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Covering the CTIA SMS Guideline Update from Every Angle

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Much like the CASL series of updates that rocked the email marketing world earlier in 2014, CTIA has completely changed the game for those looking to connect with customers via SMS messages. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry. With our in-depth look at the latest SMS guideline update, as well as the background storylines that led to this change, you’ll have all the info you need to keep your text campaigns running and successful throughout this change – as well as any others waiting beyond the horizon.

What Is the CTIA?

For those of you sitting at your office chair and wondering just what the CTIA is, the answer to this question is simple. Originally known as the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, CTIA is a nonprofit membership-based industry group that aims to provide uniform regulation and promote best practices across all wireless connections in North America. From helping guide the debate surrounding the proliferation of consumer data and net neutrality, to how to properly text consumers, CTIA covers a wide spectrum of issues that relate to businesses and organizations like your own.

What Sparked the Update?

Now that we’ve got the particulars of CTIA out of the way, it’s time to talk about why this governing body decided to switch things up in terms of SMS best practices. According to Natalie Gagliordi of ZDNet, the storylines behind this one focus on the role of net neutrality when it comes to the functions utilized by cellular devices. Essentially, the debate revolves around whether or not mobile carriers have the right to regulate the content they provide customers – specifically marketed messages and content originated via the Internet.

Additionally, January of 2014 saw the major mobile service providers – like AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile – agree to cease billing customers for short code messages that fall under the premium designation. Naturally, this move sent ripples throughout the SMS community on both the service provider and marketer side of the equation.

While there’s currently no end in sight to this particular discussion, or a clear cut understanding of all the ramifications of the major service provider short code shift that occurred in January of 2014 – CTIA hopes to cut off any drastic moves from other industry forces by guiding brands – like your own – with a specific set of best practices. This way, the world of SMS marketing can keep on rolling toward a happy confluence of great deals and eager customers who can’t wait for the latest update from the brands they care about.

Building a Plan That Promotes Compliance

So what exactly goes into maintaining compliance with CTIA’s new SMS guidelines? As Derek Johnson of Mobile Marketing Watch explains, it all starts with clearly identifying your brand at the beginning of the text transmission. Without this transparent approach, you could easily turn customers off who are unsure of the origin of this message. From here, explaining the particulars of the program – such as recurring deals or the frequency of messages – ensures that the reader knows exactly what they are getting into.

As for disclosures, CTIA suggests putting the request of consent and terms of usage somewhere in the body of the message. In Johnson’s recommended template, this info comes right after the call to action (CTA) – a position that’s definitely going to attract some attention from customers skimming over the finer points of the text. Finally, giving some real estate to messaging and data rates, as well as opt-out instructions, rounds out the process and gives your brand the ability to stay in line with CTIA’s guidelines and best practices.

Bracing for the Future

Of course, it wouldn’t be appropriate to gloss over the fact that CTIA doesn’t hand out fines or penalties based on those who fall out of compliance like the proponents of CASL and other email marketing anti-spam laws. However, it’s an ill-advised path to disregard these guidelines and best practices completely. With the discussion of net neutrality now incorporating mobile data and SMS operations, it’s only a matter of time before adhering to these enhanced methods becomes the common standard.

Additionally, keeping your offerings of the highest quality – based exclusively on value and transparency – is never a bad idea. Consumers respond to top tier selections when it comes to SMS marketing, so why not set high standards for your creative mobile content? Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you’re behind the times in terms of industry best practices and unable to stand out in a cluttered text message inbox.

About Victor Green

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