SMS Compliance Explained: 9 Best Practices to Protect Your Business
For the past 30 years, SMS has stood its ground as the most effective and budget-friendly marketing tool in the industry. With a staggering, 98% open rate within the first 3 minutes of recipients receiving the message, SMS marketing can be a great way to improve your relationship with your customers and help convert prospects. So, the question is, why are 30% of marketers still hesitant about adopting SMSs in their marketing strategies?
The answer is SMS compliance, some marketers find SMS regulations a bit difficult to navigate. In this insightful article, our SMS compliance experts share in-depth insights on how you can meet SMS compliance requirements without a lot of hassle and significantly minimize your risk of noncompliance.
At Smarter Contact, we help our clients with SMS compliance on a daily basis, and adhering to SMS compliance regulations shouldn’t be an uphill task, if done right from the start. Whether you’re launching text messaging for real estate, staffing, automotive, finance, fitness, or other industry, with Smarter Contact as your SMS marketing partner, you wouldn’t have to worry about SMS compliance requirements or technicalities. We carefully monitor the compliance of our clients so they can focus on their core business objectives.
What is SMS Compliance?
SMS compliance entails strict adherence to legal, ethical, and generally accepted SMS marketing practices. Before embarking on an SMS marketing campaign, businesses must abide by the TCPA, CTIA, and ADA, among other global regulations on the use of SMS for commercial purposes.
The goal of SMS compliance rules is to protect consumers against intrusive and unwanted texts from brands they haven’t consented to. It grants customers the free will to choose what messages they want to receive and from whom. Furthermore, it also allows an average consumer to opt-in and opt-out of an SMS program should they feel the need to do so. For example, if a customer no longer wants to receive promotional SMS from your business; they can do so and still purchase from your brand.
9 SMS Compliance Best Practices
Strict federal and state laws govern SMS compliance requirements, and it’s crucial that you follow these guidelines when creating your SMS marketing campaign. If you do your due diligence in following these best practices, you won’t necessarily need a legal team to help you maneuver these legal requirements.
- Get Consent From Consumers
As mentioned earlier, SMS compliance is all about consent. Consumers must first agree to receive messages from your brand. They must also agree that you may use an automatic telephone dialing system in your SMS campaigns and that the texts you send to them are not a condition of purchase. In other words, the SMS texts should be purely promotional and not coercion.
- Provide full Disclosure
Make sure that all your SMS campaigns are as transparent as practicable. It’s mandatory that businesses provide essential details such as the company name, the offer that led to the opt-in (if the customer has already subscribed), the message frequency, and any additional message and data rates that might come up. Withholding critical details such as opt out information and additional message and data rates violates CTIA compliance and also undermines your credibility. Follow the TCPA opt-in requirements and let customers know what they’re signing up for. Is it promotional news? New product releases? If they want out, show them how to do it.
- Make Sure to Get Consent for Imported Contacts
Assuming imported contacts are 100% safe and obtained in a compliant manner is a common misconception among marketers. The mandate to get express written consent doesn’t only refer to newer contacts. You need to screen imported contacts to ensure that they provided their correct phone numbers and express consent to receive messages from your brand.
- Maintain a Checklist of Things You Can’t Text (SHAFT)
Your SMS marketing campaign is as good as what you text your customers. Sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco messages (aka. SHAFT) could lead to an immediate ban if found in your SMS. The CTIA is sensitive to content related to these items. In most cases, they count as violations of compliance with few exceptions. For instance, companies selling addictive substances can still send promotional offers, although they must filter out minors and only include adults who have attained legal age. Fortunately, some jurisdictions don’t register phone numbers for underage (below 18 or 21 years) consumers.
- Send Your Text Messages at the Right Time
Messages sent late in the night (starting after 9 pm) and very early in the morning before 8 am are generally considered intrusive. Remember, customers have the right to unsubscribe whenever they want. Those late-night texts won’t make them think of you fondly all day long. Rather it gives them a solid reason to opt-out. Instead, you want to pick an appropriate time between 8 am and 8 pm.
