[FAQ] 29 SMS Marketing Questions, Answered for 2023

January 19, 2023 | By Sam Pelton
Business man sitting and texting

You’ve got SMS marketing questions.

We’ve got answers!

Here are answers to some of the top questions you may have regarding using an SMS platform… whether you're using it for marketing, or for some other purpose.

General Questions Regarding SMS Marketing

What is a texting platform?

A texting platform is an online software and/or mobile app that allows you to send mass text messages.

A “platform” would differ from SMS API in that it will be an essentially out-of-the-box tool that allows you to send, receive, and monitor messages without any coding knowledge. API, on the other hand, requires coding in order to implement. (See "What Is an SMS API?" under "Questions Regarding Sending Messages" below.)

Texting platforms will contain features such as contact grouping, automated messaging, reports, and other functionality conducive to managing your SMS marketing efforts.

Your account with Mobile Text Alerts includes access to both a platform and API for sending texts.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS marketing is the process by which a business or organization uses texting to help accomplish its marketing goals.

This would include sending out text promotions, follow-ups, check-ins, and any other messaging within the realm of marketing.

SMS marketing platforms can also be used for transactional messaging—including order confirmations, 2-factor authentication notices, emergency updates, or appointment reminders.

Why use SMS marketing? Is SMS marketing effective?

Yes! Since read rates for SMS are as high as 98%, SMS marketing can be an effective way to reach people where they’re actually looking (their phones).

How does SMS marketing or sending text alerts work?

SMS marketing is essentially a 2-step process:

  1. Add subscribers
  2. Send texts

Adding subscribers can be done in one of several ways, including:

Once you have contacts added, you can send a message by typing out the message content into the platform or mobile app, and clicking “Send.”

Do you have an SMS affiliate program?

Yes, you can make money by simply referring people to Mobile Text Alerts.

When you create an account, you’ll receive a unique referral link.

You can share this link anywhere and as often as you’d like, and you’ll receive 20% of all of the revenue generated from anyone who creates an account using your link.

Your referral link also includes an incentive for people to sign up, to help you get more sign-ups: anyone who uses your link will get 50% off their first month automatically applied.

Happy person texting

Questions Regarding Sending Messages

How do I send marketing text messages?

Sending your marketing text messages is not difficult.

It involves:

  1. Setting up an account on the Mobile Text Alerts platform
  2. Adding at least 1 contact to your account
  3. Typing out your message content and clicking “Send.”

Can I send pictures in my SMS marketing?

Yes! You can send images in your texts.

“Picture messages,” otherwise known as MMS, are supported. Sending an MMS counts as 3 messaging credits per recipient toward your plan’s messaging totals.

The file size of your image (including GIF files) can be 500 KB or less.

MMS can also include up to 1,550 characters within your text (unlike “regular texts,” or SMS, which can include 160 characters per text).

How do I send automated text messages?

There are several ways to automate messaging within your texting platform:

  1. You can schedule messages to send at specific times that you designate.
  2. You can create recurring messages to repeat at daily, weekly, monthly, or annual intervals.
  3. You can set up a drip campaign workflow including a sequence of messages and delays that your subscribers will automatically go through.
  4. You can create a library of “smart replies” - specific words that will trigger specific responses when users text them into your account’s phone number.
  5. You can set up other automated replies to send to people when they reply to your messages.
  6. You can create your own automations via integrations or API.

You can use whichever of these automated messaging methods works for your business… or all of them!

What is an SMS API?

API is a way for web developers to program software so that they can set up their own tools and integrations.

Every Mobile Text Alerts account comes with free access to an SMS API that you can use to program SMS according to your own specific situation’s needs.

API allows you to add subscribers, send messages, and manage your account in a way that works for your business.

Your SMS API will work with any programming environment and uses an API key that’s assigned to you when you create your account. (You can easily view your API key from your platform’s Settings page.)

You can view documentation for the API here.

How many characters can be in an SMS?

Although a text message can’t technically be more than 160 characters (including spaces), you can include as many characters as you’d like. If you exceed the 160 character mark, your text will just be sent as 2 or more messages rather than 1.

Most mobile carriers will be able to recognize the message as a single unit and will display the message to your recipients in a single block. (This is called concatenation.)

So while it’s recommended that you keep your messages under 160 characters whenever feasible, there isn’t really a limit to how long your messages can be.

Can I use my business’s phone number to send texts?

Yes, you can typically use your own business or organization’s phone number (even a landline) to send your texts. (There is a small fee associated with porting this number over and maintaining it.)

You’ll just need to contact us to let us know the phone number you’d like to use, and we’ll handle the process of getting that all set up for you.

It’s a common practice to text-enable your business’s landline, so that people can call and text the same phone number associated with your brand.

How do I get a text number for my business?

Each Mobile Text Alerts account will come with a free text number for your business. You can port over your own texting number or change numbers at any time (some fees may be associated with these changes; see the “Are there any additional fees?” section below).

