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 texting 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.

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.

Recommended reading: TCPA Compliance E-book

Conversely, you’ll also see the term “opt-out,” which means the recipient is choosing to take themselves out of your texting communications.

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.

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.

Transactional vs. promotional 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.

Promotional SMS

A promotional SMS is a text that is sent for marketing or sales purposes. 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 businesses obtain this is by advertising a keyword that someone can text to opt in for marketing texts. 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.

Recommended reading: How to Use Click-to-Text to Grow Your Subscriber List

But as best practice, 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 consented to receive texts from the business. The message should also emphasize that they can opt-out (unsubscribe) any time by replying with the word STOP.

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


Transactional SMS

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 an opt-in text message involved for a transactional SMS because the opt-in is given by the customer when they provide their phone number, like during the checkout process when placing an order online. It should be made clear by the business that if the customer is providing their phone number, it will 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. Verbal or written consent can be obtained within the course of a natural human conversation.

A few examples can include the customer texting your business first, the customer filling out an online form on your website or 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. Below are a few examples of best practices.

When the customer has texted the business first

An opt-in text message example for conversational texting

When the customer fills out a form online

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

Extending a consented conversation

Opt-in text message example with conversational texting

Learn more about TCPA compliance and sending an opt-in text message

Whether you use texting software to message customers or you’re texting them from your personal phone number, following TCPA best practices is a must. Take a look through Zipwhip’s TCPA e-book for an introduction on the do’s and don’ts of TCPA compliance in plain, simple language.

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