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Best Practices for Creating Text Campaigns to Avoid Deliverability Issues

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Purpose

The following Best Practices are designed for clubs to make it easier to leverage the Club OS text campaigns feature, resulting in improved SMS campaign deliverability.

SMS Spam Is a Huge Problem

Americans send over 69,000 text messages per second (CTIA). Although only 3% of these messages are being filtered as spam or unwanted message, spam is a huge problem in the messaging industry. Mobile users who receive lots of spam or other unwanted messages may decide to start opting out of or ignoring all messages from businesses, even legitimate ones who follow all rules and best practices.

Mobile users find support from telecom operators, whose sophisticated software systems detect and filter unwanted messages. These systems are regularly updated with spam fingerprints and signatures and analyze various content and volume factors to determine whether the message should be filtered as spam, fraud, malware, or spam. The information provided may be shared with government agencies that work to combat spam and prevent deception and fraud.

Mobile users in the USA find protection under United States’ Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act). Canada's anti-spam legislation (CASL) protects consumers and businesses from the misuse of digital technology, including spam and other electronic threats.

While we don't have a 100% reliable ruleset for your SMS campaigns, we've summarized industry experiences that can help you communicate reliably via SMS.

What Are Unwanted Messages?

Unwanted Messages include the following:

 

  • unsolicited bulk commercial messages (i.e., spam);
  • “phishing” messages intended to access private or confidential information through deception;
  • other forms of abusive, harmful, malicious, unlawful, or otherwise inappropriate messages;
  • messages that required an opt-in but did not obtain such opt-in (or such opt-in was revoked);
  • unwanted content that

    • is unlawful, harmful, abusive, malicious, misleading, harassing, excessively violent, obscene/illicit, or defamatory;

    • deceives or intends to deceive (e.g., phishing messages intended to access private or confidential information);

    • invades privacy;

    • causes safety concerns;

    • incites harm, discrimination, or violence;

    • is intended to intimidate;

    • includes malware;

    • threatens Consumers; or

    • does not meet age-gating requirements.

What Are Unsolicited Messages?

Unsolicited messages include, but are not limited to, messages delivered without a recipient’s consent and messages sent after a recipient has opted out. Sending the recipient a single opt-out message acknowledging the opt-out request is the only exception to this rule. Club OS sends this confirmation message when the recipient opts out. Additionally, with Club OS, you have the option to either include the opt-out instructions only in the first message (this is a default setting), or add it to every message you send to the recipient.

Why are SMS Messages Blocked as Spam or Unwanted Messages?

This list of potential reasons is not exhaustive because carriers do not make their criteria for blocking messages public, and their criteria and algorithms are continuously evolving, but these are some common reasons:

  • The same message has been sent repeatedly - without variation or personalization
  • The message contained a URL, especially a shortened link (such as Bitly | Custom URL Shortener, Link Management & Branded Links or tinyurl)
    • URLs that redirect more than once are frowned upon because they can hide the real website destination from the consumer, possibly resulting in a fraudulent destination. The carriers spam filters are checking for URLs with multiple redirects, and messages containing them are likely to be blocked

    • Your URL might also be not accessible anymore (e.g. you are trying to resend a campaign while the URL has moved since the last time you sent this campaign

  • The message contained information related to cannabis that is not allowed in the United States as federal laws prohibit its sale, even though some states have legalized it.

    • Similarly, messages related to CBD are not permissible in the United States, as certain states prohibit its sale. A cannabis related message is any message which relates to the marketing or sale of a cannabis product, regardless of whether or not those messages explicitly contain cannabis terms, images, or links to cannabis websites.

    • Offers for drugs that cannot be sold over-the-counter in the US/Canada are forbidden.

  • Prescription Medication. Offers for prescription medication that cannot legally be sold over-the-counter are prohibited in the United States.
  • The message contained OVER CAPITALIZED WORDS, language that was treated as aggressive, and used hyperbole.
  • The recipient did not recognize you as a sender they know.
  • Your number was manually reported by the recipient(s) as spam to a carrier(s).
    • E.g. someone may have forwarded your followed the instruction below by US Federal Trade Commission Random text? Wait, wait, don’t click that! or by Government of Canada
      • Report spam texts to your carrier. Copy the original message and forward it to 7726 (SPAM) free of charge, if you are an AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint subscriber.
      • If you are getting text messages that you didn’t ask for, forward them to 7726 (or SPAM), to report spam to your wireless provider.CTIA
      • Do not click on text or email links in unwanted texts from sources you don’t know.CTIA
    • Canadians make more than 5,000 complaints to the Spam Reporting Centre

Creating A Successful SMS Campaign

Follow some simple rules to reduce the likelihood of carriers blocking your Text campaign:

  • Receive consent before any message can be sent
    • You are legally required to receive consent before any messages can be sent. This is why the opt-in is not only vital to success, but mandatory and legally required.
  • Identify yourself as the sender
    • Every message you send must clearly identify you (the party that obtained the opt-in from the recipient) as the sender, except in follow-up messages of an ongoing conversation.
  • Keep your messages short and conversational, and avoid lengthy/marketing-heavy messages. This especially applies to your first-ever SMS message to someone.
  • Use clear calls-to-action. All calls-to-action must be clearly and unambiguously displayed. Recipients must be made aware of what they are signing up to receive relating to a specific program
  • Avoid sending the same message/campaign repeatedly without variation or personalization
    • Workaround - use {{recipient-first}} in your SMS template to personalize it automatically and introduce some variation in case the offer is exactly the same:
    • Campaign 1: “Hi {{recipient-first}} this month’s special is $1 to start!”
    • Campaign 2: “Hi {{recipient-first}} don’t miss out on our $1 to start special!”
    • The initial "Hi {{recipient-first}}" text increases the chances of subsequent messages being allowed through by the mobile carrier, especially if you plan on sending a link afterwards.
    • Adding variation would potentially reduce the risk of creating a certain pattern that could be viewed as suspicious by carrier.
  • Do not try to evade unwanted messaging detection (e.g. by intentionally misspelling words or using non-standard opt-out phrases which have been specifically created with the intent to evade these unwanted messaging detection mechanisms)
  • Follow these guidelines when adding a URL link to your campaign messages
    • use the URLs that do not conceal or obscure your club’s identity and are not intended to cause harm or deceive recipients.
    • use a valid URL that links to a real web page or document (carrier spam filters will detect invalid URLs and block messages containing them).
  • Avoid links that redirect to a different URL than the one included in your message (this can also trigger spam filters).
  • Avoid using generic URL shorteners such as Bitly | Custom URL Shortener, Link Management & Branded Links and tinyurl. The carriers have increased blocking messages containing these types of URLs because they are heavily used by spammers for phishing and sending fraudulent links.
    • If you want to shorten your URL, many of those same services allow you to create a custom (or branded) link that is unique to your organization. These custom shortened URLs are allowed and will not cause message delivery issues.
  • Avoid redirects Optimize your link destination to avoid multiple hops. 
    • Web addresses contained in messages as well as any websites to which they redirect should unambiguously identify the website owner (i.e., a person or legally registered business entity) and include contact information, such as a postal mailing address.
  • Adding phone numbers
    • Messages should not contain phone numbers that are assigned to or forward to unpublished phone numbers, unless the owner (i.e., a person or legally registered business entity) of such phone numbers is unambiguously indicated in the text message.
  • Only communicate during a recipient’s daytime hours unless it is urgent
    • Make sure you have accurate time settings for all of your campaigns
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