Running a text campaign? Avoid lawsuits; make sure each consumer opts in
As texting overtakes calling as a preferred communication channel for many age groups, marketers are seeing the allure of SMS text campaigns. And why not? Text messages are immediate, attention-grabbing and a phenomenal tool for local business.
Often, the question arises of whether an organization can use an existing list of phone numbers to kick off a new text message campaign. As with email spamming, the answer is an unqualified "no." Consumers must opt in to receive text messages from an organization, just as they must opt in to receive email from an organization or face fines or blacklisting for spamming.
Unsolicited text messages fall under TCPA, which is enforced by the FCC. A provision of the TCPA gives consumers the right to sue for TCPA violations to the tune of $500 to $1500 for each call, fax, or text received. Yes, that's $500 per message per consumer. More information on the TCPA.
And the legal ramifications are real. Derek Johnson of Tatango (a wonderful and ethical SMS marketing company, BTW) has compiled a current list of real lawsuits faced by real companies who sent unsolicited text messages and suffered the legal consequences. The fines are stunning: Twentieth Century Fox paid $200 per phone number it spammed in a class action settlement totalling $16 million; Timberland paid $150 per phone number for a settlement of $7 million.
It's more likely a organization would be sued than fined, but neither outcome is desirable. The point is that ethical marketers would never send text messages anyone who hasn't voluntarily opted in. Even if the consumer provided the organization with a phone number in the past for some other reason, it is not legal or ethical to send that consumer text messages on that phone number. It's spam.
As with other marketing efforts, there is no substitute for creating a compelling marketing campaign that will provide real value to consumers and have them rushing to opt in. For more information on how to conduct a kick-butt SMS campaign, check out Derek Johnson's Social Media Breakfast podcast interview, which is chock-full of advice on opt-in techniques, high-value text messages and successful SMS campaigns.
Or just take a look at this nifty infographic the Tatango folks put together: