Before sending any text messages to your customers, you need to understand the rules governing SMS marketing.
For example, you must gain active consent from your customers before sending business texts. You see, the laws and regulations governing text messaging are similar to those that govern marketing emails. Still, they are far different from those of many other channels.
Penalties for non-compliance are much greater, so understanding SMS compliance is critical. Luckily, maintaining a compliant text messaging program is not as difficult as it may seem.
The Authorities Involved
In the United States, there are two organizations that govern and maintain the rules for business texting.
These two core entities are:
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was written in 1991 and is the federal legislation that covers telemarketing, text messaging, and the Do-Not-Call list.
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association represents wireless carriers and others in the telecom industry. One of the areas covered by the CTIA is SMS marketing. The Short Code Monitoring Handbook lays out guidelines for how marketers can use text messages to reach consumers.
Of the two organizations listed, the TCPA is the one you need to pay attention to the most. The central theme of the TCPA is that you must acquire express written consent from potential subscribers before sending them promotional texts.
If you neglect doing so, you could get slapped with penalties of up to $500 per text or even a class action lawsuit. The good news is that obtaining consent isn't that hard, and we'll talk about that next.
Obtaining Express Written Consent
According to the TCPA, "express written consent is permission given by someone on paper or electronically to receive promotional messages via an autodialer."
Now hold on. We can already hear you thinking it.
"Whoa. Wait a second! We're using SMS texts, not autodialers!"
But here's the thing. TCPA legislation is outdated and doesn't consider newer technologies, like SMS marketing software. Consequently, courts have struggled to determine whether such software should be viewed as an "autodialer."
As a result, the advice of many professionals is to take the safe route and act like whatever service you're using to send texts is an autodialer. In this way, you minimize the risk of TCPA violations and potential penalties.
Getting Consent Doesn't Have to Be Hard
At its core, obtaining express written consent isn't that hard. The TCPA definition provides for permission to be given electronically, which opens up several options for capturing consent in a compliant way.
This could be checking a box on a web form, recorded verbal consent, or simply texting a keyword to a phone number (with the caveat that the keyword call to action has some specific verbiage.)
By taking advantage of these options, you can ensure that you're obtaining express written consent in a way that is both compliant and convenient.
Ways to Ask for Consent
One of the more popular ways to acquire consent is to collect opt-ins through a text-to-join system.
It works simply by texting a word or phrase, known as a "keyword," to a shortcode or phone number. When someone texts your keyword, they automatically opt into your SMS program.
However, for the text-to-join process to be TCPA and CTIA compliant, a few things must be in place.
First, you must have a clear and conspicuous disclosure that the customer agrees to receive text messages from you. Additionally, your call to action must divulge that subscribers will receive promotional messages in the future.
Second, you must obtain the customer's express written consent. And lastly, you must give information on data and messaging rates and then provide your customers with an easy way to opt-out of receiving future texts from you.
If all of these components are in place, you can be confident that your text to join process is compliant with the TCPA and CTIA regulations.
SMS opt-ins are a great way to capture express written consent from your subscribers. Most mass texting services offer web forms as a way to grow your list.
These forms pop up on your website, are embedded into the page, or stand alone as landing pages. They give users the ability to input their information and sign up for your texting program.
Similar to text to join, specific requirements are needed for a form to be TCPA and CTIA compliant.
Make sure that your SMS opt-in form is clear and concise and that it clearly states what users will be signing up for. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your SMS opt-in program is effective and compliant.
Here are just a few last things to keep in mind:
- In order to avoid any confusion or Opt-Outs, it is crucial that you make it abundantly clear in all advertising for your text messaging program who the sender is, and the nature of the messages that will be sent.
- Anytime you plan to advertise your call to action, you also need to disclose that messages will be sent via an automated method. This is key for capturing express written consent.
- In addition to agreeing to receive automated messages, they must also be made aware that their agreement to opt-in is not a condition of purchase. This means that a consumer doesn't have to make a purchase in order to be eligible to subscribe.
- It's important to let your customers know how often you'll be texting them. This way, they can manage their expectations and know what to expect from your messages. You can either tell them how many texts they can expect to receive or let them know that your messages will be recurring.
- It's essential to inform your customers on how they can opt out of receiving SMS texts from you. You can do this by including a snippet of text that informs consumers about opt-out keywords they can use, such as: STOP, CANCEL, QUIT, UNSUBSCRIBE and END.