Before texting your audience, you need to get their permission. In the SMS world, this is called express written consent.
If you don’t have the right opt-in method in place, you won’t be able to use a toll-free number, and you could face legal consequences.
According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), you need express written consent that your contacts agree to receive marketing text messages from you. It’s not enough to put a disclaimer in your terms and conditions (who reads those all the way through, anyway?).
So, what’s the right way to get people to opt-in to your marketing texts? Read on for example opt-in methods and tutorials for three of the most popular options. You can also take our opt-in methods quiz!
Note: All of the information below is meant to be used as best practices, not legal advice. We recommend consulting a lawyer for guidance specific to your situation.
Table of Contents:
Examples of Opt-in Methods
People can consent to receive your marketing messages in several ways, such as:
Sending a keyword to your number based on an ad that includes the required terms
Entering a phone number into an online web form with the required terms included
Checking a box at the end of checkout with the required terms
Let’s look at a couple of examples of these opt-in methods in the wild.
You can set up your own compliant opt in with any of the methods below.
Option 1: Keywords
If you’re looking for an easy way to build your audience, look no further than keywords. They’re memorable words or phrases that people can use to receive your text messages.
You may have seen this before when a brand says to text a word to their number (ex. "Text SUMMERDEALS to 888-459-2034").
Choose Your Keyword
Keywords can be 3-20 characters, containing numbers and letters and no special characters. The shorter, the better.
The most important thing is that you keep your keywords on-brand and memorable. They could be your brand name or something related to a specific promotion.
How to Set Up Keywords in SimpleTexting
1. Navigate to the Keywords panel.
Click Keywords on the left-hand panel of your dashboard. Then click the blue New Keyword button.
2. Enter your keyword name.
When you click Save, it will let you know whether the keyword is available. If it’s not, we’ll give you the option to try a new one.
3. Assign contacts to lists.
You can either assign people an existing contact list or create a new list for the people that use this keyword.
4. Enter your auto-confirmation message.
Next, type out your auto-confirmation message. This is the first thing your contacts will see when they join your keyword. It’s kind of like a welcome message.
Note: When you create your message, you can select either SMS or MMS. If you select SMS, you can use up to 160 characters. Any attachments sent with SMS will be delivered as links.
If you select MMS, you can attach media like photos or video clips within the body of your message. You can also include up to 1600 characters of text. Note that MMS messages cost 3 credits to send while SMS costs 1 credit.
5. Customize the compliance message.
This message is sent free of charge to each new contact to keep your opt ins compliant.
Adjust your message frequency. This auto-populates into the compliance message. It’s an estimate of how many times per month you plan to message your contacts.
You can adjust the frequency by clicking on the + and - buttons. It’s not set in stone, but it's best to keep your estimate as close as possible to your actual monthly message volume.
6. Select additional parameters.
Under Additional Parameters, you have some customization options.
Send auto-confirmation message every time a keyword is texted. Check this box if you want contacts to receive your auto-confirmation message every time they text in your keyword. Keep in mind, this will use 1 message credit each time it’s texted. Most users leave this unchecked.
Notify me about each new subscriber via email. Check this box to forward opt-ins to an email. If you check this box, the specified email for your account will receive an alert each time someone joins your list.
Notify me about each new subscriber via SMS. Check this box to forward opt-ins to a phone number. This is a great feature if you need to know right away when someone joins. It will use an extra message credit with each opt-in because it’s sending a message to the new contact and to you.
7. Add triggers.
These are optional, but they allow you to customize some additional messaging after the initial keyword is texted. Triggers cannot contain any space.
8. Click Save.
You can use our free Graphic Generator Tool to create an image for advertising your keyword on social, email, and other marketing channels.
How to Make Your Keyword TCPA Compliant
Part of your responsibility when using keywords is to advertise them properly. Your advertisement must clearly disclose that:
The messages received will be marketing/promotional in nature
The messages will be sent via an autodialer (the TCPA legalese for SMS platforms)
The agreement to receive the autodialed promotional text messages isn’t a condition of any purchase
To comply with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association’s guidelines, your ads must also include:
Your campaign purpose
Information about message and data rates
Option 2: Mobile Sign-Up Widgets
A mobile sign-up form is specifically for users viewing your website on a cellphone. We have a free mobile sign-up widget that lets people sign up for text messages within seconds.
Note: You’ll need to set up a Keyword before setting up your mobile sign-up widget.
How Mobile Sign-up Works For Your Contacts
When you add a mobile sign-up form to your website, a button in the corner of your website asks customers to click on it. After clicking on it, a pop-up widget will appear asking contacts to sign up for text updates.
It will also ask for opt-in consent, which is a legal requirement when collecting phone numbers.
When they tap on the sign-up button, their phone’s messaging app will autofill information, including your number and keyword.
