Guide to SMS Compliance: The Only Checklist You’ll Ever Need

Marketing 18 minute read 10th November 2023

Everyone knows SMS is one of the best ways to catch your customers’ eyes. But sending a business text is nothing like texting your friends. One wrong word or move can create trouble for your business. Therefore, reading this guide to SMS compliance is a wise first step.

There’s a lot that goes into a successful SMS marketing campaign. After spending money, time, and effort on creating a campaign, the last thing you want is legal action.

But if you don’t pay attention to compliance issues, you can easily fall into this ditch. It can be overwhelming at first, but don’t worry because this article will make it as straightforward as possible.

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A Jumpstart Guide: What Is SMS Compliance?

Let’s start by answering the most basic question: What is SMS compliance? The answer requires diving into multiple topics.

While SMS has a higher open rate than emails, it’s also the most personal method to reach customers. This is because you’re sending messages directly to their phones that they also use to reach their loved ones.

Plus, privacy has become a huge thing in recent years. People are afraid that companies might be tracking their phones and their activities. Due to this, authorities have developed some rules and regulations to keep customers and their data safe.

So, if you’re going to send business messages by text, you must follow SMS compliance laws. Otherwise, customers won’t hesitate to report you to authorities, and that would only sabotage your business’s reputation.

Moreover, you might find yourself with lawsuits that require you to pay millions of dollars. You send texts to increase revenue, not give money from your pocket, right? But if you break the law, then that’s going to happen eventually.

Now, a brilliant question that people ask at this point is, who makes these laws?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in the US makes sure people don’t get unwanted calls. The same applies to text messages. However, the company that controls guidelines for the UK is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The laws for both are almost the same.

The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) represents wireless carriers to ensure a positive experience for customers.

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) is another group that has introduced best practices for mobile marketing.

And lastly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) keeps an eye on interstate and global communications. Its main goal is to make sure people use them fairly and safely.

The Terms You Must Know To Follow SMS Compliance Laws

Now that you know what SMS compliance is and who makes the rules, let’s understand some of the basic terms.

Without this knowledge, you may have a hard time understanding the guidelines and instructions that authorities have provided. So, here are the ones most important for following SMS compliance laws:

  1. P2P and A2P: These are the two types of messaging that occur daily. P2P is when a person texts another person. On the other hand, A2P is the automatic marketing messages, reminders, etc., that AI sends people.
  2. Opt-in and Opt-out: Opt-in is when people allow a brand to send them messages. They might do this by checking a box or entering their contact information. Opt-out or “Unsubscribe” is when people no longer want to receive a brand’s messages.
  3. Short Code: This is a special number that gets the highest results. This is because people know they’ve received a brand’s message (which they have consented to) when they see such codes.
  4. Long Code: These are longer telephone and landline numbers that brands can use to send messages. However, some people are skeptical of these and may not open the message, thinking it’s spam or fraud.
  5. SHAFT Regulations: These regulations stop brands from sending messages containing content about sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco. If you sell such items, you might have to add an age-gate to stop inappropriate audiences from opting in. It’s a good idea to seek legal counsel to avoid sanctions and follow particular industry rules.

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Typically, 97% of people read their text messages within 15 minutes of delivery. And if your offerings are enticing enough, there’s a high chance of you making a purchase.

This shows how effective SMS can be for the success of your marketing campaigns. Nonetheless, it is important to learn how to write the perfect text if you want to capitalize on them. However, before considering marketing, you always need to maintain SMS compliance, which isn’t effortless.

But the good news is, if you’re serious about avoiding legal complications, you just have to invest time in research.

The following sections will make this research easier for you by sharing an SMS compliance checklist with six guidelines.

This guide to SMS compliance starts with the obvious basic steps. Obtaining express consent from customers before sending them promotional messages is necessary. Without following this step, you will definitely have to face legal issues.

After all, the existence of these rules is to protect the customer and provide them with the best experience. How will their experience be good if they keep receiving unsolicited text messages?

Therefore, you must ask the customer if you can send them text messages when they give you their number. But remember, consent comes in different shapes and forms. Just because a customer consents to receiving reminders doesn’t mean they consent to receiving ads.

So, clearly tell them what type of content you’ll send them. If they say yes after learning that, you’re good to go.

Now, there are various ways to get consent. You can use a checkbox that customers can check to say they want to receive messages. Or you can create a short form where they can sign and give written consent.

Lastly, you can simply ask them when they visit your venue. If they verbally say yes, you can send a confirmation message to their mobile phones.

However, it’s best to get legal advice here since the agreement is only verbal and can cause issues later.

