The Tools | Signal Vine


Signal Vine: Texting to Nudge Adults Toward Opportunity

Texting is a powerful tool to encourage adults with lower skills toward action or opportunity. Signal Vine is an enterprise text messaging solution that nudges individuals toward better behaviors and outcomes. Based on Nudge Theory, the idea that positive reinforcement and suggestions can influence behavior, Signal Vine relies on data analytics to cue and then send personalized and proactive text nudges. The goal of the nudges is to support positive behaviors that lead to employment, persistence, and program completion goals.

In field testing Signal Vine, we witnessed how workforce development teams can use Signal Vine to increase efficiency while producing higher levels of engagement with program participants. Here’s what we learned:

Key Learnings:

  • Texting encouraged behaviors that increase opportunity: Text-based nudges increased attendance for job fairs and on-time administrative actions significantly more than email notifications.
  • Texting is a preferred mode of reminders for adults: Adult program participants in workforce development settings felt comfortable receiving and responding to the text nudges.
  • End users responded to text nudges at much higher rates than email or other media channels, especially nudges that were action oriented and relevant: The nudges with the highest response rates were consistently about timecard submission, which had been a huge challenge in the past.
  • Signal Vine helped OCAPICA program participants get exposure to local jobs: With low attendance at Home Depot recruitment events, OCAPICA used Signal Vine nudges to remind and motivate 25 people to attend an event. Home Depot provided guided exposure to potential job opportunities to all participants.
  • Texting works best with clear communications goals and audiences: Signal Vine works best when counselors have defined communications goals that align with the affordance of texting, such as discrete logistical actions, and have defined the audiences to which they need to communicate those actions.
  • Signal Vine allowed staff to reach more participants in less time, allowing staff to focus on other organizational goals: Rather than individually emailing participants, sending batch nudges through Signal Vine saved up to two hours of staff time per nudge. OCAPICA estimated that 500 scheduled nudges over the course of a year would not only save 1,000 hours of staff time but also increase the effectiveness of communications.
  • Personalization with media and humor supported relationships with workers and boosted engagement: OCAPICA counselors made use of GIFs, emojis, and humorous memes to make their payroll nudges more relevant and engaging.

Field Testing Signal Vine:

Signal Vine has been primarily used in high school and higher education settings to nudge students toward better outcomes. We wanted to field test how well texting increased positive outcomes for adult learners and job seekers. For example, how could it help job counselors send programmed and instantaneous nudges to move program participants toward the completion of tasks, like meeting program requirements or attending job events?

We engaged the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA) to test how well the tool supported employment and training services for community members with barriers to employment. With a small staff, OCAPICA needed easier ways to communicate with hundreds of program participants, drive attendance to recruitment events, and remind people about administrative requirements.

For field testing, OCAPICA used Signal Vine to automatically send text message reminders to their program participants, large groups of clients (such as temporary and seasonal workers) as well as nudge workers about timesheet due dates and payroll follow-up so employees would be paid for their work.

How We Know That It Works:

  • Engagement: Fifty-four percent of participants responded to text messages—much higher than previous engagement with email.
  • Speed of responses: Most text nudges were responded to within 10 minutes, many within five minutes.
  • Increased attendance at events: When OCAPICA used Signal Vine to share a job recruitment event at Home Depot, 25 job seekers attended (when previous events would attract 10 people on average).
  • Reduced effort for job counselors to communicate: OCAPICA saved up to two hours of staff time per nudge (20), which equated to 40 saved hours of staff time in a four-month period.

Why it Works for Working Adult Learners:

Supports the supporters
It addresses two common challenges of organizations working in support of learner success: lack of ability to reach individuals and lack of sense of control over getting participants to complete tasks.
Text is the preferred communications mode for short logistical messages.
Ninety-seven percent of people have a cell phone.
Not limited by current skills
Short text messages use less cognitive load for people with limited overall literacy and work well for people with limited digital literacy.
Social personalization
Program participants received texts that appeared to be directly to them from a counselor at OCAPICA.

Field Testing Partners

  • Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA)

Field Testers:

  • 247 people receiving support from OCAPICA

“With a small staff, OCAPICA needed a more efficient way to communicate with hundreds of program participants, encouraging them to attend recruitment events and respond to administrative requirements. Josue Rodriguez, an OCAPICA advisor, said, “We used it to send out a message that needed to reach multiple people at once with a couple of strokes of keys on a keyboard, delivered to program participants in a technology that is more user-friendly for them.”

Josue Rodriguez
Advisor, OCAPICA

Signal Vine Story:

Natasha, OCAPICA client

OCAPICA participant, Natasha, believed that the nudges helped her stay on track with program requirements and encouraged her to go to a job fair, eventually leading to a job with OCAPICA. “Text nudges are better than email; my inbox is so full they get lost. And the flyers that are posted around OCAPICA, I only see them when I’m there, but I look at texts all the time anywhere.”