SMS Traffic Types: Marketing vs. Useful Messaging

Maia Wells
SMS Marketing

If you’re using SMS to communicate with prospects and customers, it’s important to know about the two main SMS traffic types: marketing vs. useful messaging. “Marketing messages” are often designed to sell a product or service, while “useful messages” provide crucial information or offer time-sensitive assistance. There are rules and best practices that apply differently to each type of message, and mistakes can be costly. But, if you follow some basics, your company can be confident about using SMS for marketing as well as useful messaging.

sms traffic types

SMS Marketing Regulations Are a Good Thing

Following SMS marketing regulations is crucial because compliance to best practices not only keeps your sends legal, but also helps you build trust with your customers. Here are a few things to keep in mind about regulations when crafting your SMS marketing strategy.

  • Make sure you understand the local regulations for SMS marketing in each country where you plan to operate.
  • Follow best practices for opt-in and opt-out messaging, and make it easy for customers to unsubscribe from your messages.
  • Respect customer privacy, and never sell or share their personal information without their permission.
  • Use clear, concise, and accurate messaging in your SMS campaigns.

Following regulations can shape your brand reputation, helping to be seen as a trustworthy and knowledgeable company. Plus, when you contact customers in a way they enjoy, they are more likely to continue the relationship with your business and refer you to others. Be sure to always respect the customer’s ability to give consent, empowering them to make their own purchasing decisions.

Marketing vs. Useful Messaging

The most important rule for SMS marketing is to provide value. If your message does not offer something interesting or important, it will be ignored and deleted by customers inundated with notifications from their smartphones every day.

Marketing SMS 

Marketing messages should never feel like spam. Rather, they should always have a purpose or benefit. This could be anything from a sale or promotion to new product information or an event invitation. Marketing messages should be clear, concise, and accurate. Remember that customers are more likely to take action if they understand the message immediately.

Useful SMS 

On the other hand, “useful messages” are not for the purpose of selling something, or inspiring a conversion. In the context of SMS traffic types, useful messages provide information, offer assistance, or answer crucial customer questions. For example, a company could send out a reminder that their systems will upgrade over the weekend, and provide a link to connect with support for any questions. This type of message would be considered “useful” because it has relevant business value for the recipient. You can think of useful messages as crucial notifications, as opposed to a promotion of any kind. 

Are SMS Traffic Types Regulated Differently?

The regulations for marketing vs. useful messaging vary slightly, so it’s important to be aware of the differences in definitions and the laws that apply to each message your company intends to share.

Regulations around consent for SMS marketing can vary from country to country. For example, in the United States, SMS marketing is considered a form of “telemarketing” and is subject to certain regulations laid out by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC has specific rules about how consumers can opt in and out of receiving SMS messages from businesses, including requirements that companies include certain information in their messages. The main idea is to ensure you’re informing the customer, and setting proper expectations.

Under the guidelines, expressed consent must be obtained before beginning marketing messages, even if you already have consent to send useful messages. For the average company using SMS, this means getting permission from the lead or customer before sending them any type of message, and making sure they can easily unsubscribe.

Useful messages, on the other hand, are not as strictly regulated because they are not promotional in nature. However, they do require consent from the customer prior to sending any messages. When a customer opts in to receive updates on their purchase, or appointment for example, they have provided consent. 

If a company then strays from useful messaging into a promotional message of any kind, they have violated regulations. It’s important to remember that useful messaging applies to one particular event or instance, it is not a blanket consent. Ensuring your business follows these stipulations can help to avoid any punishment or fines for subverting SMS regulations.  

SMS Traffic Types FAQs

How much does it cost to send SMS? 

The cost of SMS for a business depends on the carrier you use and the country to which you are sending messages. Generally, it is less expensive to send text messages than it is to send emails. However, since each carrier has different rates, be sure to check with your provider for accurate pricing information.

Can I send SMS messages to international numbers? 

Yes, you can send SMS messages to international numbers. However, be aware that there may be a cost associated with sending messages to certain countries.

What is the maximum length of an SMS message? 

The maximum length of an SMS message is 160 characters. This includes the sender’s information and the recipient’s information.

Can I send images or videos in an SMS message? 

No, you cannot send images or videos in an SMS message. However, you can include a link to a website where the image or video is located.

Are there any restrictions on the type of content I can send in an SMS message? 

There are no restrictions on the type of content you can send in an SMS message. However, if the recipient does not want to receive messages from your business or organization, it is illegal for them to do so. And, different regulations will apply based on the content of your message (and therefore whether it can be classified as ‘useful’ or ‘marketing.’)

What if I send marketing SMS through one department and useful SMS through another?

Many organizations use useful SMS more on the product and customer service side, and marketing SMS for, well, marketing. It’s helpful to convene an SMS committee, or have someone who can be aware of the movements on both sides, so the company can present a smooth user experience and remain compliant to SMS marketing regulations as well as expectations for useful messaging. 

For more information on designing and implementing SMS in your overall marketing efforts, check out Act-On’s SMS automation platform. We believe in being compliant with all regulations, understanding your business purpose, and aim to be a strategic partner in creating an effective and safe way to use SMS marketing automation.