Create a trigger word auto-responder

Learn to set up automated SMS responses that are activated by specified trigger words sent to your virtual mobile number or short code.


SMS trigger words offer a personalised and speedy way for you to interact with your audience.

Trigger words let your audience activate chosen functions by sending a text message containing a custom word to your virtual mobile number or short code.

To learn about dedicated and shared numbers and shortcodes, check out our articles SMS short codes and Virtual mobile numbers.

By using trigger words, you create a more meaningful and interactive communication experience for your customers. Trigger words can be anything from a single letter to a short phrase.

Trigger word examples

Maybe you want to use 'Y' for Yes, or 'SignMeUp' to opt into a list or competition. The options are endless – let your imagination run wild.

Trigger words must be one word (no spaces), they can contain both letters and numerals, and are not case-sensitive.

When you receive a message containing a trigger word, your account automatically sends back your pre-defined auto-response.

Ways to use a trigger word auto-responder

We've provided a few use cases below to help inspire you.

  • Sign-ups
    Trigger word auto-responders are a perfect way to manage subscriptions to your SMS and email address books. Use an auto-responder to automatically add phone numbers and email addresses to address books in your account.
  • Customer surveys
    Use your trigger words to run quick and easy customer surveys.
  • SMS competitions
    Why not set up a text-to-win competition for your audience. Use the SMS trigger word auto-responder to send entry responses and monitor competition entries.

Before you start

Plan out any trigger words and auto-responses you're going to use in your auto-responder. Make sure they're ready to go before you start this process.

Step 1: Create an SMS auto-response

First, you must create your auto-responses. To create a default SMS auto-response message:

  1. Go to SMS > SMS campaigns > All SMS campaigns.
  2. Select NEW CAMPAIGN.
  3. Enter a Campaign name.
  4. Select Save.
  5. Under Campaign details, select the following options:
    Option Select
    Type of send: Automated
    Split test: No
    Links: Shorten or Do not shorten
  6. Select Save and continue.
  7. In the SMS editor, enter your default auto-response message.
    Automated SMS campaigns don't support the use of personalisation.
  8. Select Save & close.

Repeat this process for as many auto-responses as you need for your trigger word auto-responder. Usually, this is one response for each trigger word.

Step 2: Set up the auto-responder

To set up your SMS auto-responder:

  1. Go to SMS > Campaigns > SMS auto-responder. Once there, you see a list of all inbound virtual phone numbers and short codes linked with your account.
  3. Enter a name for your auto-responder. Don't worry; you can change this later.
  4. Select Save.

Step 3: Set up your trigger words

To set up your trigger words:

  1. Under Number, in the details section on the New SMS auto-response page, use the drop-down menu to choose the phone number you want to set up the auto-responder.
    This is the number your audience message to trigger your auto-responses. To learn more about the different types of numbers available to you, check out our articles, SMS short codes and Virtual mobile numbers.
  2. Under Auto-response rules, select + New trigger word.
  3. Under If a person sends, enter your chosen trigger word in the centre box.
  4. Under Respond with, use the drop-down menu to select your auto-response message.
  5. If you want to create additional trigger words, select + New trigger word and repeat the process.
  6. When complete, select Apply.

Step 4: Set up your response frequency

The response frequency lets you limit the number of times a single user can send a message to your auto-responder and receive a particular response.

For example, in a text-to-enter competition, you might want to restrict entries to one entry per incoming phone number. In this case, you can set up your auto-response to be a Thanks for entering message, and use the Response frequency settings to send a You've already entered auto-response to any subsequent entries.

To set the response frequency:

  1. Under Response frequency, find If a person sends a trigger word more than once.
  2. To send a different response to any users messaging more than once, select Send a different response. If you want to continue sending the same auto-response to any additional messages, select Keep responding with the relevant campaign and move on to step 5.
  3. Under On subsequent responses, send use the drop-down menu to select the auto-response you want to send to any users messaging more than once.

Step 5: Set up any address book actions

You can use actions to add any responding phone numbers automatically to an address book. Furthermore, if the sender includes an email address in their message, you can add that email address to an address book, too.

This works great for sign up campaigns.

To add address book actions to your auto-responder:

  1. Under Actions find Add people who respond to an address book.
  2. Select Yes. If you don't want to sign-up any responders, select No and move on to Step 6.
  3. Under Add responders' numbers to, use the drop-down menu to select the address book where you want to add your SMS contacts. If you don't want to collect senders phone numbers, select None.
  4. Under Add emails in responses to use the drop-down menu to select the address book where you want to add your email contacts. If you don't want to collect email addresses, select None. To collect email addresses, senders must include their email address in the SMS message.

Step 6: Activate and save your auto-responder

To activate and save your auto-responder:

  1. Under Activation, select Active to turn on your auto-responder. To turn the auto-responder off, select Inactive.
  2. Select Save.

Nice one! Your auto-responder is now set up and working.

Next steps

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