The following SMS Best Practices are standardized by SMS Compliance (the Federal Communications Commission, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, and the Mobile Marketing Association).
When sending SMS messages, you must adhere to the guidelines on this page.
CTIA’s Guiding Principles
The CTIA is the body that represents the wireless communication industry in the US. They write the guidelines and more or less oversee the space.
The four Guiding Principles listed below provide the baseline for all requirements:
- Display clear calls-to-action. All calls-to-action must be clearly and unambiguously displayed. Consumers must be made aware of what they are signing up to receive relating to a specific program.
- Provide applicable consent mechanisms. Consistent with the consent requirements outlined in the CTIA Messaging Principles and Best Practices, Short Code programs must comply with applicable Consumer consent requirements, giving Consumers sufficient control of the messages they receive.
- Send opt-in confirmation messages. A Consumer’s opt-in must be confirmed in the first message sent to the Consumer. For single-message programs, the confirmation message content may be part of a single message that a Message Sender sends after a Consumer has opted in. For recurring-messages programs, confirmation messages must include clear opt-out instructions.
- Acknowledge and honor opt-out requests. Message Senders must acknowledge and act on all opt-out requests. Monitoring procedures confirm successful opt-out.
- You must get consent to message your customers. The type of consent depends on the messaging.
- Opt Out – you must provide a way for customers to stop receiving messages associated with your campaign. STOP is a default and needs to be included in your campaign. “Text STOP 2 Stop” “To Unsubscribe, reply STOP”, etc. If you are sending in another language you need to include that verbiage as well.
What is proper consent? | Conversational
Conversational messaging is a back-and-forth conversation that takes place via text. If a Consumer texts a business first and the business responds quickly with a single message, then it is likely conversational. If the Consumer initiates the conversation and the business simply responds, then no additional permission is expected.
- First message is only sent by a Consumer
- Two-way conversation
- Message responds to a specific request
- Requires Implied Consent
- If the Consumer initiates the text message exchange and the business only responds to each Consumer with relevant information, then no verbal or written permission is expected.
(CTIA 2021 Guidelines V1.8)
What is proper consent? | Informational
Informational messaging is when a Consumer gives their phone number to a business and asks to be contacted in the future. Appointment reminders, welcome texts, and alerts fall into this category because the first text sent by the business fulfills the Consumer’s request. A Consumer needs to agree to receive texts for a specific informational purpose when they give the business their mobile number.
- First message is sent by the Consumer or business
- One-way alert or two-way conversation
- Message contains information
- Requires Express Consent
- The Consumer should give express permission before a business sends them a text message. Consumers may give permission over text, on a form, on a website, or verbally. Consumers may also give written permission
(CTIA 2021 Guidelines V1.8)
Transactional messages contain information that is necessary for your customers to use your product or service, and see less TCPA regulation
What is proper consent? | Promotional
Promotional messaging is a message sent that contains a sales or marketing promotion. Adding a call-to-action (e.g., a coupon code to an informational text) may place the message in the promotional category. Before a business sends promotional messages, the Consumer should agree in writing to receive promotional texts. Businesses that already ask Consumers to sign forms or submit contact information can add a field to capture the Consumer’s consent.
- First message is sent by the business
- One-way alert
- Message promotes a brand, product, or service
- Prompts Consumer to buy something, go somewhere, or otherwise take action
- Requires Express Written Consent
- The Consumer should give express written permission before a business sends them a text message. Consumers may sign a form, check a box online, or otherwise provide consent to receive promotional text messages.
(CTIA 2021 Guidelines V1.8)
Promotional messages are sent with the purpose of increasing sales, promoting your product, or raising awareness about your business. They are the TCPA’s main focus.
Disallowed Content – SHAFT
- Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and any illicit substance.
- Even CBD (Cannabidiol) is not allowed
- High-Risk Financial Services
- Payday Loans
- Short Term- High Interest Loans
- Auto Loans
- Mortgage Loans
- Student Loans
- Debt Collection
- Stock Alerts
- Get Rich Quick Schemes
- Deceptive Work from Home Programs
- Risk Investment Opportunities
- Multi-Level Marketing
- Debt Forgiveness
- Debt Consolidation
- Debt Reduction
- Credit Repair Programs
- 3rd Party Debt collection
- Illegal Substances
- Cannabis and CBD
- All Schedule 1 & 2 drugs
- Tobacco and Vape
- Job Postings
- Exceptions permitted if the message sender is the one doing the hiring
- Profanity or Hate Speech
- Fraud or Scam
- Deceptive Marketing
Additional restrictions can be found in our Terms and Conditions
*This is not an exhaustive list
- Providers highly recommend having opt-out/help info on every message. This is the gold standard.
- No SHAFT content
- You must get consent to message people. The type of consent depends on the type of messaging that is being sent.
- ID your brand in every message.
- STOP language in every message.
- Do not use ALL CAPS.
- NO public link shorteners like bit.ly
- Links need to go to your company site – no 3rd party sites.
- If you need assistance with “word smithing” your messages, contact our support team.
- USA dedicated numbers should be verified for best delivery.
- Comply with the CTIA Guidelines – CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook – v1.8.pdf (wmcglobal.com)