Feature Update: Reach your Contacts on Telegram!

Feb. 8, 2016

This blog is a modified version of an article that was posted on the TexIt Blog.


We're proud to announce that you can now add Telegram channels, giving you access to a super-fast, simple and free platform used by over 62 million people around the world through any mobile device. Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging service - similar to WhatsApp and WeChat - with a focus on speed, openness and security. It's open source and encrypted end-to-end, meaning that all data sent and received via Telegram cannot be deciphered when intercepted by your ISP, network administrator or other third parties.

Why Telegram?

There are five key factors that make Telegram our first choice for cloud-based messaging: 

  1. Unlike most cloud-based chat applications, Telegram provides an open API that encourages integration and development.
  2. Telegram's values of openness and security fall in line with our own, allowing us to provide an encrypted channel for organizations communicating sensitive information.
  3. It's completely free.
  4. Telegram will allow you to send up to 30 messages per second - the same throughput a short code would allow at no cost. 
  5. Telegram provides a web app; a desktop version for Mac, PC and Linux; and mobile apps for all iOS and Android devices. It can be used anywhere an internet connection is available. 

How Does it Work?

Your Telegram channel will be represented by a Bot. Telegram Bots are special accounts that will serve as an interface for the workflows and messages you send via RapidPro. Bots differ from standard accounts in that they: 

  • Have no online status and no last seen timestamps, the interface shows the label ‘bot’ instead.
  • Are given usernames that always end in ‘bot’ (e.g. @TriviaBot@GitHub_bot).
  • Act as a simple interface for Telegram's API. 

Much like RapidPro, Telegram Bots allow you to create custom tools that provide you with alerts, polls, information, or other services upon request, e.g. Poll bot

RapidPro Enables Bulk Messaging

As it stands, Telegram doesn't provide a method for sending bulk messages or notifications. In fact, a Bot not connected to RapidPro can't initiate conversations with new users. A new user must either add them to a group or send them a message first (they can use telegram.me/<bot_username> links or username search to find your bot). However, when a Bot is connected to your RapidPro account, your Telegram contacts become RapidPro contacts, allowing you to leverage our broadcast functionality to initiate conversations and send bulk notifications with ease. 

Getting Started

You can add a Telegram channel just like you would any other channel: simply log-in, navigate to the Add Channel page and select the Telegram option at the bottom of the page:

You'll be asked to enter an authentication token from your Telegram Bot, which is provided after you create it in Telegram. 

Follow the instructions provided to create your Bot. The first step is to find and initiate a conversation with the BotFather:

After initiating the conversation, send the /newbot command and give your bot a name. You can follow the link provided to give your Bot a picture and description. Then, plug the authentication token you're provided into your RapidPro account. 


rapidpro_bot


Considerations

Each time a new end-user initiates conversation with your Bot, they'll use the /start command. You can assign an introductory workflow, e.g. a registration workflow, to your Bot by creating a /start keyword trigger.