If you’ve noticed an uptick in the number of marketing text messages you receive every day in 2019, you’re not alone. More and more advertisers (large and small) are taking advantage of the marketing channel. The reasons why are pretty clear. What other marketing channel can boast a 98% open rate with an average response time under 90 seconds? Is there another direct marketing channel that provides potential access to 5 billion users worldwide? SMS is real-time marketing that drives near instant response. It’s no wonder the channel is picking up steam this year.

If you’re thinking about adding SMS to your marketing strategy, there are a number of things to consider. Before you even begin to think about your marketing strategy, one vital step is to make sure your campaigns are compliant with relevant laws and regulations pertaining to text message marketing.

Quick disclaimer – I am not a lawyer and this article should not be taken as actual legal advice. So, it’s highly recommended that you check with your SMS marketing provider(s) and your legal council to make sure your program is designed with compliance at its core. That being said, here are just a few things to be aware of when it comes to SMS marketing compliance.

Laws Related to SMS Marketing

Email marketers in the U.S. are well-versed in following the rules defined in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. That law sets specific guidelines for email marketers to follow, in order for their campaigns to be compliant. When it comes to SMS marketing, one of the laws that applies is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). While TCPA largely addresses telemarketing, it also covers text message (SMS) marketing. It includes details on the requirements for obtaining consumers’ permission to send automated text messages.

One of the most important stipulations of TCPA revolves around the opt-in requirement for text messages. Unlike CAN-SPAM, which allows unsolicited email marketing, as long as an opt-out method is included and those requests are honored (along with a number of other specific rules), the TCPA requires an opt-in from a consumer prior to text messages being sent to them in an automated fashion. Records of those opt-ins also need to be stored in some form of written or electronic format.

Industry Guidelines

The Cellular Communications Industry Association (CTIA) provides a set of guidelines for SMS marketers to follow. In conjunction with the telecom industry, the CTIA has created a set of best practices to guide marketers in their use of communication and marketing channels like SMS. The CTIA makes distinctions between P2P (one person to one person) vs. A2P, which basically includes any type of text message communication that isn’t one-to-one/person-to-person. As you might expect, the A2P arena is the one most relevant to marketers.

Challenges of Compliance

As mentioned above, one major difference between email and SMS marketing is the opt-in requirement. It is important for advertisers looking to build an SMS marketing channel to recognize this distinction and obtain consumer opt-ins prior to adding them to an automated text message marketing campaign.

The opt-out method for SMS also varies from email marketing. Unlike email, text messages aren’t designed to include an opt-out link. Opting out of future messages typically involves replying to the test message sender with the word ‘STOP’ or ‘UNSUBSCRIBE.’ However, some SMS tech platforms add other responses to their list of acceptable opt-out requests, including things like misspellings of typical opt-out words, as well as flagging other words that are perceived as a complaint about receiving the text. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) states that consumers should be able to opt out through “any reasonable means.”

SMS marketing offers tremendous potential to marketers, but ensuring that campaigns are in compliance with laws and guidelines is a must as you prepare to add the channel to your marketing strategy. Developing a fully compliant SMS marketing program and it can another powerful channel for your overall marketing strategy.