7 Best Practices for SMS & Text Marketing

If you're a marketer or a business owner, you likely know the benefits of SMS marketing. Explore best practices for SMS and text marketing with Twilio.

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7 Best Practices for SMS & Text Marketing

If you’re a marketer or a business owner, you’ve no doubt heard about the benefits of SMS Short Message Service (SMS) marketing. This communication strategy, also called “text marketing,” is a favorite among marketers because of its highly receptive audiences, unmatched open rates, and promotions that succeed because customers and prospects receive it on the mobile devices they carry with them all day.

Over 95% of SMS messages received are opened and read. Since SMS is the one messaging function baked into every device—preinstalled by default—this communication channel is a permanent fixture on everyone’s phone. In fact, the first thing most of your customers do when they wake up is look at their phones. Talk about a captive audience.

Perhaps you’re beginning to wrap your head around what SMS is or thinking about how to integrate this channel with your existing software. Or maybe you're trying to figure out how to incorporate SMS marketing into campaigns already underway or your overall mobile marketing strategy. Let’s take a look at how you can take advantage of text marketing and implement best practices to make the most of this channel.

Why use SMS marketing?

SMS marketing is a simple but powerful communication tool by which businesses and organizations send promotional messages via text to receptive users.

Texting boasts greater immediacy and attention than other digital marketing methods. The benefits of successful SMS and text marketing are undeniable:

Enterprise companies in all verticals—including finance, retail, gaming, healthcare, and more—find success with SMS marketing. Even small businesses, from pizza restaurants to florists, use SMS to send specials and coupons directly to customers’ mobile devices. Plus, with some SMS platforms, you can engage customers even more by sending Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) picture messages, emojis, calendar invites, polls, and surveys.

Want more proof of the benefits of SMS? Read our article, Top 5 Reasons to Use SMS and Text Marketing, and check out these examples of effective Twilio-powered text marketing strategies from Sprint and HBO.

Is text marketing legal?

You may be asking yourself whether text blasting or bulk SMS is legal. The short answer is yes, as long as you comply with your local SMS advertising laws.

A consumer’s SMS inbox is a personal space, and most countries have regulations in place to protect consumers from unsolicited commercial text messages. Before you begin sending texts to all your customers, you need to understand and follow the SMS marketing regulations in your country.

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates SMS marketing. It does this primarily through 2 laws:

  • Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991: This act regulates telemarketing by restricting businesses from contacting consumers without prior consent. The TCPA, updated in 2013, now includes SMS marketing. Its number one requirement is that businesses must ask consumers for permission, in writing, to send them commercial text messages. Under the TCPA, businesses must also inform consumers of how often they’ll receive text messages, give notice of potential carrier costs and fees, and provide consumers with the means to opt out of SMS communications.
  • Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) of 2003: This act supplements the TCPA to regulate email spam. It bans false or misleading header information and prohibits deceptive subject lines. While its focus is on email, CAN-SPAM can apply to SMS sent via internet-to-phone SMS technology.

Violating these regulations can result in monetary fines of $500–$1500 per unsolicited text message. In addition to the FCC, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) monitor SMS marketing for violations and help businesses adhere to best practices.

Learn more about the SMS guidelines in your country before you get started with SMS marketing.

SMS marketing best practices

To get your SMS marketing programs off on the right foot, consider these 7 best practices:

1. Get permission.

Proper digital etiquette dictates that you should only send text messages to someone who has permitted you to do so. It’s permission-based marketing, and it’s critical to the success of text marketing campaigns. As we mentioned above, it’s imperative that you comply with local laws and adhere to CTIA recommendations.

To entice your customers to sign up for text messages containing special offers, new product updates, or other valuable information, you can request they opt in via an online form, contest entry, or by texting a particular keyword to a mobile number or short code.

2. Consider a unique, brand-friendly short code.

Short codes are exactly that: A 5 or 6-digit phone number specifically made for commercial use and mass mobile communications—and you’ll typically want one when using SMS for large-scale marketing purposes.

These codes are shorter than typical phone numbers, making them easier to remember and type. Best of all, these numbers are optimized for marketing. These are individually approved by wireless carriers for marketing, so no blocked messages, and you can send messages at a much faster rate than from regular mobile phone numbers. Especially for time-sensitive offers, having the throughput of a short code is critical.

3. Be clever, concise, and compliant.

Once your users have expressed an interest in hearing from you, don’t abuse the privilege. When you send any text marketing message, be clever, engaging, and brief. Provide them with an offer they can’t refuse or information that really matters. If you don’t strike the right balance, you run the risk of opt outs and your precious contact list rapidly shrinking. If done correctly, your customers may give you the same attention level as a text received from a friend.

Also, make the opt-out process simple. This can be as easy as instructing recipients to text “STOP” to your short code to stop receiving messages. If your customers can’t opt out, they’re likely to start complaining to their wireless carrier, leading to potential filtering of your messages down the road.

4. Associate the right keywords with your business.

In addition to simple messages and short codes, you should choose contextually relevant keywords—a word or phrase users will text to the short code you’ve provided to encourage them to connect with you.

5. Have a conversation and respond in real time.

By sending a text message, you’re making a personal connection with your customers, giving them the opportunity to respond and give you valuable feedback on your products. They may tell you how much they love your brand, act on a coupon to make an immediate purchase, or start a productive conversation. To keep them engaged, you’ll want to use an autoresponder to instantly send personalized follow-up text messages.

6. Measure what works.

Smart marketers know how their campaigns perform and can prove their return on investment (ROI). That’s another great benefit of text marketing: If you have the right SMS solution, SMS marketing offers a direct, measurable, and trackable marketing channel. It allows you to easily determine which messages and promotions work and which ones don’t. This can help you continually refine your text campaigns and improve your marketing messages on all other media. Best of all, you can capture leads and all text-based responses and inquiries for sales follow-up.

7. Go global but deliver locally.

Choose an SMS provider able to scale and grow with your mobile marketing efforts and send the highest volumes of text and picture messages in the least amount of time. You also need a provider with an extensive carrier network to allow for global as well as localized phone numbers. Per the TCPA, text communication must occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., so your provider should be able to automatically deliver your messages at the right time in the right time zone.

Many enterprise companies opt to integrate automated communication services within in-house systems to ensure a flawless customer experience. Leveraging cloud communication APIs gives you the flexibility to better manage customer data, automate the entire marketing process, and remain compliant.

SMS marketing starts with a solid foundation

SMS has emerged as one of the best and most reliable ways for large and small organizations to connect with audiences in a more intimate, direct way. Its use is on the rise, and for a good reason—when done correctly, it works. In fact, brands using SMS successfully typically reach 95% of users on both smartphones and non-smartphones. It all starts with the technology behind the message, so you’ll need a sophisticated SMS provider to support your mobile marketing programs.

Twilio offers a comprehensive suite of developer-friendly APIs, including messaging, voice, and video to help you build effective mobile applications within your ecosystem. Our communication solutions support your marketing efforts by giving developers the ability to quickly and easily integrate call and text (and a whole lot more) directly into your mobile marketing suite.

Whether it’s text messaging, push notifications, email, recorded voice messages, or Messenger, you want a marketing platform that can respond and evolve with the needs and preferences of your audience. This allows you to have the right conversation at the right time, every time.

Interested in learning more? Here are additional resources for your consideration.

For marketers:

For developers: