Did you know that sending an unauthorized text message to someone can cost your business up to $500 in penalties? That’s not a one-time fee, either, but rather the cost per instance of sending a text message to anyone after they have opted out of receiving the messages.

A number of lawsuits in recent years have shown just how costly it is to brands when they cross the line from responsible and acceptable brand promotion to spam. In 2012, the largest Jiffy Lube oil change franchisee in the United States shelled out $47,000,000 to settle a class action lawsuit surrounding their use of text messages to market to unwilling consumers. More amazing than the settlement amount is the fact that if the franchisee had been charged the full $500 for each instance of text spam, the bill would have actually exceeded one BILLION dollars.

SMS data graphic

Text message spam effects more than two-thirds of Americans.
Image courtesy of Tatango via Social Times

SMS messages can be used as a powerful and versatile marketing tool. Engaging an audience of customers or potential customers has never been easier. At the same time, there are rules about how such messages can be sent to consumers, as well as guidelines for who can and can’t be messaged. Here are five suggestions for making sure your SMS marketing plans are not only effective at getting your message through, but also abide by the guidelines set by the FCC, as well as the rules of common courtesy.

  1. Audit your activity –  Once upon a time, companies using text messages for marketing or brand awareness could claim that the platform or software they used was at fault when messages were sent to people who didn’t want to receive them. Those days are over as numerous claims and judgments have been awarded that do not absolve the marketer from responsibility even if the SMS messaging software they use is not working correctly. Performing regular audits of activity (weekly is suggested) to make sure that all unsubscribe and opt-out requests have been completed is a great idea. That said…
  2. Pick a messaging platform you know how to use –  There are myriad options available for SMS messaging for marketers. When choosing a platform, don’t just think about price when management and reporting functions are every bit as important. As with choosing any other SaaS or PaaS offering, make sure your choice has robust technical support and training to make sure you set up and use the system correctly. Furthermore, the solution should be able to integrate with your CRM system so that there is no chance of a record being lost or replicated between the two systems.
  3. Keep meticulous records – As with many activities where there is a line between the acceptable and unacceptable, keeping detailed records is a great idea. From the numbers you are texting to the messages and open-rates, having extensive data is good not just for your marketing efforts, but also to backup your side of things if someone complains. Keeping good records is simple: take the results of the audit reports you run regularly and back them up to a secure location. Being able to show when a person opted in or opted out of an SMS communication is helpful in a number of situations.
  4. Make opting out easy – Some SMS and email marketing platforms make it complicated or confusing for users to unsubscribe from a message list. Why would you want to employ this tactic? Aside from frustrating people who don’t want to receive your communications, you are opening your company up to unfavorable conditions should consumers complain. If someone doesn’t want to receive any more communication from you, then make it easy for that person to remove their phone number from your distribution list.
  5. Find a balance – As with any marketing or advertising platform, text messaging straddles a fine line between being effective and being annoying. Be judicious in the frequency of communications with customers and subscribers. Offer a variety of content, such as promotions, news, surveys, and event announcements as a way to get users interested in your text messages and not annoyed every time they receive one. If you are able to build real value from your SMS communications, then you are far more likely to retain subscribers.

Marketing with text messages is a powerful way to get your message across. The ubiquity of cell phones has made SMS messaging a surefire way to engage a broader audience more directly and with greater frequency. But beware: the pitfalls are plenty and a misstep can negatively impact your bottom line and the reputation of your enterprise. The suggestions above can help you build a strategy and implement best practices that keep your SMS marketing efforts on the right side of rules and regulations. Click here to contact Mosaic NetworX if your organization would like to explore SMS services!