Text messaging / SMS has become a key channel for many digital marketers around the world. Engagement and response rates are amazing and it boasts a stronger ROI than most other forms of marketing. Laws and regulations, however, are quite different from other digital marketing channels. When using a SMS marketing service, it’s critical that you follow key best practices to stay in the clear.
Below we’ve outlined 8 best practices for SMS marketing that every marketer should be following. If you're interested in learning more about the different laws and requirements for various text messaging programs, check out our SMS Compliance Guide.
1. Get Permission
You must have permission from people before sending them text messages. If you don't have their explicit consent, you’ll be breaking the law and exposing yourself to possible litigation. Additionally, it has a very negative impact on your brand’s image.
The good news is that getting permission is easy. People just need to opt in. They can do so by texting a keyword to your number, filling out a web form or even a paper form. They just need to agree to receive text messages from you or your brand. We consider this to be the most important best practice for any SMS marketing program.
If you have questions about permission, reach out to our team. We're happy to help.
2. Be Clear About Your Program
People should know exactly what to expect before subscribing to your SMS marketing list. The intent of your program should be clear and set expectations about what people will be receiving in the future. It doesn’t have to be complex. Simply write a sentence or two about what they’re signing up for.
Doing this is easy and should be done in two specific places; where you advertise your SMS program’s call to opt in and in the auto-responder your subscribers receive after texting to join or completing a web form.
3. Don't Send Too Often
No one wants a daily text message from your brand. SMS is a personal communication channel that should be respected. We recommend no more than 2 – 6 text messages per month in most cases. Any more will cause people to opt out.
Additionally, you should make sure people know how often you’ll be texting them. This is an important expectation to set ahead of time.
An example would be adding this to the initial auto reply of your SMS marketing program: "Receive up to 4 msgs/ month".
We include this frequency messaging in all auto-replies by default.
The CTIA is an international nonprofit trade association that represents the wireless communications industry. They're the source of many SMS marketing best practices and also govern most short code texting.
They require you to include "Message and data rates may apply" in your initial opt-in language. This disclaimer simply tells subscribers that joining your SMS program and receiving future messages will count towards whatever text / data allotments their cellular plan has.
We include this message in all auto-replies by default.
5. Provide an Exit
People should be able to opt out of your SMS program at any time. They should also know how to do so. All mass texting services process special “opt-out keywords” that should immediately unsubscribe people who text them. These words include STOP, UNSUBSCRIBE, STOP, END and CANCEL.
It’s important that these opt out instructions are included in every auto-response that’s sent after a person subscribes. While you’re not required to send the instructions with every text blast, it’s a good idea to do so every once in a while as a reminder.
We include these instructions in all auto-replies by default.
6. Text During Regular Hours
You should only send text messages during normal hours. Be courteous to your subscribers. They won't enjoy waking up to your texts in the middle of the night. Also, from an engagement prospective, people will be far less likely to take action.
One of the many benefits of SMS marketing is to inspire immediate action from your subscribers. It's unlikely that anyone will take action during "off hours".
7. Use Common Language
Use SMS shorthand sparingly. While many text abbreviations are widely understood by people today, not everyone will get it. Additionally, it can look unprofessional depending on your target audience.
If you absolutely need to save characters by shortening some of your words, start with the most common text abbreviations and try to keep them to a minimum.
8. Provide Value
Make sure that every text sent is one of value. People have given you permission to communicate to them via a very personal channel. Make it worth it for them.
Also, if your text program is used for marketing, make sure to keep your messages fresh and exciting. They should feel like a VIP. If you're not giving your subscribers something of value each time you send a group text, chances are, it's not worth it for them and they'll unsubscribe.