Text messaging: so simple in concept, so fraught with regulatory perils for business.
Businesses that want to send SMS messages to customers have to take into account legal and regulatory considerations. Every country has different requirements regarding business text messaging compliance, and if you run afoul of local SMS compliance laws and regulations, carriers or governments may prohibit you from sending future messages. Here are some guidelines on how to keep that from happening.
P2P and A2P
There are two primary types of SMS content: person-to-person (P2P) and application-to-person (A2P).
P2P SMS is what most people imagine when they think of text messaging. P2P SMS is generally conversational, and it takes place between real people, generally in real time. The good news is that there are few regulations around P2P messaging; the bad news is that businesses aren’t people, so P2P conditions don’t apply.
A2P SMS comes in three varieties:
- Promotional text messaging contains a sales or marketing promotion.
- Informational messaging provides information to consumers.
- Transactional messages are non-marketing messages that provide important information to customers, such as a welcome message, an order conﬁrmation, or a shipping update.
Pro tips for promotional text messages
Today we’re focusing on promotional messages. Here’s a list of things you should and shouldn’t do.
- Do get opt-in permission from anyone you want to send promotional messages. The people you contact must agree to be texted.
- Do let people opt out. Give recipients a keyword (often STOP) they can send in reply to your messages to tell you to stop sending them texts. If they opt out, be sure that the opt-out confirmation message you send in reply is the last message they’ll receive (until and unless they opt back in).
- Do be clear about what recipients are signing up for. Describe what they can expect in terms of content and frequency in a sentence or two on the web page on which they can provide their phone number, and in the autoresponder you send when you receive a new opt-in. The autoresponder should also include the phrase “message and data rates may apply.”
- Do offer a keyword (often HELP) that recipients can send to receive guidance.
- Don’t spam people. If you overwhelm recipients with frequent messages, you risk having them see your promotions as a nuisance and opting out. Sending promotional text messages more frequently than once a week is iffy, and even weekly is too much for some people.
- Do answer recipients’ question “what’s in it for me?” Make sure that every text offers them something they can benefit from.
- Do be thoughtful about when you send messages. If your intent is to get people to visit a store, for instance, send messages only when the store is open. If your promotion isn’t time-bound, keep it within normal waking hours — you should be fine if you send texts from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Do measure results. For every campaign, check your unsubscribe rate, your interaction rate, and your conversion rate and determine your return on investment. You can also measure the performance of your communications platform by checking your delivery rate; if it’s low, consider switching to Plivo.
Consent is key
If you remember only one of points in that list, let it be the first: You should send promotional messages only to people who have opted in. You can gather opt-ins in several ways:
- Keyword opt-in: For instance, “text START to 75486 to subscribe to our notification services”
- Web opt-in: Signup through a web form. Users can subscribe to your notification services while registering for an account or by changing their notification preferences in the account settings.
- Paper opt-in: Signup by filling out a paper form at a store or kiosk.
We offer more guidelines for collecting opt-ins on our support portal.
Pick a number, any number
You can use any number type to send A2P messages: long code, toll-free, or short code. In the US you must use 10DLC registered numbers rather than unregistered long codes. We cover the pros and cons of each type in a blog post, with bonus infographic.
If you follow these dos and don’ts, you should be in compliance with regulatory guidelines for SMS text messaging. For more information on getting the most out of messaging, download Plivo’s SMS Best Practices Guide.