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Staying inside the lines: Texting and the FCC

The Federal Communications Commision made a ruling about the use of text messages for marketing. It was prompted, they say, by monthly calls and complaints from consumers about unwanted calls and text messages.

“Month after month, unwanted robocalls and texts, both telemarketing and informational, top the list of consumer complaints received by the Commission.” 

The new ruling is an enhancement of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The goal of the new ruling was to provide protection for wireless consumers who might be paying per call and for whom text messages are very intrusive. 

The TCPA was passed by Congress in 1991. Not only is the bill designed to protect consumer privacy where robocalls are concerned, but it’s designed to prevent robocalls to public safety phone numbers, like 911 and police station non-emergency numbers.

Here are some of the highlights that you should know

“The TCPA and the Commission’s implementing rules prohibit: (1) making telemarketing calls using an artificial or prerecorded voice to residential telephones without prior express consent; and (2) making any non-emergency call using an automatic telephone dialing system (“auto dialer”) or an artificial or prerecorded voice to a wireless telephone number without prior express consent.”

Here’s how this works for those of us who are following the rules: If a consumer opts into messages with you from a Facebook ad, you can, legally, send them text messages. If they opt out or if they never granted you permission in the first place, you can be fined by the FCC. While they have the ability to jail you, they’re unlikely to, but it can get very expensive to have them come after you for abusing texting systems. 

How do you record consent?

If you use Facebook ads, there will be a record of consent there. There will also be a digital record of the consent in your CRM that Facebook sends it to. This means that if you’re asked, you’ll be able to show the date and time that the person opted in.

This is part of the importance of maintaining great records. While you’re unlikely to get into trouble with a single person, if there’s a pattern of abuse, you might find yourself talking to FCC investigators.

Why the changes in 2015?

The addition and clarification in July of 2015 was promoted by autodialers or robo calling software. This was made even more important with the advent of VoIP (voice over internet protocol). This technology has been around for over 20 years, but in the twenty-teens, they became inexpensive enough that everyone was able to access them. 

There was a sudden explosion of their use by all kinds of companies, including some of the country’s biggest firms. It’s an inexpensive way to reach thousands of people every day. Using a sequential dialer, the software will simply call every number, one after the other, without any input from humans. 

What not to do?

Never text someone who hasn’t given you permission. It’s possible to buy lists of phone numbers, but not only are those usually a waste of money, it’s a violation of law.

It’s really that simple. If they didn’t say yes, it’s not allowed.

What to do?

Using Facebook and Instagram ads, you can invite people to share their mobile numbers and grant permission to receive occasional messages. 

Make sure you’re not messaging them every day. Be polite about how often you message them. If you’re in an active conversation with someone, that’s different, but for marketing messages, once every week or two is plenty.

Don’t send videos and rarely send photos. Images take up a lot of bandwidth. While many people have unlimited data, not everyone does. If you send a video, you can crush someone’s data allowance for the month. Even photos are too much. 

If you want to share a video or a photo, invite them to click a link that will take them to the internet to see the image. You can also have a link that requires them to click it to download what you’re sending. Either way, they’re in charge of how much data your message uses.

If you’re not sure what to do, let the experts at SimpSocial help you. We create messages for you that will nurture your leads and grow your business. Our Facebook ads are designed to inspire people to give you permission. 

Be respectful of the privilege of being allowed to communicate with people and you’ll do fine. 

Also, if someone contacts you and says that they have a ton of people in the area who’ve said yes to receiving messages from you, politely decline. Those people have no idea it’s you they’ll hear from and they’re probably not even your target audience.