What to Know About SMS Marketing Campaign Regulations

If you're already a fan of SMS marketing’s unlimited potential, there are a few crucial steps to get right before you launch your next campaign. For starters, you need to ensure your text messages and opt-ins comply with the law and align with best practices.

Not sure where to start? Stay compliant in your marketing strategy with these tips on what to know about SMS marketing regulations.

Who Oversees Text Messaging Laws?

Each country has its own rules and regulations for texting and how businesses are permitted to engage with customers through SMS. In the United States, the three agencies and organizations that oversee texting regulations include:

  • Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) 
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 
  • Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)

The CTIA and MMA encourage best practices for SMS and text message marketing. However, the FCC is a government agency with powers to enact laws and restrictions related to text message privacy laws and marketing. 

What is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)?

In 1991, Congress enacted the TCPA to tackle the growing number of complaints and frustrations regarding telephone marketing calls. The Act also applies to SMS message marketing and how businesses can text consumers. The TCPA restricts how telemarketing calls are made and distributed. Automated telephone dialing systems and artificial or previously recorded messages are just a few things that the Act prohibits.

So what happens when businesses violate the TCPA? They immediately open themselves up to lawsuits. Business owners could risk litigation for each message received for upwards of $500 per message. The risks aren't worth it and the fines rack up legal fees quickly.

Are There TCPA Exceptions for Marketing?

A few companies, like financial institutes, are sometimes exempt from TCPA violations. Time-sensitive text messages that alert the consumer to urgent issues are usually exempt. However, no part of those urgent text messages should be considered marketing, or you could face steep fines.

What is the CAN-SPAM Act?

Many business owners associate the CAN-SPAM Act with email, but it also extends to electronic messages, including SMS and text message marketing.

Like TCPA, Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act to address unwanted soliciting and communication. The Act requires the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules and regulations for commercial email and text messages sent to wireless devices. Businesses could end up paying as much as $1,500 per message in financial compensation for violating the Act.

Get Written Consent

The TCPA requires that customers give businesses express written consent before automated promotional messages are sent. The consent should be explicit and easy for the consumer to understand. Burying it in pages of legalese also doesn't satisfy the compliance of the TCPA. Businesses also can't require users to opt into a text message campaign before they can purchase goods and services. 

Confirm Your Opt-Ins

When a consumer opts into your text message marketing campaign, you also need to send a confirmation message. The text should include your business name, how often you plan to message the consumer, and instructions on how to opt-out. The confirmation must also include information that messaging and data rates may apply when receiving your text messages.

Offer a Double Opt-In

Double opt-in isn't legally required for text message marketing but helps keep your business compliant. When someone signs up for your SMS campaign, you can send an automated message asking them to confirm their opt in again. This technique is common when consumers sign-up for your text message list through your website or a social media form. When they receive the text to confirm, they can opt in again.

The extra effort is worth it. You end up with peace of mind that your customers want to be on your list and stay in compliance with the law. Double opt-ins also ensure the customer is completely clear about what they're signing up for and what to expect. 

Include Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy Links During Opt-In

When sending a confirmation, your text message should include a link to your terms and conditions and privacy policy. The terms and conditions help spell out how consumers may interact with your text message marketing and services. The privacy policies alert users to how you will use their personal information and assure that it won't be advertised or sold to other marketers.

Use Clear Disclosures In Your Text Message Marketing

Best practices require clear disclosures of any text messages a consumer receives. Whether you're sending appointment reminders, booking requests, promotions, flash sales, or all of the above, spell it out for your customers. The disclosures also can't be hidden or buried in blocks of text. Keep it clear and highly visible.

Include the Name of Your Company

When customers opt into your SMS marketing campaign, you're also required to state the name of your business or who you are. The practice makes sense. When consumers receive multiple text messages from shortcodes and unknown numbers, they need to know which companies they're engaging with.

Don't Bait and Switch

TCPA requires that you follow through with your offer. So if you're enticing consumers to sign-up for your text message list with a coupon code or freebie, make sure you actually send it. Fortunately, this can all be automated with the help of your SMS and text message marketing software. 

Offer an Automated Opt-Out

TCPA text opt-in guidelines also stipulate that you must offer an option to get help or opt out of future texts. Again, make sure these details are clear and easy for the consumer to find. Some businesses also use language that asks if the user wants to opt out of all communication, including appointment reminders or only marketing messages. Whatever they choose, make sure you have a system in place to comply with their request.

Only Send Texts Customers Opted Into

It should go without saying, but don't send promotional text messages that your customers didn't opt into. For example, don't send promotions for a totally different business to do them a favor unless your own business is participating in a shared  promotion.

You should also avoid sending promos about a new company you launched or anything that isn’t completely relevant to your business. Your customers can only receive SMS marketing messages directly related to what they initially opted into.

Don't Mislead Your Customers

Even if you follow all of the best practices and Acts designed to protect consumers, it's still possible for businesses to practice misleading marketing. Don't try to hide or distract consumers from what your company is and who you are. You want consumers to feel comfortable offering up their information. Practicing transparency in SMS and text message marketing establishes trust. 

Enhance Your Results

SMS marketing is more than understanding the regulations and staying compliant. You also need to find a strategy that works for your business. Follow best practices, including:

  • Offer customers ongoing value
  • Keep it personable
  • Make t easy
  • Be helpful
  • Don't send too many texts
  • Engage with customers and apply their feedback

You can run a winning and compliant SMS marketing campaign that converts with the right approach.

Final Thoughts

SMS and text message marketing is an effective strategy with high open rates, impressive conversions, and the ability to scale your results. But it all starts with a compliant approach to texting your customers. 

Are you ready to get started with SMS and text message marketing for your business? Our SMS marketing software ensures your campaigns have everything they need to reach your customers and stay compliant with the latest SMS laws and regulations. Contact us today.