Last year, I moderated a panel on how messaging could be used for social activism. One of the panelists was a volunteer with a local AIDS community care centre and had been involved in running SextEd - a text message hotline that anyone could SMS in order to provide accurate answers to questions about sexual health.

I was floored by how simple, accessible and powerful plain-old SMS was as a medium for having these kinds of conversations. Non-profits and businesses alike have so much to gain from their customers being able to reach out with a simple, easy-to-send text message.

With our latest product update, we've made it easy for anyone to provide their customers and communities a phone number that they can text for help or more. You can set it up in under 10 minutes and you don't have to write a single line of code to get up and running. Follow the steps below and you'll connect SMS & MMS and Slack together to do just that!

Step 1 - Sign up for Twilio and get a phone number

Start by signing up for Twilio and buying a phone number from which you'll interact with your audience.

They've got numbers available in most geographies, and in some cases you can even port an existing number.

Note that although you can get started for free, you'll need to deposit some money in your account in order to be able to communicate with phone numbers other than your own.

Step 2 - Sign up for Smooch and enable Twilio SMS integration

If you haven't already, sign up for Smooch.

Once you're in, select Twilio from the list of available integrations so you can fill in the configuration form.

The settings you need for the form (AccountSID and AuthToken) can be found on the Twilio account page. Simply copy and paste these values into the appropriate sections of Smooch's configuration form and you'll be connected to Smooch.

Step 3 - Connect Smooch to Slack

Next, you'll need to connect Smooch to Slack so that you can use the wildly popular team chat app to respond to your audience of SMS.

Connecting to Slack is really easy, just hit the "Connect to Slack" button and we'll do the rest.

Of course, if you don't want to use Slack, you can also respond to your users over HipChat, Help Scout, Zendesk, or even your email inbox!

Step 4 - Start Texting

That wasn't so hard was it?

You can now start giving out the number you registered in step 1. Put it on your website. Your business cards. A billboard. Anything. Whenever anyone sends a message to that number, Smooch will send it through to Slack or whatever other system you connected it to in Step 3.