Text message voting system eliminates cheating for national competition
Burlesque performer Mae De La Rue based in South Sydney took over as director for a national burlesque competition, Burlesque Muse, in 2021. Having performed across the globe for nine years and competing in Muse, De La Rue was best poised to take over the mantle.
Traditionally, the competition is in-person only. People from all over buy tickets to view the performances but also to vote on the best performer. Voting results are split between judges and the audience – with the audience given a heftier weighting.
In 2020, the Grand Finale moved to a hybrid format allowing viewers to stream the in-person show online. This came about as Burlesque Muse’s newest sponsor, The Great Debacle, built an online platform for burlesque performers to stage their shows. Included with this build was an online voting service for potential competitions.
According to De La Rue, moving the show online meant that it would be more accessible to viewers across Australia and the globe who could not attend (or vote) in person. It also meant that regional restrictions, such as sudden border closures or lockdowns, would not affect or disadvantage out-of-state performers.
Besides the challenge of running and producing online shows, a few different issues rose during the 2020’s online finale. In the past, it was easy to check voter counts for in-person shows as everyone was assigned a ticket and only one vote. However, The Great Debacle’s new online voting system provided all ticket buyers with the same QR code that takes them to a landing page to vote for their favourite performer.
However, the lack of unique links made the system vulnerable to voter fraud. The Great Debacle team noticed almost immediately that there was suspicious activity and were forced to exclude a significant portion of votes.
To ensure similar activity would not happen again, several precautions were implemented, such as validating usernames with an email and social media upon signup. However, with only a 15-minute real-time window to count and cross-check votes for several hundred people, this would not be easy nor possible. They needed a platform or tool that could distribute unique links and deliver and be acted upon quickly.
Having used text messaging during her day job as a social media manager, De La Rue considered SMS as a solution that could be easily implemented and proven cost-effective. However, her platform of choice would need to:
- Deliver reliably and quickly
- Have shortened links (to save on characters)
- Create unique links (so any link-sharing or doubling on votes is tracked)
- Enable international messaging (for overseas viewers)
- Provide after-hours support in Australia
After-hours support was crucial for De La Rue because any technical difficulties would need to be solved quickly during or before the live show. When struggling to resolve issues with the unique links, De La Rue was able to access live phone support half an hour before the show with the MessageMedia team.
After trialling a few competitor platforms, only MessageMedia reached out with a personal call and care to inquire about her challenges. It was this, plus our extensive features, that prompted her to choose MessageMedia.
Another company emailed me with an automatic spam email. That doesn’t really help. The fact that Scott and Dan both rang me and said, is there anything I can help you with? I got to ask them some questions, and they explained how things would work. That’s what got me to buy.Mae De La Rue, National Director, Burlesque Muse
Mae De La Rue was fantastic to work with! She was very open and engaged in understanding SMS and how it could help her. She knew what she was striving for. This made it all the easier to figure out what features would empower her to achieve the best results.Scott Thomas, Customer Relationship Manager, MessageMedia
MessageMedia’s SMS service automatically creates as many unique, shortened links you’ll need with specific plans. For De La Rue, this made it “super easy” to carry out precisely what she wanted without distracting her from live hosting.
Additionally, MessageMedia’s system also recognised multiple phone formats, including international numbers. With international messaging possible, audience members from NZ, family members in Italy and friends in the Netherlands could also vote – something that had never been achievable before.
Increase voting while eliminating voter fraud
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Burlesque Muse text to participants simply read the following:
NOTE: Burlesque Muse kept a failsafe on hand just in case. At the five minute mark, they posted a link to the voting system in case participants did not receive their text to vote.
This is an example of one system, but you can also create text polls where participants can vote straight from their SMS messages using automation. See an example below:
In this case, you can build automation by using existing integrations or link connectors such as Zapier. This feeds replies into a voting management tool or even just an excel spreadsheet for result checking and counting. If you are interested in setting this up, chat with a messaging specialist now or check out our existing integrations now.
In previous in-person shows using QR codes or voting cards, only 68% of votes, on average, were captured from the audience. Moving across to an online show with an SMS system, there was a much higher ratio of votes coming through. During the Grand Finale, 165 votes of 193 (85%) were made, increasing voting by 25%.
Additionally, voting was easier to do (one click) and completed much quicker. Over 72% of the votes for the SMS poll were made within the first five minutes, showing that the audience response was favourable.
The number of people opening and voting is phenomenal!Mae De La Rue, Director, Burlesque Muse
No extra votes were taken, and voter fraud was at 0% with this new system.
Drive 40% more votes and engagement
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There were several SMS features that De La Rue wasn’t able to explore fully, including SMS marketing campaigns and two-way texting. Creating more meaningful ways for participants to give feedback via two-way SMS can empower the audience to feel more valued and connected. It can also be a good way for Burlesque Muse to gauge feedback on the event.
As a social media manager during the day, De La Rue is looking for new ways to reach fans and customers as organic reach is becoming difficult. Posts or references to burlesque are often flagged and taken down as they ‘allegedly’ breach community guidelines. De La Rue is now considering adding text message marketing to her mix. For example, timed offers for burlesque classes or time-sensitive updates such as changing lockdown restrictions.
If you’re looking for online voting alternatives or better communications for your online/in-person event, chat to us about how SMS can serve you. Or start now with a free trial.