Let’s jump into the top five rules you absolutely need to know when using SMS.
According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), consumers must give a business “express written consent” before the business starts sending them text messages. This written consent can’t be buried in a pages-long form. It must be clear and conspicuous, so the recipient knows what they’re signing up for. Failure to adhere to this guideline is one of many possible TCPA violations.
You’re also not allowed to require a consumer to opt-in to a text program as a condition to purchase property, goods, or services. However you decide to get consent, it should have a clear call-to-action associated with your opt-in method.
Acceptable Opt-In Methods
- Signed contract includes statement regarding SMS communication between the two parties
- Send a phrase or keyword to your number
- Enter a phone number on a web form online
- Sign up in-person at a physical location
Even text messages that are merely informational require consent.
Express written consent isn’t just for new contacts, it’s for all contacts. Yes, even those that you import. So before you upload a list, be sure that every phone number has given you permission to send them messages.
A call-to-action is the message that prompts a consumer to opt-in to your SMS campaign or program. It should consist of the following:
SMS Campaign Purpose
Let your subscribers know what they’re signing up for. Are they getting reminders? Coupons? Tips? Specify what you’re offering so there aren’t any surprises.
Include the approximate number of messages the customer should expect to receive in a given week or month. This will prevent any unexpected or intrusive texts.
- The identity of your company/brand/program
- Customer care contact information
- Description of the product people are signing up for
- Opt-out instructions in bold type (example: Reply STOP to unsubscribe)
Regardless of how a customer signed up, your very first response must be a compliance message confirming opt-in (easy to automate this process). It should reiterate some important information, including:
- Your identity
- Message frequency
- How to opt out
The CTIA is an association of mobile carriers who set rules and best practices for the SMS marketing industry. One of these rules is known as SHAFT— sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco. Including content related to any of these topics in your call-to-action or any of your messages is considered one of the highest violations, and may result in an immediate ban.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. If, for example, you operate a bar you may still be able to send messages about happy hour specials. However, it is crucial that you operate on a dedicated toll-free number and have an age gate preventing under the age of 21 from signing up for your texts.
If you plan on sending texts about alcohol or tobacco, check with our support team first so that we can help ensure you’re remaining compliant.