If It Walks Like a Duck...

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Matt Silk
Matt Silk

Get consent and give users a chance to opt-out. Seems like a pretty straightforward and simple rule for any direct marketer to follow, right?

When it comes to SMS, the same rules apply. Mobile messaging is, was, and always should be a permission-based medium for communications. That's the best advice I can give to ensure your program is above reproach: Get consent up front, and give an option to opt-out later.

Lawmakers aren't turning a blind eye to the growing problem of SMS spamming. In December, a new ruling out of the Federal District of Illinois held that SMS marketing messages are to be treated the same as calls from automated dialing systems, pursuant to the 1991 Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This was consistent with the ruling this past June in the Satterfield case, which held that unsolicited text messages to mobile phones sent by a retailer may constitute as a “call,” in violation of the TCPA.

In short, the TCPA requires a level of expressed consumer consent as a prerequisite to receiving “calls.” Making sure your SMS marketing strategy does not fall into this grey area is critical.

There are lots of nuances as to how marketers collect consent, so consulting your neighborly industry experts about the MMA best practices and carrier guidelines is always a good idea.

Below are five rules to live by to ensure happy SMS customers:

  • Develop a mobile-originated message where the consumer can join by texting a keyword to a short code
  • Get express consent prior to sending any SMS messages and use approved single opt-in message flows
  • Never push your mobile list to any other partners who may send SMS messages
  • Never send a message to a user who has unsubscribed. There is no "winning back" allowed in mobile
  • Never buying a list of cell phone numbers from any vendor, even if they guarantee that the numbers are “opt-in” numbers

The question of whether texts should be treated as “calls” will likely rise again, but whatever the courts say sending unsolicited texts hurts your campaign, your sender reputation, your relationship with the consumer, and potentially your wallet. (Legal fees ain't cheap.)

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – you know the rest. And if it feels like you might be pushing it with the guidelines, you probably are. In the long run, skirting the rules to blast out unsolicited messages does no good for your brand.

View Matt's blog at www.mobiledemystified.com

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