Opt In Text Messaging

Opt in text messaging is the most cost-effective way to market goods and services to large groups of people simultaneously. However, because there are rules to follow about how you conduct opt in text messaging, you cannot simply buy a list of cell phone numbers and start texting - you have to build opt-in lists.

Opt in SMS marketing is a “permission-based” activity. This means that potential customers have to give their permission for you to send them marketing text messages. There are several ways in which you can attract potential customers and invite them to opt into your text message marketing. This guide to opt-in text message services demonstrates some that have worked well for our clients in the past.

How to Build Opt-In Lists

There are two ways to build opt-in lists. “Click-to-Join” widgets can be placed on your website or advertised on social media. Alternatively you can encourage potential contacts to text a keyword to a short code number - for example “text ‘opt-in’ to 313131”. When a person clicks on a widget or sends a text, they receive a text opt-in invitation to join your database of contacts.

Both tools for building opt in text messaging lists are available from bulk texting service providers. “Click-to-join” widgets are usually free of charge, while keywords are often included in a subscription package or can be rented by the month. A short code number (such as “313131”) is typically free to use if it is a shared short code, or you can request a paid-for dedicated short code number that is unique to your business.

SMS List Building with “Click-to-Join” Widgets

The popularity of Facebook presents a great opportunity for SMS list building. Web widgets are extremely effective in attracting contacts to your opt in text messaging and you can use a Facebook widget to have people opt-in directly from your Facebook page. Alternatively, you can advertise an offer over Twitter, and invite your followers to text your keyword to your short code.

“Click-to-Join” widgets should be visible on every page of your website. Visitors to your website should be given every opportunity to opt-in to receive your marketing SMS messages with incentives such as “be the first to hear about our special offers” or “get a discount on your next purchase”. It is also significant that SMS opt in coupons have a far higher redemption rate than coupons attached to email.

More about Opt in SMS Marketing with Keywords and Short Codes

Inasmuch as “Click-to-Join” widgets are a good way to build opt-in lists, they are only as effective as the number of visitors you have to your website or Facebook page. If your business does not attract a significant volume of online traffic, keywords and short codes can be a better way of SMS list building. Here are some of the ways in which keywords and short codes can be used:

On-Site Signage

If you are hosting a special event, lecture, conference, or trade show, you can gain subscribers to your opt in text messaging by having on-site signage requesting attendees to text a keyword to receive special offers, basic information, or alerts. On-site SMS list building has been particularly effective for real estate agencies placing keywords on boards outside properties for sale.

In-Store Signage

In-store signage works particularly well for attracting customers to opt-in text message services because the customers are already in your store, bar, restaurant or gym, and have an existing interest in your goods or services. You can use the same “be the first to hear about our special offers” or “get a discount on your next purchase” incentives to encourage customers to send an opt in text right away.


If you want to attract contacts to your opt in text messaging via billboard or off-site signage, it is important that you use simple keywords and short codes. Although 91% of people have their mobile phones with them at all times, somebody passing a billboard on a bus or in a car will have to remember the details until they reach into their pocket and tap the keyword and short code into their phone.

Radio & TV

If you are advertising on the radio or TV, leverage that airtime by adding a texting call-to-action. Due to the volume of direct marketing, only the most memorable advertisements ever get any attention. Make sure yours is one of them by offering listeners and viewers a special offer for texting a keyword to your opt in SMS marketing short code. Again, make sure the keyword and short code are easy to remember.


Email is a fantastic vehicle for building text opt-in lists. Whenever you send an email, make sure your email signature contains details of how recipients can join your opt in text messaging service. If you have an existing database of customers you contact by email, send the entire database an email message advising them of your new opt in SMS marketing. People love to be involved in something “new”.


If your business produces a newsletter, or advertises in a magazine, ensure your keywords and short code numbers appear prominently. You could run a sweepstakes through your newsletter to encourage readers to join your opt in SMS marketing service; although we advise you speak with your legal counsel before running a promotion of this nature to make sure you comply with state and local laws.

Tips for Successful Opt In Text Messaging

Whatever route you take to encourage people to join your SMS opt in text message marketing service, there are three important things you should keep in mind - positioning, phrasing and integration.

Positioning: Thinking about how, when, where and why to communicate with a group of potential customers is very important. One of the most effective tactics is to always offer some sort of incentive for subscribing to your opt in SMS marketing service. Whether this is a one-time coupon, a discount on a product or service or just a special offer, you want to give your customers a reason to text in.

Another method is to position your SMS program as an exclusive program that gives people access to something they could not otherwise receive. The example used above was “be the first to hear about our special offers” - a great incentive for customers when the sales approach. If customers think they are getting something special, they will be much more likely to subscribe to opt-in text message services.

Phrasing: Language and vernacular are equally important when conveying a clear and concise message to a large number of people. Nothing is more important than how you phrase your text opt-in call-to-action. Too often we’ve seen campaigns with low response rates due to poorly phrased text opt-in instructions on a print or television advertisement.

Ultimately, you want to keep the text opt-in call-to-action simple: Text {KEYWORD} to {Short Code} for XYZ. Here are a couple of good examples:

Text LEARN to 59258 for more information on how University of Phoenix can cut your MBA time in half!

Text STEAL to 83624 for an instant 50% discount off your purchase today!

Integration: It is important to integrate your SMS list building and opt in SMS marketing with all your other marketing channels. In the same way you have your business´s phone number and website on all advertisement and marketing pieces, start to include your text opt-in calls-to-action in all marketing channels (and in your email signatures) so customers get used to seeing and responding to them.

In general, remember that SMS list building is a process that takes time. The higher the level of interactivity is with your customers, the better relationships you form. As your relationships with your customers develop, the more likely your customers are to take advantage of your offers and promotions as they become more comfortable with opt in text messaging.

Guidelines to Follow when Building an SMS opt in List

It was mentioned at the beginning of this article that there are rules to follow about how you conduct your opt in text messaging, and that opt in SMS marketing is a permission-based activity. There are other guidelines to follow when building an SMS opt in list and when you run opt in SMS marketing campaigns, and these can be found in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) 1991.

The Mobile Marketing Association has produced a Code of Conduct that condenses the TCPA into a series of “best practices” for opt in SMS marketing. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules of the companies that carry and deliver SMS marketing messages (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, etc.) as they have their own guidelines relating to the content of your messages.

Returning to the guidelines to follow when building an SMS opt in list, there are four important elements to include in any promotion:

  • You must include instructions on how customers can opt-out of your service and unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to your short code.
  • You should also let your customers know that they can receive help by texting HELP to your short code.
  • Carriers require that you notify consumers of the cost of the service. Calls-to-action and opt-in confirmation messages should include the phrase “message and data rates may apply.”
  • Finally, tell your customers the maximum number of messages they will receive from your business - either by period of time or by transaction.

Find Out More about Opt-In Text Message Services

For further information about how to build opt-in lists and opt-in text message services, do not hesitate to contact our team of Client Success Managers. Our industry-leading team has more than a decade of experience helping our clients with their SMS list building activities and providing tips for successful opt in text messaging.

If you need advice about opt in SMS marketing or the rules to follow about how you conduct your opt in text messaging, our team will be delighted to help you. Furthermore, if your business has not yet experienced mobile marketing by SMS, our team will explain more about our opt-in text message services and guide you through the process of registering for a free account.

Sign up for your free trial today!