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SMS Opting In and Out + Understanding US Regulations
SMS Opting In and Out + Understanding US Regulations

Information and best practices to ensure regulatory compliance and maintain deliverability for SMS / Text Messages sent via Element451.

Eric Range avatar
Written by Eric Range
Updated over a week ago

Overview

Using text messages (SMS) to communicate with students and other contacts is a great way to connect. But, you must follow certain regulations and best practices to ensure your messages are sent to those who want them and are ultimately received.

As part of your onboarding, Element451 registers your school and associated Element451 SMS-enabled phone numbers as the first step in A2P 10DLC compliance. This article will guide you through the process of how recipients can choose to receive (opt-in) or stop receiving (opt-out) your messages, along with other important guidelines for effective and compliant SMS use.
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Failure to follow these guidelines and best practices may result in a high opt-out or junk report to cell phone carriers. This, in turn, can impact your number's carrier trust score and reduce deliverability.


Opting In | Subscribing

Opting in refers to a contact giving their consent to receive SMS messages from your institution. This requires the contact to take a clear affirmative action to agree to receive messages, such as checking a box or clicking a button.

When collecting cell phone numbers on Forms, Applications, or Event Sign-Up Forms, you should require user consent to receive SMS messages. We strongly recommend using the system opt-in field.
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Please remember you should only send SMS messages to users who have actively opted in. Sending messages without consent is illegal under anti-spam laws.


Opting Out | Unsubscribing

Opting out or unsubscribing is when contacts revoke their consent and no longer wish to receive SMS messages. You are required to provide an easy way for contacts to opt-out, such as replying STOP or clicking an unsubscribe link.

Self Opt-Out

Campaigns

When creating a Campaign, Element451 will require you to include an Unsubscribe Prompt in the Configure SMS section. By default, the prompt is set to "Reply STOP to unsubscribe," but if you choose, you can rewrite the prompt. However, you must include clear instructions on unsubscribing and the words(s) UNSUBSCRIBE and/or STOP.
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Conversations

An opt-out message is not automatically included with SMS messages delivered from the Conversations module. However, a recipient can still reply with "STOP" or "Unsubscribe," and they will stop receiving messages.

Manual Opt-Out

As explained above, a contact can self-unsubscribe from your SMS communication, but you also have the option to unsubscribe them manually.

Unsubscribe Milestone

When a person unsubscribes, the SMS Unsubscribe Date milestone is added to that user's profile. Following this, they will no longer receive messages from you, whether through Conversations or Campaigns. If your institution utilizes multiple Element451 numbers, the unsubscribe action will apply to all.

Resubscribe a Contact

Unsubscribe milestones can be removed. However, this should only be done if you receive explicit consent from the person that they want to be re-subscribed.

Important Notes + Considerations

  • If you have multiple contact records with the same phone number, each person will be blocked from receiving SMS messages, but only one will receive the milestone. If you have a situation where you suspect this is the case, you can use the search bar to search for the phone number, look at the returned people's records, and check their milestones for an unsubscribe.

  • If your institution utilizes multiple Element451 numbers, the unsubscribe action will apply to all.


Transactional vs. Promotional Messages

There are two main categories of SMS messages:

  • Transactional messages provide important account notifications, confirmations, or updates. These are usually one-time messages sent in response to a user action.

  • Promotional or marketing messages aim to advertise products, events, or offers. These are recurring message campaigns.

Transactional messages do not strictly require opt-in consent, but providing an opt-out is recommended. Promotional campaigns always require prior opt-in consent.


U.S. Regulations for SMS Messaging

The main laws governing SMS marketing in the U.S. are:

  • TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) - prohibits sending messages to users without their consent using an auto-dialer. Consent can be given verbally, in writing, or electronically.

  • CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association) - requires clear notice and user consent for sending any SMS messages. Messages must clearly identify the sender and provide opt-out information.

What is A2P 10DLC?

A2P 10DLC stands for Application-to-Person 10-digit long code. This new SMS messaging framework by The Campaign Registry (TCR) provides companies with an optimized way to send SMS messages to consumers at scale. The 10-digit phone number(s) Element451 provides you is registered for A2P 10DLC compliance. This helps ensure deliverability with carriers by giving you a verified identity. No action is needed on your part other than maintaining good practices of providing a clear opt in and out process, creating content that provides value to the recipients and targeting your messages to the right audiences.