Can I use a mobile app to send texts?

Yes, there is a free mobile app available for both iOS and Android.

The app allows you to manage your account and send messages from the convenience of your mobile device.

That way, you don’t need to log in to an online platform every time you want to use it.

What is an SMS drip campaign?

You may be familiar with the concept of a drip campaign in email marketing.

It’s a series of messages that automatically goes out to recipients over a period of time.

An SMS drip campaign is similar. You can set up a series of messages and delays, and then your recipients can start receiving the messages at the beginning of the sequence and move through the entire campaign.

What is an SMS short code?

Historically, text messages sent through SMS platforms would be processed through shared short codes. These were 5- or 6-digit numbers that were shared across multiple brands.

However, mobile carriers have since phased out shared short codes and they are no longer the standard for sending SMS.

SMS platforms now typically send messages through 10-digit local numbers or toll-free numbers—although dedicated short codes (5- or 6-digit numbers that are specifically dedicated to a particular brand or company) are still an option.

At Mobile Text Alerts, you’re provided with a free 10-digit phone number you can use to send your messages.

(Contact sales if you have any interest in getting a dedicated short code set up for your own business.)

Business person texting

Questions Regarding Billing

How much does SMS cost?

Plans are subscription-based and renew either on an annual or monthly basis.

Annual plans start at $19 per month and monthly plans start at $25 per month.

Plans are based on how many messages you would like to have access to send.

You can view all plans here.

Are there any additional fees for sending SMS?

Most people will not have any added fees.

If you choose one of the lower-tier plans but end up sending more than 1,000 messages per day, you may need to consider purchasing a new sending number due to limitations from the mobile carriers.

This is because mobile carriers require messages to be sent through a certain type of phone number if you send 1,000 or more messages per day. This type of phone number is included for free on all plans except the lowest tiers (the “500 messages per month,” “1,000 messages per month,” and "2,000 messages per month" plans).

In the rare situation in which you would be on a lower-tier plan but want to send a lot of messages per day, we would recommend setting up a new phone number. The fee for this would be the at-cost fee we incur from carriers (which is $15 per month) for maintenance of the phone number. (Ask us about other alternatives if you’re in this situation but need to avoid additional fees.)

How many “message credits” will a message use up?

When sending a text message, your message will count as 1 message credit per recipient. For example, if you send a message to 500 recipients, it would count as 500 credits.

If your message is more than 160 characters long, it will count as 2 or more messages per recipient. In this case, your message to 500 recipients would count as 1,000 or more credits.

If you send an MMS (picture message), it will allow up to 1,550 characters and will count as 3 message credits per recipient. So in this case, your message to 500 recipients would count as 1,500 credits.

What happens if I run out of message credits?

If you run out of messages in your plan, you’ll just receive an error notice when you try to send a text. The error notice will let you know that there aren’t enough messaging credits available.

At that point, you can decide if you’d like to make a one-time purchase of additional credits, upgrade to a higher plan, or wait until your message credits are reloaded.

What happens to unused messaging credits?

If you don’t use all of your messaging credits in a given month, the unused credits will rollover into the next month, and you’ll still have access to use them.

On monthly plans, unused message credits rollover for 1 month and then expire after that if unused.

On annual plans, unused message credits rollover indefinitely and never expire.

Am I charged when people reply to our texts?

You are not charged for any incoming messages people send in reply to your texts.

(The exception to this, of course, is if you have an automated message that goes out when someone texts in.)

Can I cancel my SMS account?

All plans are subscription-based, so you can cancel anytime before your next renewal.

There’s an easy cancellation button within the platform that allows you to cancel without a hassle if you decide that the platform’s not the right fit for you.

Can I change my SMS plan?

You can upgrade your plan at any time by simply clicking a button within the billing section of your platform.

If you upgrade part way through an annual subscription, you will only be charged a prorated amount.

(So if you’re unsure how many messages you’ll need, we would recommend starting with a smaller pricing tier and ramping up as needed.)

You can also downgrade your plan for your next renewal at any time by contacting support. Your downgrade will go into effect on your next annual or monthly renewal.

Are there any guarantees?

All account purchases come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

That means if you make a purchase and within 30 days you aren’t satisfied with any aspect of your service, you can get a refund upon request.

Get a Free 14-Day Trial with Mobile Text Alerts

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People texting

Questions Regarding Managing Your Account

How can I segment SMS subscribers into targeted groups?

You can organize your subscribers into unlimited segments (we call them “groups”).

You’ll just create all the groups that you’d like to use for segmentation purposes, and then you can add subscribers into those groups as appropriate.

You can either add your subscribers into those groups on your end, or you can have them add themselves to the groups they’d like to be a part of.