- Put up Terms and Conditions
Conflict may arise anywhere in the middle of your campaigns. For instance, customers may forget that they signed up for your SMS marketing campaigns weeks ago. With clearly written terms and conditions, your customers know what they are signing up for beforehand. This way, you can protect your business from legal action should the customer feel that their privacy has been breached. Ensure that consumers tick a Terms and Conditions checkbox when signing up for the subscription.
- Don’t touch the National Do Not Call Registry numbers
The TCPA requires that companies remove all phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry. FCC’s Do Not Call Registry protects American consumers from unwanted calls. Under SMS compliance, American consumers who have registered themselves on the registry should be exempted from unwanted messages and calls from companies. That said, compare your SMS database against this registry to minimize non-compliance risks.
- Give Subscribers Room To Breathe
How many marketing messages would you like to receive on your mobile phone per month? Of course, not 30. Even 20 can be cumbersome. The same applies to the average consumer. 2-10 messages a month are enough to get some good results from your SMS marketing campaign. Once your campaign begins, avoid sending SMS too often. Doing so may encourage subscribers to revoke their consent and blacklist your business.
An Overview of SMS Compliance Legislation Today
SMS marketing is dynamic, especially now that almost 90% of the global population owns a smartphone. Various authorities around the world have established measures to protect consumers from unethical, intrusive, and aggressive SMS marketing messages from businesses.
In the US, there are four stakeholders overseeing wireless device laws for SMS marketing, including:
- Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA)
- Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Legislative regulations from state and federal governments are pretty strict on text marketing. That’s why it’s imperative to ensure that your SMS campaigns comply with the provisions of these stakeholders before sending messages to your customers.
Which Text Messaging Privacy Laws Regulate Your Business?
Consent is not the only requirement regulating your business. We have other regulations that spell out exactly what your business must meet before you begin to send SMS messages to customers’ phone numbers. Moreover, federal law limits businesses from intentionally sending unwanted, irrelevant promotional, offers, product, or service messages to their customers.
Here are prevalent text messaging privacy laws that your business should get accustomed to:
Popularly known as the TCPA, The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is a product of the FCC. As one of the primary anti-telemarketing laws, understanding the TCPA is essential for SMS marketers.
According to the TCPA, commercial entities should not send messages to customers without their consent. This law applies even if the customer in question willingly gave their number or is a long-term customer. In other words, you can only send messages with written consent. On top of that, this legislation requires the recipient to disclose the type of messages they would want to receive.
- CAN-SPAM Act of 2003
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 gives the FCC the right to regulate commercial texts sent to wireless devices. This Act deems it illegal for businesses to send unwanted text messages to cell phone numbers and requires that any commercial message be easily identifiable by the receiver as an advertisement.
Consumers should also have the option to unsubscribe from receiving messages. Businesses that disregard these laws and send unsolicited text messages may face fines of up to $1500 per violation.
Main Regulators in SMS Compliance
Each country has its own regulations regarding text message marketing. In the UK, for instance, SMS for commercial use is governed by Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Key SMS compliance regulators in the US include:
Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) promotes ethical SMS marketing by calling on businesses to seek consent before sending text messages to customers. For instance, a subscriber may tick a checkbox on a web form. This grants the business permission to send messages to their phone number. CTIA compliance also states that businesses must provide a clear call to action, detailed opt-in and opt out instructions, send opt-in confirmation messages, and accept opt out requests from consumers.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act TCPA points out that consumers have the right not to receive promotional SMS or any other information from businesses via SMS without their consent. The FCC commissioned this regulator to protect Americans from unsolicited phone calls. The regulator ensures that businesses obtain written consent from consumers before sending out text messages (except in times of real emergencies).
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) protects people with disabilities. It states that your website, electronic information, and technology should be readily accessible to people with disabilities. Remember, websites are one way to tap customers into your SMS marketing program. These websites are governed by the WCAG guidelines, which in a nutshell, state that your website should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
Understanding Messaging Types & Levels of Consent
Generally, there are three levels of consent determining how you intend to reach your customers through SMS. You should have the right level of consent at the very least, to minimize noncompliance risks.
