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SMS Best Practices: Ensuring Effective and Compliant Messaging

In an age where mobile phones are an integral part of our lives, SMS (Short Message Service) has become a powerful tool for businesses to engage with their customers. However, it's crucial to understand that sending unsolicited SMS messages can lead to poor results, potential legal issues, and damage to your reputation. In this article, we'll explore SMS best practices that can help you improve customer engagement while staying compliant with laws and regulations.

Comply with Laws, Regulations, and Carrier Requirements

Before you dive into SMS marketing, it's essential to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations governing SMS communications in the regions where you operate. Different countries have specific rules that apply to SMS messages. Here are some key regulations to consider:

- United States: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulates SMS messages. Ensure you follow the rules outlined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

- United Kingdom: The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR) apply to certain SMS messages. Check the guidelines from the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

- European Union: The Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive 2002 (ePrivacy Directive) may apply to some SMS messages. Refer to the full text of the law on the website.

- Canada: Canada's Anti-Spam Law (CASL) applies to certain types of SMS messages. Review the law on the Parliament of Canada's website.

- Japan: The Act on Regulation of Transmission of Specific Electronic Mail may apply to certain SMS messages. Explore Japan's regulations on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications website.

It's crucial to note that these laws might apply to you even if your company isn't based in these countries. Some laws initially designed for other forms of communication have been expanded to include SMS. Consult with legal experts in each region to ensure compliance.

Obtain Permission

Never send SMS messages to recipients who haven't explicitly requested them. Avoid sharing opt-in lists, even within your organization. Implement safeguards to prevent automated scripts from subscribing people without their knowledge, and limit the number of submissions per user session.

When someone opts in to receive your SMS messages, send a confirmation message that clearly outlines what they're signing up for. Include information on message frequency, costs (if any), and instructions for opting out.

Don't Send to Old Lists

People change phone numbers frequently, so avoid using old lists of phone numbers for new campaigns. Sending messages to outdated lists can lead to delivery failures and opt-outs. Always ensure that you have up-to-date and permission-based contact information.

Audit Your Customer Lists

Regularly audit your customer lists to ensure that only interested customers receive your messages. Send reminders to opted-in customers, reinforcing their subscription status and providing opt-out instructions.

Keep Records

Maintain records of when each customer opted in to receive SMS messages from you, the messages you sent to them, and their responses. Many regions require SMS senders to maintain such records. Be prepared to provide this information if requested by a carrier or regulatory agency.

Make Your Messages Clear, Honest, and Concise

SMS messages have a character limit (usually 160 characters). Craft concise messages that clearly identify you as the sender and convey information honestly. Avoid trying to mimic personal messages or using excessive abbreviations.

Respond Appropriately

When recipients respond to your messages, ensure your responses are helpful and relevant. Provide information about the program they've subscribed to, message frequency, and contact details. When someone opts out, promptly confirm their unsubscribe and respect their decision.

Adjust Sending Based on Engagement

Monitor customer engagement and adjust your sending practices accordingly. Reduce message frequency for customers who rarely engage, and consider removing unengaged customers from your lists to maintain deliverability and reputation.

Send at Appropriate Times

Respect your customers' privacy by sending messages during normal business hours. Avoid sending messages late at night or during dinner hours, as this can lead to customer frustration and opt-outs.

Avoid Cross-Channel Fatigue

If you use multiple communication channels (e.g., email, SMS, push notifications), avoid sending the same message in every channel simultaneously. Diversify your messaging to provide value and prevent annoyance.

Use Dedicated Short Codes

Maintain separate short codes for different brands and message types. This helps streamline communication and provides a more personalized experience for your customers.

Verify Your Destination Phone Numbers

Validate that the phone numbers you send messages to are valid mobile numbers to avoid unnecessary costs and message failures. Use Amazon Pinpoint's phone number validation service to ensure accuracy.

Design with Redundancy in Mind

For mission-critical messaging, consider configuring Amazon Pinpoint in multiple AWS Regions to enhance redundancy. Different types of phone numbers can also provide redundancy and improve message delivery.

Stay within SMS Character Limits in Amazon Pinpoint

Understand SMS character limits, which vary based on character sets used in messages. Messages consisting of only GSM 03.38 characters can contain up to 160 characters, while messages with non-GSM characters are limited to 70 characters per message part. Be mindful of these limits to ensure effective messaging.

By following these SMS best practices, you can engage with your customers effectively while staying compliant with regulations and maintaining a positive brand image. Remember that SMS communication is a valuable tool, but it must be used responsibly and ethically to achieve the best results. Always consult legal experts to ensure compliance with regional regulations and requirements.

Companies of any size can use Amazon Pinpoint to send and receive two-way SMS through the Amazon Pinpoint SMS console. Pinpoint’s SMS capabilities give you developer APIs, ML-powered software for routing, and phone number sign up, all from one place. Reach 240+ countries reliably with localized senders, compliance tools, and global guidelines.