Best Practices Text Messaging Guide

Shape Software
  • April 6, 2023
  • 8 min read
  • To increase the chances of your SMS being opened and avoid it being mistaken as spam, it is important to ensure that your content is of high quality and well-formatted. This applies to consumers, operators, and carriers alike. By following some basic guidelines, you can make sure your SMS content meets the standards for great messaging in the US.

    It's worth noting that carriers generally don't preapprove or whitelist messaging content. However, they may review message content as part of an account review process. Additionally, message content flagged by automatic spam detection algorithms will be reviewed by a human operator. If the operator determines that the message is promotional, they may block the sending number on their platform. To avoid this, it's important to follow the guidelines below when creating your messages:

    1.Keep it concise and clear: Use simple language and stick to the point. Your message should be easy to understand and should not include any unnecessary details.

    2.Use correct grammar and spelling: Poor grammar and spelling can make your message difficult to read and unprofessional. Always double-check your message for any errors before sending it out.

    3.Avoid excessive use of capital letters, symbols, or emojis: Using too many of these can make your message look like spam and decrease the chances of it being opened.

    4.Include a clear call-to-action: Your message should have a clear purpose, and you should include a call-to-action that encourages the recipient to take action.

    By following these guidelines, you can create high-quality SMS content that is more likely to be opened by consumers and less likely to be mistaken as spam by operators and carriers.

    Content creation

    Content creation is a crucial aspect of SMS messaging that can determine the success of your marketing efforts. Here are some tips to help you create effective content that resonates with your audience:

    1.Identify yourself: Always include your company name in the message to build trust with the recipient.

    2.Be clear and concise: Provide a specific reason for the message in a straightforward and easy-to-understand language.

    3.Include a STOP message: Make it easy for the recipient to opt-out of future messages by including a clear STOP message in every fourth or fifth message.

    4.Avoid generic URL shorteners: Instead of using generic URL shorteners, use direct links or custom short links that identify your website or landing page.

    5.Avoid promotional language: Use clear and concise language that conveys your message without sounding overly promotional.

    6.Provide context: Clearly explain the reason for your message and provide context for any requested actions.

    In addition, here are some examples of effective messages that follow best practices for SMS messaging:

    Example 1:

    Acme Inc. - You have a scheduled appointment with us at 2 PM on April 7th. Please arrive 10 minutes early. Reply STOP to opt out of future notifications.

    Example 2:

    XYZ Insurance - Your policy is due for renewal next week. Please call us at 123-456-7890 to discuss your options. Reply STOP to opt out of future notifications.

    Example 3:

    Hi {Name}, we noticed that you left something in your shopping cart. Finish your purchase now and get 10% off your order. Click here to complete your purchase: https://realurl.com/?id=12345. Reply STOP to opt out.

    On the other hand, here are some examples of bad content in SMS messaging:

    Example 1:

    Congratulations! You've won a free vacation. Click here to claim your prize: https://suspiciousurl.com/?id=12345.

    Example 2:

    You've been pre-approved for a loan. Click here to apply: https://suspiciousurl.com/?id=12345.

    These messages contain misleading promotions and links to suspicious websites that can trigger spam filters and damage your brand reputation. To create effective SMS messages, it's important to provide value to your recipients, be transparent about your promotions, and obtain explicit consent before sending messages.

    Use one recognizable number

    Maintaining consistency and building trust with your audience is crucial when conducting SMS campaigns in the United States. To achieve this, it's important to use one recognizable phone number for each campaign. We recommend using a primary phone number that is easily identifiable by your recipients, such as your business or brand phone number. Using a single number for both text and voice calls can also streamline communication and improve the customer experience. By consistently using one phone number for your SMS campaigns, you can avoid confusion and prevent potential spam or fraud issues. Additionally, it's important to clearly identify your organization and provide explicit instructions on how to opt-out or unsubscribe from future messages, further building trust with your audience.

    Use one recognizable domain name

    To ensure consistency and avoid confusion in SMS campaigns in the United States, it's important to associate each campaign with a single, easily recognizable web domain. This helps to build trust with your audience and prevents potential spam or phishing attempts. While a full domain name is preferred, a URL shortener may be used as long as the domain name is easily identifiable and associated with your brand or organization. When using a URL shortener, make sure to use a reputable service and avoid using overly generic or suspicious-sounding domain names. It's also crucial to identify your organization and provide clear instructions on how to opt-out or unsubscribe from future messages to further build trust with your audience. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your SMS campaigns are effective and well-received by your recipients.

    Use natural language

    To ensure your SMS messages are easily understood and engaging for your recipients in the United States, use natural language. Avoid using nonstandard spellings and text message jargon such as "H! h0w ar3__you do1ng?" Instead, use clear, concise language that is easy to read and understand. Using proper grammar and punctuation can also improve the readability and professionalism of your messages. By using natural language, you can build trust with your audience and ensure that your messages are well-received.

    Direct consent

    To comply with SMS messaging regulations in the United States, it's essential to collect consumer consent directly from your audience. Avoid using consent acquired from a third party, as this can cause confusion and erode your customers' trust. Consumers expect a direct and transparent relationship with the businesses they interact with, and collecting their consent directly can help build this relationship. By collecting consent yourself, you can ensure that your audience is fully aware of what they are opting into and provide clear instructions on how to opt-out or unsubscribe from future messages. This not only ensures compliance with regulations but also enhances the customer experience and fosters a positive relationship with your audience.

