

Custom Channel-Matching

Now, you can create your own channel-matching logic to either assign or switch a contact's preferred channel without waiting for an incoming message. This new action will allow you to do things like: 

  • switching between channels of the same type (e.g. phone numbers). 
  • switching between channels of different types, like phone numbers and Telegram bots. 
  • assigning Android channels based on contact fields, prefix overlap or group membership (to get around throughput restrictions).
  • switching between toll-free and standard virtual numbers. 
  • assigning a number based on a user’s number’s country code, area code, and more. 

Considerations

TextIt will match contacts with channels according to the above-mentioned criteria until a contact enters a flow containing a 'Set Preferred Channel' action. The contact will be permanently mapped to the selected channel until (a) they send a message to a different channel or (b) their preferred channel is changed by another 'Set Preferred Channel' action.

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

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Anonymizing your Contacts' Personally Identifiable Information

We're fortunate to have a strong base of research-focused customers. While we work closely with each of our customers to update and add features, the academic community has been particularly influential in TextIt's development. In fact, TextIt's campaigns module is a result of our participation in an SMS-based clinic attendance and early infant HIV testing study. Along that vein, we'd like to make you aware of a feature that might benefit research studies and those whose use cases require contact information to be handled sensitively: contact information anonymization

Anonymization replaces each contact's name with a random code and completely remove their address (their phone number, or an ID associated with their Facebook, Telegram or Twitter accounts):

Note that 'None' is the default value displayed for empty custom contact fields. 

When the anonymization feature is enabled, each new contact profile, whether imported into TextIt via a spreadsheet or generated when a new contact interacts with one of your channels, is anonymized. No user will be The contact's UUID, groups, language preference and custom fields will still be accessible. By the same token, exported contact and flow information will also be anonymized. 

Note that this feature is permanent once an account has been anonymized.

If this isn't sufficient, we're interested to learn how we might improve this feature to accommodate a broader range of use cases.

Contact us to enable this feature or share your thoughts. 

Build and Test Bots for Free with TextIt

We understand that channel costs can be an obstacle for anyone looking to build and test chatbots and messaging applications with SMS and IVR functionality. That’s why we cover your first 1,000 messages with no financial obligation. Given so many options, you should be able to evaluate your bot at no cost. Whether you’re conducting a pilot or testing your application yourself, you can use this guide to send SMS with any channel for free.

SMS Channels

SMS channels deliver messages on behalf of your account. They include aggregators, the TextIt Android application and carriers themselves.

When using the TextIt app, all you need is an Android phone with our app installed and a SIM card. If you have an unlimited texting plan, testing your bot with our app won't cost you anything extra. To add your phone as a channel, navigate to the channel claim page, select ‘Android Phone’, and follow the steps provided. By contrast, aggregators offer virtual numbers which connect to your app and send messages on its behalf. Twilio has a great trial service, and offers virtual numbers in the following countries:

  • 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

Another option is an international number, which can be used to deliver messages in most countries. You can use this guide to enable international permissions for your Twilio account and try global messaging for free. 

Getting Started with Twilio 

1. When you sign up for a your free Twilio Trial, you’ll be asked to verify your personal phone number. This is an important security step that is mandatory to trying Twilio.

2. Head here to add your first Twilio phone number.

3. A new Twilio number will be generated with its capabilities (Voice, SMS, or MMS) displayed below it.

4. If the number doesn’t have the capabilities you are looking for (some numbers do not have all three capabilities), you can click the 'Search for a different number' link to find a number that better suits your needs by the country or capabilities.

Twilio_Console_-_Phone_Numbers_Getting_Started

5. Be sure to verify any non-Twilio phone number before sending or receiving any SMS messages to/from it.

Development Tips

Use these tips to get the most out of your Twilio trial!

Phone Numbers

  • Twilio allows one number per trial account. To get a different phone number than the one Twilio assigned you automatically, you need to release the current number you have on the numbers page first.

  • Phone numbers in Beta are made available to trial accounts. Check out this article on international numbers and their capabilities to find out which numbers are currently in Beta.

  • If you upgrade your account, your trial number will be carried over and charged monthly according to current Voice or SMS rates.

  • If your phone number is unused in your trial account for more than 30 days, Twilio will remove it. 

SMS

  • You will be able to send SMS from your Twilio SMS-enabled number, but not from your verified personal number. This rule will also apply after the trial.

  • Alphanumeric Sender IDs cannot be used with trial accounts.

  • When you send an SMS from your free trial phone number, it will begin with “Sent from a Twilio Trial account”. This message will be removed once your account has been upgraded.

  • You may be eligible to use Global SMS on your trial account. Find out more here.

Voice

  • Be sure to verify any non-Twilio phone number first by having Twilio place a verification call to it. This is an extra security measure that Twilio removes once you’re calling from an upgraded account.

  • There are a limited number of countries your Twilio account can make calls to. Upgraded accounts have the ability to enable permissions to call almost any country from your Twilio app.

  • Trial Accounts can only use either your account’s Twilio number, or a Verified Caller-ID, as the Caller-ID/From number when making outgoing calls.

  • Calls to and from your free trial phone number will play a short trial message before your TwiML runs.

  • Calls are limited to 10 minutes.

Social Media

Social media channels, which include Facebook MessengerTelegram and Twitter, are free!

Zapier

You can can use our Zapier app to integrate your bot with other services. Once you've clicked the invite link, you can use a trial Zapier account to setup your integrations. 

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

Follow us on Twitter to interact with a chat bot 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.

Send SMS Anywhere in the World

Did you know you can use TextIt to send SMS anywhere in the world? TextIt's channels module allows you to connect virtual numbers and short codes world wide to your account through services like Twilio, Nexmo, Plivo or the carriers themselves. A perfect example 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.

Virtual Numbers

Virtual numbers (VNs) connect to your app to send and receive SMS on its behalf. Aggregators are listed in the channel claim page in your TextIt account, where we make recommendations based on your location:

In most cases, they can be purchased for $1-2 per month from TwilioNexmo, or Plivo, 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 send 1,000 or less messages per hour, the TextIt Android application is a convenient alternative to VNs and short codes. Simply download the app on your Android phone, connect it to your TextIt account, and start sending. 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 start sending.

Short Codes

Short codes are your best option if you expect to send a high volume of messages and aren’t able to locate a local aggregator in your region. 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

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. 

Follow us on Twitter to interact with a chat bot 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.

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

***Our Zapier application is now Global! Learn how to store & retrieve data outside of TextIt here***

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. 

Follow us on Twitter to interact with a chat bot 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.

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. 

Follow us on Twitter to interact with a chat bot 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.

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. 

Follow us on Twitter to interact with a chat bot 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. 

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.

Follow us on Twitter to interact with a chat bot 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. 


Feature Update: Inbound MMS Support

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="". 

Follow us on Twitter to interact with a chat bot 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.