Text messages are one of the most effective ways to communicate in 2022. Whether you’re a small business who promotes products to your customers or a content creator who sends new articles to your subscribers, texting can help you grow your network and help you reach a wide range of objectives.
What many businesses and thought leaders may not realize is that text messages are highly regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. Text messages are subject to TCPA rules and regulations, and violating those rules can lead to hefty fines.
In this article, you’ll learn what the TCPA is, why it’s important, and how you can stay compliant in 2022.
What is the TCPA?
TCPA stands for The Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Enacted in 1991, it is the primary federal law in The United States governing telephone solicitations, including text messages. If you want to communicate with consumers via text, you must comply with TCPA rules and regulations.
Why should you care about the TCPA?
The TCPA applies to everyone, not just businesses. Whether you’re a content creator hoping to grow your subscriber list or a direct seller trying to grow your VIP group, you need to abide by TCPA laws. A single offense is subject to a $1,500 fine.
We’ve put together the following checklist that will help you stay compliant and avoid fines this year.
1. Get permission to text your contacts and customers.
Under the TCPA you must gain consent prior to reaching out to contacts via text. This is often referred to as the opt-in process. Opt-ins are crucial to avoiding fines. Fortunately, the opt-in process can be fairly simple. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Give your contacts an affirmative step to take, such as checking a box on your website or replying to a message with a typed response.
- Remember that the opt-in process must happen via a method other than a text message. A web-form, email message, or Shout message will be sufficient.
- Make sure your language is clear. People should understand that they’re agreeing to receive text messages from you.
2. Consider a double opt-in.
A double opt-in approach can be helpful for people who use keyword-activated bots and drip campaigns. It provides an extra layer of protection by sending a text message that includes similar language to the original opt-in form. This approach helps eliminate any potential ambiguity around your contacts’ consent.
3. Disclose your terms and conditions.
After a contact gives you permission to text them, you need to follow up with a comprehensive disclosure message. This disclosure should cover the terms of your SMS marketing communications, including:
- Your business name
- The purpose of your messages
- Frequency of texts per day, week, or month
- Text message asking questions/requesting help
- Instructions for opting out of communications
Here’s an example you can copy and customize for your own business:
[Business Name] Mobile VIP Alerts: Sneak Peeks, Exclusive Sales, and Early Access to New Products. You will receive approximately 5 messages/month. Msg & Data rates may apply. Text STOP anytime to unsubscribe. Text HELP if you have questions.
4. Respect the opt-out.
If and when someone asks to no longer receive messages from you, you must stop messaging them immediately. This includes all means of SMS messaging, including text messages, group messages, and Shout-to-Shout messages.
It’s a good idea to include opt-out instructions during your opt-in process. This can be as simple as “reply STOP to unsubscribe at any time.” Doing so keeps you compliant with the TCPA and also helps instill trust between you and your contacts.
5. Maintain the frequency you disclosed in your opt-in form.
Your message frequency should match the disclosures in your opt-in process. If you disclosed a weekly text to subscribers, don’t text them twice or more a week.
6. Only send content that you disclosed during the opt-in process.
It’s incredibly important that you only send subscribers contact that they want to receive, i.e. what they opted into receiving. For example, if a subscriber opted in to receive alerts about their account, you can’t send them messages about upcoming sales as well.
If a subscriber wants to receive marketing messages from you as well, they’ll need to opt-in to those communications. As you develop your SMS marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to develop opt-in forms for all lists that you plan to maintain.
7. Communicate only during business hours.
The TCPA states that a business cannot text or call subscribers before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. Shout’s message scheduling feature makes it easy to stay compliant with this aspect of the TCPA.
Exemptions from the TCPA Text Message Consent Requirement
There are a very small handful of instances in which businesses don’t need to obtain consent to send text messages. Here are a few that may apply to your business:
When a message only contains information, such as service or delivery updates, companies can send the message without consent. There must be no sales or marketing promotions of any sort included in the message, otherwise you must obtain consent.
Prior Established Business Relationship
Businesses with a prior established relationship with a subscriber can send SMS marketing to that subscriber without consent. A prior established business relationship must be one of the following:
- A subscriber has inquired about a product or service within the last 90 days. The marketing message can only relate to that specific product or service.
- A subscriber has purchased from you within the last 18 months.
Tax-Exempt Non-Profit Companies
Charities and non-profit organizations can send messages without obtaining prior written consent. The message cannot promote the exchange of goods.
Consequences of TCPA Violations
Every TCPA violation is subject to a fine of up to $1,500 per message sent per recipient. Complying with TCPA rules and regulations is the best way to avoid fines and ensure ensuring success for your SMS marketing efforts. To learn more about the TCPA, click here.