Marketing tools are the go-to instruments for any business strategy aiming to improve brand loyalty, gain new customers or keep current ones happy, promote new products, increase sales, and other goals companies might set for themselves. As one of the most effective of marketing tools, text message marketing, albeit simple and effective in its means of implementation and in bringing results, relies on a set of guidelines and regulations.
Why does text message marketing need to be regulated and who is in charge?
We consider text message marketing to be the gateway between customers and businesses offering them a competent and respected experience yet not all businesses engaging with customers do so with a clean and considerate purpose in mind. Some will end up spamming the customers with messages that have nothing to do with their stated intent, others will promote things such as a loyalty program when in fact they end up sending messages about campaigns the customer is not interested in, and also, there are those interested more in collecting personal data than in engaging with customers. For all these situations, and other that might occur, the Wireless Association has founded CTIA, the group responsible for text marketing best practices.
The CTIA, along with the FCC and the MMA are the three organizations governing text message marketing law.
How does it work?
Generally, unless there is a specific complaint filed, the CTIA will perform audits of text message programs. Passing a CTIA audit is not difficult, on the contrary, but there are guidelines and regulations open needs to follow in order to become complaint with the CTIA. Although the CTIA and MMA guidelines are not part of an official law, breaking them might get your text message marketing campaign shut down. However, the TCPA, which was developed by the FCC, is the one is the one providing legal context for permission-based marketing, due to the fact that it functions under federal law. The TCPA also regulates what needs to happen once a person has given consent for receiving marketing materials (including via text marketing). Let’s find out more about the rules and regulations governing text message marketing.
Guidelines for Text Message Marketing Compliancy
Having Written Consent
In order to be involved in a text message marketing campaign, customers must first give express written consent to a business. You can get consent from customers by asking them to send a keyword to a short code, or provide their phone number via an online or a physical form. The written consent must not be hidden, it has to be clear, and offer all the information the customers need in order to agree to it. Also, you are not allowed to ask the customers to buy products or services as a condition of consent.
Keep in mind that web opt-ins are double opt-ins, and are required by the CTIA to provide double consent from both the web form, and a confirming text message from the subscriber, so it might be easier to get consent through a keyword.
The opt-in mechanism needs to be clear and visible, regardless of the campaign you are planning to run. This will help you achieve text message marketing compliancy, and avoid any problems that might occur.
You are supposed to send your subscriber confirmation as soon as they opt in for your campaign or program. This confirmation needs to contain useful information in regards to what they have subscribed for, such as:
- Validation of successful subscribing
- The purpose of your campaign or program
- The identity of your business or organization
- An approximate frequency with which they will get messages from you
- Information about their opt-out possibilities
- Information on the charges and/or data required by the texts
- Information on terms and conditions and privacy policies
- A keyword they can text if they need help with anything related to the campaign or program
This information can and should also be included in the eventual call-to-action you will be implementing for the campaign or program you are going to run through text message marketing. Although it might seem like a lot of information, it is quite simple to have all of it in a text message. Add short links for terms and conditions, privacy policies, help pages, and other pages that can guide the customers to a larger array of mandatory information.
Here is an example of an opt-in message:
Anna Fashion House Loyalty Program: Thanks for subscribing! Show this text for a free 15min session with a personal stylist. Text STOP to unsubscribe. Text HELP for help. 3 msgs/month. Msg & data rates may apply. Terms & Privacy @ https://bit.ly/7BrTbny
The CTIA allows abbreviations of your terms and conditions, and of your privacy policies, as long as you comply to their requirements, such as: the abbreviation version must be clear, must not be blocked by any kind of pop-up message, should not have pre-checked confirmation boxes, and has to be accessible at all times.
Types of Opt-Ins You Can Use
Also known as a single opt-in, this type of opt-in is the one where your customer engages with your campaign or program via a text message. This happens by them sending a keyword to a short code, and without having previously given you their phone number. You need to have precise records of all customers using this method.
Non Handset Opt-Ins
This type of opt-in is the one using a web-based, physical or email form in which customers can provide their phone number. This is in fact a double opt-in, as it requires two steps for the customer to be consider subscribed: first offering a phone number in the form and then agreeing to the terms and conditions, and also replying to the message in which you ask them to confirm their subscription, similar to how email subscriptions work.
It’s Better to Prevent than to Cure
Text message marketing compliance guidelines and regulation, although not much fun to go through, are in fact pretty easy to implement, and cater to customer needs you were already familiar with. The right to be informed about what one is subscribing to, the right to have their personal data handled with care and respect, or the right to only receive the communication they were informed in with the opt-in.