Best Practices for US SMS Messaging

High-quality, well-formatted content is more likely to be opened and less likely to be mistaken as spam by consumers, operators, and carriers. Follow these guidelines to make sure your SMS content meets basic standards for great messaging in the US. 

As a general rule, carriers don't preapprove or whitelist messaging content. A carrier may review any message content as part of an account review. Message content flagged by automatic spam detection algorithms will be reviewed by a human operator. If the human operator decides the message is promotional, the sending number may be blocked by the operator platform. To prevent this, use the following guidelines for creating messages. 

Content creation

These best practices make messages more valuable to consumers and less likely to trigger real-time content analysis from messages flagged incorrectly as spam.

If the message is reviewed by a third party, out of context, it should appear to be a transactional, application-to-person message, originating from a specific request by the end user. 

In general, message content should include:

  • Your company name
  • A reference to the reason the message is being sent
  • A STOP message

While a STOP message does not need to be included in every message sent, consider sending it with every fourth or fifth message. 

Message content should avoid:

  • Generic URL shortener links 
  • The words “Free,” “Now,” “Offer,” “Winner,” or any other promotional-sounding language.
  • Requests for action without specifying context.

Sample messages

Example: Good content

Plivo — your one-time passcode is 12345.

DeliveryFoodsInc — your food order has been completed and is on its way. Look for it in 15 minutes. Track your order via our app: Reply STOP to opt out of future notifications.

Hi, {Name}, and thank you for requesting more information from {CompanyName}. The content you requested is available at Reply STOP to opt-out.

Example: Bad content

Click here to get a FREE quote about your home! Lowest APR!

Bad credit? Still get approved for a home! Click here for free finance options.

Download our app {appname} now to get $20 in free credits.

Click now to accept your special offer before it expires.

Use one recognizable number

Each campaign should use one primary phone number. We recommend using a single number for both text and voice calls.

Use one recognizable domain name  

Each campaign should be associated with a single web domain. Although a full domain is preferred, a URL shortener may be used to deliver custom links.

Use natural language

You should use natural language in your messages, which means that you should avoid nonstandard spellings (“H! h0w ar3__you do1ng?”).

Direct consent 

You should collect the consumer consent yourself. Don't use consent acquired from a third party. Consumers expect a relationship with the businesses with which they interact.

Set expectations for message frequency 

You should set the proper expectation with the consumer for message frequency. If you plan to send five texts a month, then disclosing “5 messages a month” on the first interaction leads to a better user experience.

Disallowed content

If a message sender is observed sending any of the kinds of disallowed content listed below, Plivo will perform an account review. This review can result in the suspension of sending rights for a provisioned phone number; restriction of high-throughput access, suspension of provisioning rights for new phone numbers, and/or suspension of all network services.

Message senders are expected to enforce restrictions on their own networks to prevent these types of content at the intake source.

Promotional messages

Promotional messaging is not allowed on toll-free numbers and is subject to blocking.


Phishing is the practice of sending messages that appear to come from reputable companies but in fact trick consumers into revealing personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Fraud or scam 

Any messages that constitute fraud or scam and involve wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain are prohibited. These messages generally involve money and/or some sort of business transaction.

Deceptive marketing 

Marketing messages must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence in order to meet the standards set by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Truth In Advertising rules. The FTC prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium, including text messages.

Sensitive content

Messages that contain terms related to the following sensitive topics are inspected closely and are more susceptible to carrier blocking:

  • Debt restructuring/refinancing offers
  • Debt relief offers
  • Payday loan offers
  • Home loan offers
  • Education loan offers
  • Insurance quotes (unsolicited) 
  • “Earn money from home” job offers

Carrier monitoring

Our carriers continuously monitor text messages sent over their networks. To ensure uninterrupted service, please avoid incurring a high number of consumer complaints and a high opt-out rate.

Consumer complaints 

Major operators in North America support consumer-driven spam controls. Their mobile subscribers can forward unwanted or unconsented text messages to the short code 7726 (it spells “SPAM” on a standard keypad).

Carriers actively monitor consumer complaints sent to this service. If multiple complaints are received for a sender, then a notification is sent to the message sender that includes the source phone number, destination phone number, timestamp, and original message ID. Upon receipt, the service provider must provide proof of a TCPA-compliant opt-in for those specific messages. They must also provide an overview of the messaging campaign and its opt-in process that the unwanted message was a part of.

If a large number of unwanted or unconsented messages are reported on a source phone number, that number may have its sending rights immediately suspended while opt-in is being confirmed.

Opt-out rate

Opt-out rates are tracked. The daily opt-out rate on a phone number is defined as the total number of unique consumer phone numbers divided by the unique opted-out consumers that were sent messages within a 24-hour period.

If the daily opt-out rate on a sending phone number is 5% or greater, the account is flagged for monitoring. An opt-out rate of 10% or greater on a sending phone number may result in immediate suspension of services.

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