Changing perspectives on Phone calls and SMS

There are around 6 billion active mobile phones worldwide which exceeds the world population. That's a staggering statistic. It's also a huge market. It should be noted that this number relates to all mobile phones, not smartphones specifically, so "dumb" phones as well. Most of these "dumb" phones allow you to perform two basic actions - make & receive voice calls and send & receive SMS messages. Until recently, it's been somewhat difficult, costly and time consuming to try to target these avenues as part of a marketing, fundraising or outreach campaign. We've all seen those ads for text donations to help send aid to Haiti not long after the massive earthquake. For a small organization, a similar campaign method would have been unfeasible until now. Enter Twilio!


Twilio is a web service that allows you to programmatically make and receive phone calls and send and receive text messages using an API. Very simply, you can make and receive calls and sms messages by visting a certain URL and passing information to it. This opens up all kinds of possibilites for developers, like us here at Raised Eyebrow, to start thinking about how to connect the tools we already know with mobile phones.

What is Twilio?

Last night, Raised Eyebrow hosted the first Vancouver Twilio meetup and below is the "Intro to Twilio" slidedeck I used. It should help you understand Twilio a little better.


How does it apply to my organization?

Every organizations needs are different, there's no catch all. However there are some areas that could benefit from using services like Twilio.


In no time at all you can have a phone number set up specifically for donations. An individual could send an SMS text containing a pledge amount to that number, which could then alert a staff member at your organization, who will then call them back immediately and guide them through the donation process.

Outreach and Action campaigns

If you have an existing user database and permission to contact them via SMS, it would be possible to create a simple application that allows your organization to send updates to all of your users/customers. Lets say you have a campaign that requires a specific action from your users/customers, such as visiting your website to fill in a form or simply responding to an SMS. You can include a link in the SMS which takes smart phone users directly to your website, or non smart phone users could reply to the SMS.

Call centre/Help desk

Building a call centre/help desk system is prohibitively expensive for most organizations. Using Twilio, it's possible to set up an advanced call center with tools like call trees, voicemail, call redirection and call queues within a fraction of the time and cost of a regular phone system. This system can then also be tied into your user/customer database so that you can track calls and know more about customer needs and history.

Toll Free Numbers

Have you always wanted a Toll Free number for your business? With Twilio you can have your very own Toll Free number for just a few dollars a month. Having a toll free number can reduce the barriers for people who want to contact you.

A professional sounding office phone system

If you're envious of the phone response systems that larger organizations have, with nice voice overs and easy to use menus, it's possible to create one for your office. Create a script, have one of your staff members do the voice over and use Twilio to dramatically reduce the cost of getting this up and running. Connect this to your new Toll Free number and you go from sounding like you're running the business from your basement, to a professional, well run organization.

Make and Receive calls in the browser

Yes, that's right, turn your web browser into a phone. With Twilio it's possible to receive and make calls right within the browser. Do you have an existing CRM or user management system that contains phone numbers? With a little programming you could allow your staff to instantly make calls at the click of a button, directly from the browser, and in turn allow them to answer incoming calls right in the browser, no need for a physical phone on the desk.

We can help

At Raised Eyebrow we've been working with Twilio, getting to know the API and the tools available. If you or your organization is interested in knowing more about the services that Twilio offers, or would like to talk about how we might use Twilio in the context of your organization, then get in touch and we'll be glad to help.