SMS best practices for a compliant program

With a high open rate SMS has quickly become a preferred channel to communicate with your customers. Because of this popularity, there continues to be an increase in adoption, which unfortunately means an increase in the volume of unsolicited messages reaching devices.

To separate the good from the bad, the regulatory bodies along with the wireless carriers have implemented a set of mandatory controls to align your SMS programs with. Their aim is to filter out the bad while doing their best to ensure the good reaches the intended recipient. For more information, see CTIA’s Messaging Principles and Best Practices.

Adhering to these guidelines will help ensure the success of your SMS program. Failing to align with these guidelines could result in message filtering, which may take some time to resolve with the carriers.

Here are the key elements to be aware of:

  • Choose the right SenderId.
    • Short code – High volume. Trusted.
    • Toll-free number (TFN) – Moderate volume. Trusted.
    • 10-Digit Long code (10DLC) – Increasing support for higher volume. Lower trust.
  • Consent and opt-in are key and mandatory.
    • Only send messages to customers who provided consent (opt-in) to receive messages.
    • Consent cannot be obtained deceitfully. The customer must be informed what they are signing up for.
      • Who they are receiving messages from and for what program.
      • How many messages a month to expect.
      • How to opt-out for example, STOP.
      • How to get HELP for the program.
    • Consent does not transfer between parties. This means if a customer provides consent to your business partner, it does not give your business partner the license to message without directly obtaining consent.
  • Ensure that your program is an approved use case.
    • The wireless carriers are working to filter messages intended to scam the recipient. So, they are increasingly disallowing programs commonly associated with phishing attempts:
Program Examples
High-risk financial services
  • Payday loans
  • Non-direct lenders
  • Debt collection
Debt forgiveness
  • Debt consolidation
  • Debt reduction
  • Credit repair programs
  • Student loan from non-Issuers
Illegal substances
  • Cannabis
  • CBD
  • Illegal prescriptions
  • Alcohol
Work and investment opportunities
  • Work from home programs
  • Job alerts from third-party recruiting firms
  • Risk investment opportunities
Other
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Hate
  • Firearms
  • Lead generation
  • Avoid pitfalls with your message content:
    • It may sound obvious but using good grammar is important.
    • Do not include any content associated with forbidden use cases especially those that violate SHAFT: Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco.
    • Ensure to include the option to opt out (STOP) or where to go with questions (HELP).
    • Do not include URLs from commercial shortener services: TinyUrl or Bitly. Only include URLs you control from branded domains.
  • Continue to check your metrics:
    • If you are seeing a high opt-out rate, it may be time to revisit:
      • Your message content to ensure its current and meaningful.
      • Your opt-in method to ensure that it is genuine and the customer knows what they signed up for.
    • Your contact list should be as clean as possible. High percentage of bad numbers could be indicative of a program with an audience that does not want to be reached.
  • Bookmark this page and refer back for regular updates.