All new contacts need to do is tap the send button to sign-up and start receiving your text updates.
Setting Up the Mobile Sign-Up Widget
Click here to start the process, and we’ll explain each step in detail below.
1. Set up a keyword.
A keyword is a word or phrase that people can text to your number to sign up for future messages (E.g. Text STDEMO to 855-900-8181). Use the Keywords section above to learn how to set up a keyword before you move on to step two.
2. Create a trigger button.
The trigger button appears at the corner of your website and will open the mobile sign-up widget. Design a button that will capture your audience’s attention.
For example, “Get 10% Off Here,” or “Click for Text Updates.” You can use the Styling tab to edit your button’s appearance to fit with your website.
You can choose whether you want your button to appear at the bottom right, bottom, or left of your page. You can also decide whether you want the widget to open automatically, after a delay, or another time under the Behavior tab.
3. Create your main button.
This is the button people will click to open the text messaging app on their phone. It appears on the mobile sign-up popup.
The widget creator will now ask for your keyword and text-enabled number. This is because tapping the main button will autofill the keyword and your number into the sender’s default messaging app.
Just like with the first trigger button, you can customize this button’s colors, fonts, and look.
4. Customize your pop-up.
You can now add your logo and the text you want your popup to contain. The text should convince visitors to sign up for your messages. You can click on the popup text within the preview to edit it.
5. Generate compliance information (IMPORTANT).
This is the most important bit. You need permission from your subscribers to gather their phone numbers.
Make sure you select how many times per month you plan to message your contacts.
Installing the Widget
1. Click "Save & Publish" at the top right.`
Your widget is ready to go! It will be sent to your email address.
2. Check your email with instructions to add the widget to your site.
You can then copy the code from your email.
3. Paste it into a section of your website HTML beneath the <head> text.
Your code should already dictate where your sign-up button will be.
However, if you want to ensure yours is in the footer, use CTRL+F or CMD+F to find ‘<footer>’ and paste the email code in there.
Save your changes. You should see your new mobile sign-up widget on your live site now!
Web sign-up forms allow your website visitors to easily sign up to receive texts from you. Like the mobile opt-in forms that we discussed in the previous section, you’ll need to set up a form and install it on your site.
Luckily, we have a free website form builder app in the SimpleTexting platform that you can use. It’s super easy to customize and install the form, and there’s no need for an integration or even a developer to build it.
Setting Up the Web Form
1. Navigate to the app.
Head to your SimpleTexting dashboard and click Apps on the left-hand side of your screen. Select Web Sign-Up Forms and click Create sign-up form or New form.
2. Give the form a name.
Choose something that describes what the form will be used for, so you’ll remember which form it is. For example, you may name a form that signs contacts up for a loyalty program “Loyalty Program."
3. Choose which lists you want the new contacts from the form to go into.
Select whether to push contacts that use the form into a list or to prompt them to choose which lists they want to join.
4. Select the fields you want on your form.
Phone numbers are required, but you can also add fields like Contact first name, Contact last name, Contact email, Note, and Birthday.
To make a field required, toggle the “Required” button on.
5. Choose your compliance settings.
Your opt-in compliance is automatic with a web form.
When you’re happy with the settings, you can click on the Compliance tab in the top bar. Choose when your compliance message will send, and how many messages you plan to send.
6. Select your notification settings.
How often do you want to be notified about new contacts?
In the Notifications tab, decide how and when you want to receive contact list updates.
7. Create your Web Sign-up Form confirmation message.
This will appear when your contacts submit your sign-up form. You can use this as an opportunity to make the message your own.
Thank the new contacts, let them know what messages they'll be receiving, or even add in a promo.
8. Click create form.
You’re now ready to add the form to your website.
How to Add a Web Form to Your Website
1. Click “Get Code”.
Copy and paste the code into your website. You will have the option to insert the code to your website as a link, iframe or as HTML.
2. Paste the code into your website’s HTML.
Open the editor for the website you want to add the code to. Where you paste your code depends on whether you're using Shopify, Squarespace, WordPress, or another site builder.
For some website builders, it may go into the site HTML. For others, you can insert it into a widget or add a new block section to the website.
Check the website builder's documentation for more information.
3. Save and start collecting your sign-ups!
How to Get Consent for SMS If You Don’t Have a Website
You can still get consent to send texts to your audience even if you don’t have a website. Set up an SMS keyword using the process we described earlier in this guide.
Then create a graphic that shows your keyword, the number to text it to, and the terms and conditions. You can now advertise this graphic via email, social, or any other marketing channel.
Bottom Line: Prioritize Your Text Message Opt-in Method
Use the steps above as a starting point to getting express written consent. Because you need permission from your contacts before you can legally text them, this needs to be a top priority.
Have questions about opt-in methods or SMS compliance? Click the blue chat button in the bottom right corner to connect with our customer support team.