Texting is a quick and easy way to reach your customers. You hear all the stats…98% of text messages are read, no one answers their phone like they used to, email opens are less than 30%. So you might think to yourself “this is easy, let’s just text everyone!” Unfortunately it isn’t quite that easy, and in fact, there are some really important things to slow down and consider before you send a mass text.
There are some pretty strict guidelines that were enacted in 1991 and expanded in 2013. You can’t just dump your database into an SMS platform and call it a day. Yes, it’s easy, yes people will receive, read and potentially respond. But you might be breaking several rules by doing so.
What type of messages are regulated?
Let’s clarify one point, one individual texting another individual is totally fine and completely different than mass texting so don’t worry about those personal and direct text conversations.
Automatic to peer (A2P) is the regulated variety – sending alerts, marketing, promotional offers, one-time information request responses, etc. in mass is what you need to pay attention to.
Some things to keep in mind before you mass text and potentially face a fine of up to $1,500 per instance:
Written Consent: (MOST IMPORTANT) as of 2013 implied or verbal consent is not acceptable. You must now have someone checking a box or writing their consent to be contacted via mass text. Or as the amendment states, “ Unambiguous written consent”. So just because you have a phone number and it’s in your database, doesn’t mean you can text them in mass. You cannot use an existing list of phone numbers, even if provided to you by your customer unless they specifically gave explicit permission to join the text message program.
Opt Out: Even though you have written consent, you still need to provide an Opt Out. Why? Because, a company or organization advertising via mass calls or texts must maintain a Do Not Call (DNC) list of recipients who do not wish to be called or texted. Opt-out requests must be honored for at least five years. You need to have a clear way to maintain that database.
Check the DNC: Anyone registered in the National Do Not Call Registry cannot be a recipient of an organization’s mass calls or texts
Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991
Unless recipients had given prior consent, as of 1991, companies wishing to employ mass texting or calling had to heed the following restrictions:
- Calling before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. (recipient’s local time) is prohibited.
- Anyone registered in the National Do Not Call Registry cannot be a recipient of an organization’s mass calls or texts.
- Any calls made to lines for which the recipient is charged for the call are prohibited.
- No artificial voices or recorded calls can be made to residences without the recipient giving prior consent (opting-in). (This portion gets more specific with the amendment that came in 2013, discussed below)
- Business conducting mass calls or texting must identify themselves, or identify who they are calling for.
- Companies must provide a callback number or reply option.
- A company or organization advertising via mass calls or texts must maintain a Do Not Call (DNC) list of recipients who do not wish to be called or texted. Opt out requests must be honored for at least five years.
- Violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act give the recipient of any unwanted call or text the right to sue for up to $1,500 per unsolicited text or call.
- Amendment to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act
- Consent MUST be written. Oral consent does not hold up in a court of law. Unambiguous written consent required before telemarketing calls or text messages. Exception: calls that are manually dialed and do not contain a pre-recorded message are exempt from the TCPA.
- All SMS content must be relevant to your business; No “established business relationship” exemption. Established business relationship no longer relieves advertisers of prior unambiguous written consent requirement.
Tips For Making SMS Work
Below are some additional important excerpts of the TCPA. If you are following these rules you are in great shape. However, here are a few things builders need to pay attention to.
- Make sure you have written consent on your web forms as you ask for numbers if you plan on using mass texting or calling features
- Leads entered manually from customers walking in the model must either receive an opt-in request or fill out their information electronically and provide unambiguous written consent. You must also maintain those records. A sales rep who asks, “Is it ok if I text you” does not count.
- Make sure the company or tool you use for mass texting is adhering to the same standards for the TCPA. If you are unsure, just ask them. (Some companies put the responsibility on the customer)
- If it feels intrusive, your customer won’t like it. People respond well to human interaction. Especially via text which is heavily weighted towards personal communication. Don’t start “spamming” prospects just because you have their cell phone.
We are huge believers in texting as a viable and relevant form of communication. But with great power comes great responsibility. Use texting wisely! We aren’t trying to scare you, but we do want you to be completely informed before undertaking any new initiative.