- Conversational Messaging
In conversational messaging, businesses use typical conversations to engage with customers. Think of it as a one-on-one conversation aimed at solving the customer’s problem. If the customer texted first and you responded with relevant information, then, you have implied consent. Conversational messaging doesn’t require verbal or written permission from the consumer. .
- Informational Messaging
Informational messaging requires express consent. For instance, when prospects provide their phone numbers on your web form and wish to be contacted in the future, they have given express consent. They have agreed to receive informational texts such as delivery notifications, appointment reminders, password recovery, order confirmation messages, and so on.
- Promotional Messaging
Promotional messages such as sales alerts, discounts & coupons, flash sales, and holiday offers require express written consent from the subscriber.
How to Collect Opt-Ins?
There are several opt-in methods to obtain a subscriber’s permission. Many businesses use short-code texting, online purchase forms, and targeted email campaigns to pull customers into their SMS campaigns. Others go the old-school way and obtain consent by asking customers to fill in their phone numbers and receive text messages from the business.
- Text to join (shortcodes) – Short-code opt-ins are quite popular nowadays. Businesses create a keyword, which willing subscribers use to get into an SMS campaign.
For example, a business with the short-code 456-789 can launch a campaign with the keyword “Tunes”. By sending the keyword “Tunes” to 456-789, the subscriber agrees to receive marketing SMS from the brand. Nevertheless, don’t forget to send the confirmation message before sending out more SMS to your new subscriber.
- Web forms – Customers can fill in web forms to enter into your SMS campaigns. Start with creating space for prospects to fill in their names, email, and phone number. Include an opt-in request and a checkbox so that they can tick it if they wish to receive promotional SMS from you.
How Smartercontact Can Take the Pain Out of Your SMS Compliance
SMS marketing can be pretty daunting with the numerous compliance requirements from regulators. The good news is that your business can maneuver these pitfalls, thanks to our innovative, world-class SMS platform. At Smarter Contact, we ensure compliance by facilitating:
- An opt-out feature – If your customers do not wish to receive messages further, Smarter Contact provides a special opt-out feature where they can click to be added to a custom list where they will no longer receive your text messages.
- Do Not Call Registry – Smarter Contact is registered with the DNC. We use Blacklist Alliance to screen your contacts against those added to the DNC.
- Stop/Unsubscribe – Should your subscriber want to opt-out of your campaign, Smarter Contact enables you to custom-make your Stop message.
- Phone verification – Worried about adding an invalid phone number to your database? Try us! With Smarter Contact’s skip tracing feature, our clients can easily gather high-quality, in-class data to streamline their SMS campaigns. We understand that businesses collect contact details from multiple sources, and sending a promotional text to an invalid phone number hurts your marketing efforts. Our easy-to-use, multipurpose CRM + SMS tool offers phone verification to ensure that your database is made-up of viable mobile phone numbers. Our phone verification system cross-checks the phone numbers provided against carrier records and ensures you are texting real customers. You can also find out the number type and other important information about the owner before sending your SMS.
We serve a wide range of clients, whether you need text messaging for real estate, staffing, automotive, finance, fitness, or any other industry, you can rest assured your SMS marketing campaigns are in good hands. Get in touch with us today and learn what we can do for you.
Over to You
SMS compliance is a legal requirement that businesses must adhere to if they want to harness the power of SMS marketing. If you have any questions about SMS compliance or need help getting started, we would love to hear from you today! Get in touch with our customer support team today and let us know how we can help you!
- Which regulators have jurisdiction over my business’s SMS messaging in the USA?
In the US, SMS messaging regulators include Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
- Can I skip the confirmation SMS if my customers already consent to receive an email?
No, you cannot skip the confirmation SMS. The TCPA requires businesses to send a final confirmation text with essential details such as the business identity and how to opt-out.
- What are the requirements regarding obtaining written consent from my subscribers?
TCPA demands that the written consent must be clear so that the subscriber knows what they’re signing up for.