To add on your end, you’ll do one of the following:

  • Add subscribers to appropriate groups manually
  • Add subscribers to appropriate groups by importing a spreadsheet
  • Add subscribers to appropriate groups via integrations or API

To allow your subscribers to add themselves to a group, you can enable one of the following:

  • “Text-to-join” keywords: your subscriber can text in a particular word in order to be automatically added to a particular group
  • Web forms: your subscriber can select the group they’d like to be added to from an online form

How many users can I add to manage my SMS account?

There is no limit to the number of users you can add to manage your Mobile Text Alerts account.

Users can have different permission levels allowing different points of access to the account, including:

  • Full account access
  • Access to send messages, but no access to billing
  • Access to send messages to specific groups only (no access to billing)

Can my SMS marketing subscribers respond to my texts?

Yes, subscribers can respond to your texts.

Any replies will show up in a 2-way messaging Inbox within your platform/mobile app.

From that Inbox you’re able to manage all of your message replies and easily respond to those replies.

I don’t want people to be able to reply to our texts - can I turn off message replies for my mass texts?

Although you can’t disable message replies, you are able to set up an automatic response to go out whenever people try to reply.

You can use this automatic response to let your subscribers know that replies are not monitored. That way, they’re not expecting a response.

Replies are not monitored. Please call 596-784-9987 with any questions or concerns.

Questions Regarding Compliance

Is mass texting illegal? Do I need to get permission to send mass text messages?

The good news for SMS marketers is that a Supreme Court ruling has lessened the strict requirements regarding obtaining express written permission for sending texts.

However, best practice would still dictate that you get permission from people before sending them texts.

Sending texts to subscribers who don’t want to receive them is against mobile carrier policies and may result in your messages getting flagged as spam by the mobile carriers—and could even result in your phone number getting blacklisted (which means the mobile carriers would block all of your messages).

That being said, there are some easy ways to obtain permission from people before sending them texts, including text-to-join and online web forms.

Using the text-to-join method, web form method, or any of the other opt-in methods we mention, you can allow your subscribers to opt themselves in to your text list. That way, you can ensure that your recipients actually want to receive your texts.

If you prefer to collect consent on your end, just make sure people know what they are signing up for when they provide you with their phone number.

Here’s an example of some disclaimer language you could include:

By providing your phone number, you’re opting in to receive [number of texts] per month about [topic]. Messaging and data rates may apply. Reply STOP to opt out at any time.

Note that any information included in this FAQ does not constitute legal advice.

How do I make sure my text messages are compliant with regulations?

Although the legal requirements for SMS marketing have lessened (as mentioned in the previous section), it’s still a good idea to keep some guidelines in mind as you go about your texting campaigns.

The guidelines in the bullet list below will help ensure that your messages are successfully delivered by the mobile carriers and aren’t filtered out as spam or rejected as non-compliant traffic.

In addition to receiving permission from your subscribers, some best practices you should follow in order to maintain compliance with mobile carrier regulations include:

  • Register your brand—Mobile Text Alerts will provide you with an easy form you can fill out (and we’ll submit it for you), to get your brand registered with the mobile carriers
  • Mention your company/organization’s name in every text—this ensures clarity in your messages
  • Include opt-out instructions in every text—these instructions can be as simple as “Text STOP to stop”
  • Don’t include links created from public URL shorteners such as Bitly or TinyURL
    • You can, however, use brand-specific URL shorteners
    • You’ll get access to use Mobile Text Alerts’ own branded URL shortener (with the option to add on your own domain as well), so you can still shorten your links for your texts
  • Don’t send messages with content that mobile carriers deem “questionable”—this would include content that explicitly mentions any of the following…
    • SHAFT (which stands for sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco)—messages that mention legal cannabis and CBD fall under this category
    • Loans
    • Questionable financial practices (even if these practices are technically legal)
    • Gambling
    • Anything illegal

If you follow all of those guidelines, your messages are much more likely to be successfully delivered to your recipients.

What other practices should I follow to remain compliant?

In addition to the 2 sections mentioned above, there are a few other guidelines you should follow in order to keep out of any legal trouble or trouble with the mobile carriers:

  • Don’t “randomly dial” phone numbers—use a legitimate list as you go about your texting efforts
  • Send texts at a reasonable hour of the day (i.e. not early morning or late at night), in the local time of each recipient
  • Make sure to respect opt-outsif the user replies STOP to your message, the platform handles this automatically for you

How can people opt themselves out of my texts?

If people decide they no longer want to receive your messages, all they have to do is reply STOP to any of your messages.

Their phone number will then be automatically removed from your subscriber list, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally texting them again.

You’ll be able to view all of your opted-out subscribers from your Opt-Out Report.

What is an SMS keyword?

An SMS keyword is a method you can use to get people to opt in to receive your texts, and to get them organized into specific segments within your subscriber list.

You’re able to set up a specific “keyword” and assign a “group” and “auto-response” to that keyword. When people text in that keyword to your account’s phone number, the user’s number will be automatically added to your subscriber list.

They will also be added into the “group” (segment) that you designate, and they will automatically receive the “auto-response” text message that you set up.

Keyword text example

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