Best Practices to Maintain High Deliverability

Telecom carriers monitor the activity of each phone number used to send SMS messages within their networks. If a number exhibits signs of sending unwanted messages or content that violates policies, carriers may limit or entirely block its message delivery.
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While carriers don't generally share their exact metrics for filtering, to maintain higher deliverability rates, we recommend you adhere to the following best practices:

Respect Opt-in & Opt-out Requests

This is the single best thing you can do to protect your deliverability. High opt-out rates or spam reports signal to carriers that recipients may not have willingly subscribed to your messages.

For mass communications, consider targeting more engaged prospects or students. Also, consider reducing the number of messages to individuals who have not interacted with your institution in over a year (or some other time horizon), as they are more likely to opt-out.

Message Frequency

Be mindful of the frequency of marketing or promotional messages. Sending such messages too frequently (e.g., multiple times per week) can be counterproductive and drive higher-than-average opt-out rates.
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Transactional, confirmation, and targeted promotional messages to highly engaged individuals can be sent more frequently, provided they are timely and relevant.

Identify Yourself

Ensure your messages clearly state who they are from. If recipients cannot immediately recognize the institution that is sending the message or their connection to the content, they are more likely to opt-out.

Include Clear Calls to Action

Use clear call-to-actions to drive students to take the next step and drive students to trusted online resources of your university website, Element451 landing pages, applications, or microsites.

Use Personalization

Employ personalization tokens in Element451 to tailor each message, showing recipients that you recognize them as individuals. This not only enhances the recipient's experience but also helps your messages bypass carrier filters.

One-Time vs Ongoing SMS Communications

Both One-Time and Ongoing communications can be used to send SMS messages. However, large batches (3,000+) sent via one-time campaigns are at higher risk of being filtered by some carriers, which could result in lower delivery rates, especially when those messages contain links and lack personalization. Therefore, it is best to reserve one-time campaigns for urgent or time-sensitive messages like impending deadlines.
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For more routine messages, leveraging Ongoing Campaigns and Workflows to deliver messages asynchronously based on student actions is preferred. This approach spreads out the message distribution over a more extended period. Such a strategy helps to improve the overall deliverability of messages. As a bonus, it also reduces the manual steps required to set up one-time campaigns that you repeat on a regular basis.

An Example to Dive a Little Deeper

Example Scenario: Communicating with Students Who Submitted an RFI Form


​Using One-Time Communications:

Imagine you decide to target students who filled out a Request for Information (RFI) form in the last week.

  • At the end of each week, you compile a list of students who submitted the form that week. Let's say this amounts to 3,143 students who all receive the message at once, whether they submitted the form 7 days ago or 1 hour ago.

Ongoing Communication Approach:

Alternatively, you set up an on-going communication and workflow that activates once a student submits the RFI form.

  • After a 5-day delay, the workflow sends out the SMS message encouraging the student connect with an enrollment advisor.

Over a week, this approach also reaches a similar total number of students. However, it distributes the messages, sending approximately 450 messages each day rather than all at once. Moreover, these daily messages are spread out throughout the day.

Advantages of Ongoing Communications:

  • Reduced Risk of Carrier Filtering: By avoiding a large blast of messages at once, ongoing communications are less likely to be flagged and filtered by carriers.

  • Consistent Engagement: Spreading messages out provides consistent engagement with students. It also spreads out the inbound replies. Helping to avoid overwhelming staff at a single point in time.

  • Personalized Interaction: This method feels more personalized, as messages are sent in response to a student's action (submitting the RFI form), enhancing the relevance and impact of the communication.

By adopting ongoing communications, you can ensure a smoother, more effective outreach that benefits your institution and students by fostering timely and more engaging interactions.

Avoid Prohibited Content

While not usually an issue for colleges or universities, avoid sending prohibited content, including but not limited to SHAFT (sexually explicit, hate, alcohol (and other drugs), firearms, and tobacco) content, as this can lead to immediate blocking and fines.


Segment students and tailor messages to their interests based on your data. Personalized content drives engagement. Learn more about Segments.

Following regulations and messaging best practices will ensure your university or college sends useful, compliant SMS campaigns that engage prospective students and support your enrollment goals

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