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Give Them an Option To Stop Receiving Messages

While keeping customers on your list is important to boost revenues through SMS, you can’t force people in. Sometimes, they find other brands that better fit their needs. Other times, they simply don’t need the product or service anymore.

In this case, they must have an option to stop receiving messages. It’s your legal responsibility to make this process as easy as possible.

Don’t take customers on long journeys where they must fill out various forms and sign them to stop receiving messages. Instead, create a simple form with 2 or 3 spaces to fill, such as the reason for unsubscribing and confirmation. You must add the link to this form at the end of each message.

Or you can simply let them type “Unsubscribe,” “STOP,” or even “I don’t want to receive messages anymore.

As long as you don’t complicate the process and add clear opt-out instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Moreover, don’t try to trick the customer or system by dedicating special hours in which a customer can opt-out. This option should be available to them anytime they want.

Plus, when they do follow the instructions to opt-out, make sure to remove them from your list. Honoring their choice is another regulation you must follow.

Keep Tabs on the Approved Hours

Nobody likes to receive a text when they’re sound asleep in bed. This is especially true for marketing text messages.

The authorities and regulators have also taken this into consideration when creating SMS marketing laws. If you send marketing messages in unapproved hours, there will be consequences. But what are the approved hours?

According to TCPA, you cannot disturb a person by texting in their “quiet hours.” This time typically ranges from 8 am to 9 pm. Note that some places are more strict, so it’s up to you to look up instructions for each region.

However, this is according to the time region of your customers, not yours. If you have overseas clients, you have to be extra mindful of this.

Now, you’ve probably automated your SMS marketing since you can’t individually text each customer, right? So, how will the program know which customer lives where?

The best way to cater to this is segmentation. Divide your customers into groups of people who live in the same region. Once you do that, adhering to time zones will become a breeze.

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Don’t Use Shortcuts To Shorten the URLs

A lot depends on whether or not you follow this next guideline about using URL shorteners. Using these can put your message at risk of reaching the spam list. Here’s why.

Hackers use shortened URLs to inject viruses into people’s mobile phones. Due to this reason, US mobile carriers advise against using public URL shorteners.

Sometimes, the issue doesn’t stop when someone reports your message as spam. You may face legal complications if someone starts to believe you are trying to steal their data.

However, shortened URLs look better. Plus, when a URL is too long, people can’t make sense of it. They become skeptical and may not click on it.

So, if you want to do this, use your dedicated domain instead of shortcuts. If you’re planning to apply a double opt-in, the link must look safe.

It is when a customer provides their consent, and you send them a link to verify their email or number. This way, the consent becomes more robust.

Make Your Identity Crystal Clear From the Start

Another guideline you must follow is to make your identity clear from the very first message.

The customers have probably given their contact numbers to many brands, not just yours. If you don’t explicitly tell them who you are, how would they trust your messages?

Therefore, when a customer consents to receiving your messages, send them a confirmation message with the following information:

  • Your company name
  • Mention that the customer has consented to receiving messages
  • A statement that customers can purchase things from you even if they don’t receive messages
  • Information about the number of messages per month and the type of messages you’re planning to send
  • A statement about rates like “Messages and data may apply.”
  • Instructions on reaching customer service in case of an issue
  • Clear opt-out instructions
  • A link to your terms and conditions or privacy policy

These are according to the TCPA specifically. But it’s a good idea to add them whether or not your customer lives in the US.

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Handle Customers’ Personal Data With Care

We can’t conclude this list without the mention of protecting customer data. After all, that’s the whole point of these rules.

If a customer is consenting to receive messages from you, they’re trusting you to protect their data. They believe you won’t use their data illegally, such as selling or sharing it. Therefore, you must take care of this trust. If authorities find you selling customer data, you’ll have to pay huge fines.

Firstly, you must clearly tell the customer how you will be using and storing their data.

Secondly, you must put appropriate security measures in place so hackers can’t access your customers’ data. You must also inform them about these measures. And lastly, get everything in writing to fulfill legal requirements and avoid sanctions.

Do SMS Marketing the Right Way To Make It Successful and Free of Risks

By now, the guide to SMS compliance should be making perfect sense to you. At the end of the day, you need to play by the rules. Most guidelines are all about common sense. It should not be hard for you to follow them.

Most importantly, respect your customers. Send valuable content, and don’t bombard them. If you want to automate marketing campaigns with SMS and emails, try out Beambox.

Beambox is a WiFi marketing platform that streamlines your marketing initiatives. You can use it to automate SMS campaigns and grow your online reputation. Moreover, Beambox helps you be compliant in all your campaigns with just a few clicks. Start your free trial now!

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