    Set expectations for message frequency

    To ensure your SMS campaigns are well-received by your audience in the United States, it's crucial to set clear expectations for message frequency. Be transparent about how often you plan to send messages and provide this information upfront, ideally in the first interaction with the consumer. For example, if you plan to send five texts a month, disclosing "5 messages a month" at the outset leads to a better user experience and builds trust with your audience. This transparency not only improves the overall customer experience but can also reduce the likelihood of opt-outs or complaints due to unexpected or excessive messaging. By setting clear expectations for message frequency, you can ensure that your SMS campaigns are effective and well-received by your recipients.

    Disallowed content

    To maintain compliance with SMS messaging regulations in the United States, it's important to avoid sending any disallowed content. If a message sender is observed sending any of the kinds of disallowed content listed below, it may result in an account review by Shape and Shape’s telephony providers, which could potentially lead to the suspension of sending rights for a provisioned phone number, restriction of high-throughput access, suspension of provisioning rights for new phone numbers, and/or suspension of all network services. It's important for message senders to take responsibility for enforcing restrictions on their own networks to prevent the transmission of disallowed content at the intake source. By doing so, you can help to maintain compliance with regulations and ensure that your SMS messaging campaigns are well-received by your audience. To avoid any potential issues, be sure to review the list of disallowed content carefully and take steps to prevent the transmission of such content through your messaging platform.

    Promotional Messaging

    When it comes to SMS messaging campaigns, promotional messages play a vital role in marketing products and services. However, it's crucial to follow the regulations and guidelines governing such messages. Toll-free numbers are not allowed for promotional messaging, and carriers and service providers may block such messages. To ensure compliance with regulations and successful delivery of promotional messages, it's better to use a dedicated short code or long code number. This will help maintain compliance and ensure that your promotional messages reach your intended audience.


    Phishing is a fraudulent practice that involves sending messages that appear to come from reputable sources, with the intention of obtaining sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal data. Such attacks can be delivered via SMS messaging and can have severe consequences for both individuals and organizations. To protect yourself against phishing, it's essential to be vigilant and avoid clicking on links or providing personal information in response to unsolicited messages. Businesses and organizations should also take measures to ensure the security of their messaging campaigns and educate their customers about the risks of phishing attacks. By working together, we can create a safer and more secure digital environment for all.

    Fraud or Scam

    Fraudulent or scam messages are strictly prohibited in SMS messaging. These messages use deceptive practices to trick recipients into providing personal or financial information for the benefit of the sender. Such messages may take various forms, such as fake job offers, lottery or sweepstakes scams, or requests for money transfers or other financial transactions. It's crucial to be cautious and vigilant when receiving unsolicited messages, especially those that seem too good to be true or require immediate action. To prevent fraud and scams in SMS messaging, message senders must carefully screen their messaging campaigns, and ensure that all messages are legitimate and lawful. Recipients should also be educated on the risks of fraud or scam messages and encouraged to report any suspicious messages to the appropriate authorities. By working together, we can create a safer and more trustworthy digital environment for all.

    Deceptive Marketing

    Deceptive marketing in SMS messaging is prohibited, and all marketing messages must comply with the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Truth in Advertising rules. Marketing messages must be truthful and not misleading, and any claims made in the messages must be supported by scientific evidence when appropriate. The FTC prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium, including text messages. Therefore, it's crucial to make sure that all marketing messages are honest, clear, and provide accurate information to the recipient.

    Sensitive Content

    Messages that contain sensitive topics such as debt restructuring/refinancing offers, debt relief offers, payday loan offers, home loan offers, education loan offers, unsolicited insurance quotes, and "earn money from home" job offers may be more susceptible to carrier blocking. To ensure successful delivery, it's recommended to avoid using these topics in your messages. It's better to choose appropriate content that complies with regulations and won't be blocked by carriers or service providers.

    Carrier Monitoring

    To ensure that your SMS messaging campaigns run smoothly and are not interrupted, it's essential to understand that carriers constantly monitor the text messages being sent over their networks. Following best practices for SMS messaging is recommended to avoid a high number of consumer complaints and opt-out rates. It's crucial to ensure that your messages are relevant, timely, and valuable to your audience. This will help maintain a good sender reputation and avoid any potential issues with carrier monitoring.

    Consumer Complaints

    Carriers take consumer complaints seriously, and they can lead to the suspension of sending rights for the offending phone number. Mobile subscribers can report unwanted or unconsented text messages by forwarding them to the shortcode 7726, which spells "SPAM" on a standard keypad. Carriers actively monitor consumer complaints sent to this service and notify the message sender if multiple complaints are received for their campaign. To avoid such issues, message senders should ensure that they have a TCPA-compliant opt-in process in place and provide an overview of the messaging campaign upon request. If a large number of complaints are received for a phone number, the sending rights for that number may be immediately suspended while opt-in is being confirmed.

    Opt-Out Rate

    It's essential to track the opt-out rate of a sending phone number, which is calculated as the total number of unique consumer phone numbers that received messages divided by the unique number of consumers that opted out within a 24-hour period. If the opt-out rate on a sending phone number exceeds 5%, the account will be flagged for monitoring. If the opt-out rate exceeds 10%, the sending phone number may be immediately suspended. Monitoring opt-out rates is crucial to ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations, and appropriate actions must be taken to prevent suspension of the sending phone number.

    Keywords: Text messaging, SMS, Text messaging guide

    Still need help? Contact Shape experts!