Opt-in Text Messaging: What it Means and Why it’s Important

When getting started with texting for business, you’ll quickly realize there’s a breadth of texting terms to place on your radar. Some are straight forward—like various SMS features that only come with texting software—while others require more explanation, like “opt-in text message,” that deals with best practices when texting your customers.

In this post, we’ll go over what “opt-in text message” means and how your business can use opt-in texting. 

What’s an opt-in text message and what does opt mean in text message?

Before texting a customer, it’s crucial that you first get their consent.

Texting customers without their permission is an invasion of privacy, and it’s against the law. According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), businesses must have consent from the recipient before sending a text. The permission comes in the form of an opt-in.

Recommended Free E-book: TCPA Compliance

The word “opt” simply means to “make a choice.” So, an opt-in means that the recipient is choosing to subscribe to your texting communications. In other words, they’re providing consent to receive your text messages.

An opt-in doesn’t necessarily have to be initiated in a text message from your customer, per se. Permission can be obtained in different ways depending on your business and the type of text messages you intend to send.

What’s an opt out text and what does opt out mean?

Conversely, businesses should also provide an opt out text to their customers. The term “opt-out” means the recipient is opting (choosing) to take themselves off your texting communications. An opt-out text is the opposite of an opt-in text message.

An opt-out text message typically contains language that confirms the customer has chosen to remove themselves from any further text messages from your business, and it may offer them instructions on how to opt back to text messages at any time. An opt-out text can be automatically triggered when a customer lets the business know they no longer want to receive texts.

Every company has different policies, business needs and compliance risks. It’s recommended to seek specific legal advice before adopting any of the suggested compliance practices listed below.

Difference between promotional and transactional SMS and how they affect an opt-in text message

A transactional or promotional text may affect whether your business should send an opt-in text message to your customers. To help you determine when to use an opt-in text, here’s a quick overview of the difference between promotional and transactional SMS.

Promotional text messages with an opt-in text example

A promotional text is a text that prompts a customer to buy something, go somewhere or otherwise take action. This can include messages about discounts, flash sales and promotions. Before a business sends a promotional SMS, they’ll need express written consent from the recipient.

A common way for businesses to obtain consent is by advertising a keyword that someone can text to opt in for marketing texts. Via an SMS keyword campaign, the keyword can be advertised on a business’s website, via signs in-store, on digital and print advertisements, on social media and even email. The text is being initiated by the customer, so it can be assumed that they’re providing their consent.

When the keyword is texted to the advertised phone number, it should trigger an auto-response—the opt-in text message—that reiterates to the recipient that they’ve given permission to receive marketing texts from the business. This method of sending a follow-up text to confirm a customer’s consent is known as a double opt-in text message.

Here’s an example of a double opt-in text message:

An example of an opt-in text message exchange using keywords

The last message should also emphasize that the customer can opt-out (unsubscribe) any time by replying with the word STOP. The opt-out text language can be placed at the very end of the message and can be simple, such as “Text STOP to opt out.” This gives clear instructions to the customer. You’ll see more examples below showing how customers can opt out of text messages.

Transactional text messages with an opt-in text example

A transactional SMS is a text that is used when a business needs to provide necessary information to the customer. These messages are usually automated and can include order confirmation and tracking numbers, two-factor authentication and password resets.

Generally, there isn’t a double opt-in text message involved for a transactional SMS because the appropriate opt-in can be given by the customer when they provide their phone number, such as during the checkout process when placing an order online. The business should make clear that if the customer is providing their phone number, it will only be used to send them relevant transactional text messages (i.e., no marketing text messages).

In the example of an online purchase, a phone number may be used to send a confirmation of the order along with the tracking information.

transactional SMS with opt-in example

Opt-in text message with two-way, conversational texts

Another text scenario is when the business and customer are having a two-way conversation via text. Implied consent can be obtained within the course of a natural human conversation.

Per the TCPA, a few examples can include:

  • The customer may text your business first.
  • The customer may fill out an online form on your website.
  • You may have had a prior conversation with them where they consented to receive texts from you.

In these scenarios, it’s best practice to reply with an opt-in text message that confirms their consent to communicate via text, also known as a double opt-in text message. Below are a few opt-in language examples based on TCPA suggestions.

TCPA suggested opt-in text example when the customer texts the business first

An opt-in text message example for conversational texting

TCPA suggested opt-in text example when the customer fills out a form online

An opt-in text message example with two-way texting

TCPA suggested opt-in text example when extending a consented conversation

Opt-in text message example with conversational texting

Opt-out message example using texting for business software

Your customer may choose to opt out of text messages from your business at any time. Per TCPA guidelines, businesses must provide clear opt-out instructions, and they must manage opt-out contacts responsibly (i.e., keeping records of who has opted out and ensuring to not text that person further).

It’s illegal to continue texting customers after they’ve requested an opt out, and manually keeping track of who you can and cannot text opens room for human error. The easiest way to manage your texting subscriber list is by using a texting for business service with native STOP command support. Customers can generally text STOP to opt out of a business’s text messages if the business is using a secure SMS platform. The platform should be able to automatically block all texts sent to the customer from that line. 

Here’s an example of an opt-out text that would be triggered when the customer texts STOP. This example also includes language to the customer that lets them know how to opt back in to text messages. The process of opting back in can also be automated with business texting software.

opt out text

Use a text message opt-in service when sending an opt-in text message or opt-out text

Following SMS opt-in rules is a must when texting customers. A text message opt-in service like Zipwhip can help your business manage opt-ins and opt-outs and provide the robust tools you need to get the most out of texting for business, such as automatic reply, keywords, text template options, options to schedule a text message and more. Learn more about how Zipwhip works here.

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