Legal Compliance in Text Message MarketingUpdated January 16, 2019
Original Published By Eric Bryant on
Can I Send A Text Blast to My List of Phone Numbers?
One question we get fairly often is, "If I have a list of donor or customer phone numbers, can I send them a text blast using your service?" The answer depends on a few factors. There are some things you have to do to be in legal compliance when administering a text message marketing campaign. There are also some general best practices for executing a successful text donation campaign; and, if you don't follow them, it can negatively impact campaign performance.
Sending Text Messages Requires Permission
First and foremost, sending a text message with marketing content always requires permission. You must get permission, in advance, from the recipient in order to send her a text message that includes any marketing content. The FCC, TCPA and CTIA, three authorities that govern text message marketing, have said you must get explicit, written permission before you can send a marketing text to a recipient.
So, no you cannot just give us a list of phone numbers from your database and ask us to send a text blast to those people. Our staff will first ask you if you've gotten permission to send those people a text message. If not, then we cannot, by law, send to them. If you have gotten explicit permission, and can prove such, then we can send them a text blast.
Apparently the TCPA has relaxed their regulations on this. Now it appears that nonprofits are exempt from some of the stricter SMS regulations that for-profits must follow. Basically, for a nonprofit, if you’ve previously gotten oral consent from your members, you may send SMS blasts to them without having to get written consent. In practice this means that, so long as the nonprofit has acquired the phone numbers of members in a way that implies consent, whether written or otherwise, the organization can send text messages.
What does written, explicit approval mean? Well, the law is a little murky, but generally speaking it means this: The recipients must first opt in to a shortcode by sending your keyword to that shortcode. If you get permission in this way, you'll be in compliance with the law.
You could also send your recipients an email blast asking them to click a button to give permission to send them texts. Those who click the button or link, you're then free to text. The bottom line is: you have to get your prospects to perform some sort of action (texting a keyword to your shortcode, clicking a consent button) that clearly demonstrates they have given consent and are aware they have done so.
Disclosing the Name of Your Organization
The SMS governing authorities have also stipulated that you must disclose to the end user the name of your organization or product. Since we offer a shared short code which is used by multiple customers, we begin our reply message with, "You've opted into alerts from this organization." This lets the end user know that your nonprofit may be contacting her via text in the future.
Providing Terms and Conditions
Another way to ensure compliance with the law is to provide the terms and conditions of being a subscriber to your short code and keyword. This can be done either by sending back a link to a T&C page or by providing a customer service email or phone number. We satisfy this requirement for our customers by notifying them that they can text HELP to get this information. When a subscriber texts HELP to the short code, they get back customer support information from our short code provider (TXT180).
Providing a Way to Opt Out
Another requirement is that you have to provide a clear way for subscribers to opt out. Usually this is done by appending "Reply STOP to cancel" to a message. When the subscriber texts STOP to your shortcode, we automatically remove them from the database. Organizations can face up to $1,500 per message in fines for texting a promotional message to someone who has opted out.
Limiting the Number of Marketing Texts
You also cannot just send an unlimited number of texts to recipients. A good practice is to limit your communications to no more than 6 messages per month. Additionally, you must tell your recipients how many messages you plan to send them after they opt in.
With our service, we do all this compliance work for you. We automatically send your donors a message saying "up to 6 messages / mo" so they know what to expect. We also automatically give them instructions for how to opt out ("Reply STOP to cancel"). With us, you never have to worry about being in violation of any laws because we insure all this for you.
Other Text Message Marketing Best Practices
You may decide to publish your keyword and shortcode in many places--on your website, in an email, in a newsletter, for example. It's a good marketing practice to always tell your prospects what will happen after they subscribe. We recommend using the following language in wherever you publish a call to action involving your keyword and shortcode:
By participating, you consent to receive text messages sent by an automatic telephone dialing system.
Consent to these terms is not a condition of purchase.
100% privacy. We don't rent or sell your information.
By including this language where you publish call to actions, you give your prospects a sense of security that you're not going to spam them. You also further strengthen your compliance with the law.