Business SMS Messaging Best Practices: How to Stay Compliant


There’s always a newer and better marketing tactic that has higher conversions and open rates. And with each marketing advancement comes learning curves, technical know-how, and rules to follow.

Now more than ever, people are interacting with businesses online and via text due to COVID-19. So, if you haven’t already implemented a business SMS messaging campaign, there’s never been a better time to dive into this tactic and determine whether it fits into your overall marketing strategy.

Why Business SMS Messaging Is Growing in Popularity

Aside from the fact that digital business is booming right now, there are several other important reasons to consider adding SMS to your marketing arsenal.

Here are some statistics to demonstrate how powerful business SMS messaging is:

So, there you have it. Business SMS messaging is absolutely one of the best ways you can market your company or brand.

What’s Holding Most Businesses Back & Why It Matters

Even after reading all of those incredible statistics, 30% of marketers will still miss out on the opportunity that business SMS messaging presents simply because they’re afraid of the compliance regulations that go along with it.

It can be pretty scary (but hang in there, because we’re going to make it really easy for you if you keep reading).

Compliance is no joke. Take Papa John’s, for example. They had to pay $16 million in a class action lawsuit because they didn’t have proper user consent. 

Consequences for noncompliance can lead to financial damages that range from $500 to $1,500 per text message for each person who didn’t offer consent. 

Before you start shaking in your boots, let’s move forward with a simple outline of what you need to know to avoid that from happening to you.

What You Need to Know about Text Message Laws & Regulations

Obviously, the whole point of SMS compliance laws is to protect individuals from receiving text messages that they do not want. So, if you just start from that mind-set, the rest is pretty easy.

But here are the 7 most important guidelines you need to follow:

You cannot send any text messages to your customers until you have their express written consent, and you can’t bury the written consent in a list of other legal stuff. 

You need to very simply and clearly state what they are agreeing to in a place where they will easily see it so that they absolutely know what they are signing up for. 

To obtain consent, you can ask your customers to do any of the following:

Here are some important tips to keep in mind for this one:

2) Your CTAs Must Be Compliant

The words that convince a person to opt in to your SMS campaign are considered a call to action (CTA). 

Each CTA for this purpose must consist of several elements, including…

  1. Purpose – They need to fully understand what they are signing up for (information, coupons, reminders, tips, etc.).
  2. Frequency – Make it clear how many messages they should expect per week/month. 
  3. Rates – You must inform them that message and data rates may apply.
  4. Terms & Conditions – You need to add a link to your Terms & Conditions, and those terms should include the following:
    1. Your company’s or brand’s identity information
    2. Contact information for customer service
    3. A description of what they are signing up for
    4. Instructions for how to opt out, such as “Reply with STOP to unsubscribe”
  5. Privacy Policy – You’ll also need to provide a link to your Privacy Policy.

You can view some great examples of how to set up your CTA here.

3) Send a Confirmation Message

The first text message that you send to people after they opt in must be a message that confirms they have opted in. It should include the following information (even if it seems redundant):

  1. Your company identity
  2. Message frequency
  3. Message and data rates may apply
  4. Instructions for how to opt out 

Most business SMS messaging software builds this feature right in so that a message goes out automatically upon opt-in.

4) SHAFT – Do Not Text These

SHAFT stands for Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco. Businesses are not allowed to text anything related to those topics or include anything about them in their CTA. 

This is one of the worst violations, but there are a few exceptions. 

For example, if your company is a bar, you can probably still send messages about happy hour specials, but in order to do so, you’ll need to operate on a dedicated toll-free number and you’ll need to use an age gate to prevent people under the age of 21 from signing up.

5) Adhere to the Timing Guidelines

We don’t need to write several paragraphs about this one. It’s pretty simple: Texts are only allowed to be sent between 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM.

6) Determine If You Need Single Opt-in or Double Opt-in

Whether you need to use a single or double opt-in depends on the way that you are receiving consent. Here is an explanation:

7) Be Compliant with Your Opt-Outs

Business SMS messages are classified as spam if they don’t conform to proper opt-out protocols. Here are the best ways to handle your opt-outs:

Know Your Specific Regulations & Guidelines 

Each country has different business SMS messaging regulations, and each industry also has different guidelines to follow. You can view information about that by using the following two resources:

NOTE: The guidelines we’ve provided above pertain to the United States.

In the U.S., nonprofit organizations are exempt from the opt-in and do-not-call requirements of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

Final Thoughts about Business SMS Messaging

As you can see, when you break it down in layman’s terms like we have, business SMS messaging really isn’t that scary. And honestly, it’s pretty much common sense when you follow the mind-set that you are protecting the privacy of your subscribers. 

If you want to learn more about implementing this tactic in your marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice and it should not be substituted for proper legal counsel.


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Filed Under: Business Tips

About Jon Maday

Jon recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a degree in marketing and economics. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and loves his Chicago sports teams. Jon found his passion for marketing while in college and decided to pursue a career in the digital side of marketing. He is an eager learner and started with Viral Solutions as an intern before accepting a position upon graduation. Outside of work, Jon enjoys hanging out with friends and watching sporting events.