SMS Compliance for Real Estate - REI Machines

SMS Compliance for Real Estate

Know the rules of sms for real estate marketing
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By: Chris Lewis

Posted On: May 20, 2020

SMS Marketing for Real Estate

SMS Marketing for Real Estate boasts an impressive 98% open rate and has become a go-to marketing method for many Real Estate Investors. However, text message marketing requires adhering to specific guidelines and best practices to remain compliant and avoid facing SPAM complaints and/or potential lawsuits.

Those who do not comply with the strict SMS guidelines and regulations can not only face angry customers, suspension from messaging platforms, and unwanted legal action. Companies like Wal-Mart and Jiffy Lube, as well as Realtors have already been hit with multi-million-dollar lawsuits for sending non-compliant (illegal) text messages without proper (required) consent, or opt-in.

You don’t want to risk finding yourself in the same situation, which is why adhering to compliance regulations is so important, so make sure if you are using SMS Marketing for Real Estate, be sure your next campaign is compliant.

Who Regulates Compliance for SMS Marketing For Real Estate?

SMS compliance for Real Estate is regulated by the same association that regulates text message marketing for all industries and is built on the foundation created by The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

What is the CTIA?

The CTIA is an organization that represents the wireless communications industry in the U.S. It enforces Text Message marketing practices, and sets legal guidelines as well as audits SMS marketing programs to protect mobile users from receiving non-compliant, inappropriate, and/or irrelevant SMS marketing Messages. Although the guidelines set by CTIA are not official laws, the organization has the power to shut down programs that do not adhere to compliance standards and regulations.

What Is The TCPA?

The Federal Communications Commission’s TCPA is an act passed into legislation in 1991 which sets the legal standards and practices, to protect consumers from SMS messaging abuse. The TCPA operates under federal law, which means you can face legal action should you fail to comply. It sets the standard for telecommunications and defines what types of messages require permission, as well as actions, determine consent, and what businesses are allowed to do once they have received consent (opt-in) from a subscriber.

SMS Marketing For Real Estate Requires Opt-In sms marketing for real estate

The TCPA requires that a business must receive “express written consent” from any contact before it can legally start sending them SMS marketing messages. Such consent must be “clear and straightforward” and not hidden within a lengthy terms and condition policy.

Opt-In is the most important part of SMS Compliance. If you text people without their explicit consent, it is considered SPAM, and you risk legal action, regardless if you are selling a product, providing a service, or simply providing information.

In addition to explicit consent, recipients must opt-in to your SMS campaigns using methods such as mobile and/or web opt-in. Mobile Opt-In requires a consumer to use their mobile phone by texting a keyword to a specified number, and we opt-in requires the consumer to submit their information via a form on your website. When using SMS Marketing for Real Estate marketing, including Real Estate Agents, Investors, and Wholesalers, the consumer (lead/prospect) must have either opted in by submitting their information on your website or lead form, or have sent a keyword to a dedicated number.

SENDING A TEXT MESSAGE TO ANYONE WHO HAS NOT PROVIDED CONSENT IS ILLEGAL, AND GOES AGAINST THE TCPA AND MAY RESULT IN LEGAL ACTION AND FINES.

Be Sure To Send a Confirmation Text

When a new subscriber opts-in, best practice is to send a confirmation text, and should include terms and conditions of your SMS program such as:

Include your business name so recipients know who is contacting them.
Include the purpose of the Campaign by letting the recipient know what types of messages they are going to receive, such as offers announcements, tips, etc.
Include frequency of text messages. Best practice is to include the approx amount of texts the subscriber can expect to receive each month, or week.
Include message and data rate notice. Although nowadays, unlimited text messaging is pretty common, many users may still incur fees for receiving text messages, which is why you should notify them that standard message and data rates may apply.
Message and Data Rates Notice: Unlimited texting has become more common, but some users might incur fees for receiving text
Include Opt-Out Instructions.  It is required when a user opt-in that you provide instructions within your initial message, as well as every subsequent message, letting the recipient know how to opt-out from your marketing. Common opt-out methods require a user to respond with a one-word text such as STOP, END, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE or QUIT.  If a subscriber replies to any message with one of these opt-out keywords, you are required by law to remove them from your SMS marketing list.

Write Clear Terms and Conditions and Display Them Frequently

Complaints often arise when customers forget they’ve signed up for text message marketing lists.

Avoid this issue by promoting your text message marketing terms and conditions and privacy policy in as many places as possible, including:

  • Your website
  • Inside your physical business
  • On landing pages used to collect opt-ins

Send Messages at Appropriate Times

Don’t send text messages too early or late in the day, otherwise, you can count on ending up with a lot of any customers and increased unsubscribes.

All Text Message marketing platforms will include an acceptable use and SPAM policy which outline the acceptable use of their service and what qualifies as SPAM.

Here is an example of SPAM Policy from a compliant SMS marketing Platform:

What kind of mobile numbers are OK to send to?

To send an SMS you must have clearly or implicitly obtained their permission. This could be done through:

– An SMS subscriber form on your website.
– An opt-in checkbox on a form. This checkbox must not be checked by default, the person completing the form must willingly select the checkbox to indicate they want to hear from you.
– If someone completes an offline form like a survey or enters a competition, you can only contact them if it was explained to them that you would be contacting them by SMS AND they ticked a box indicating they would like you to contact them.
– Customers who have purchased from you within the last 2 years.
– If someone gives you their business card and you have explicitly asked for permission to add them to your list, you can contact them. If they dropped their business card in a fishbowl at a trade show, there must be a sign indicating they will be contacted by SMS about that specific topic.

Basically, you can only ever SMS anyone who has clearly given you permission to SMS them specifically about the subject you’re contacting them about.

What kind of mobile numbers are NOT OK to send to?
Anything outside the examples above doesn’t equal permission in our eyes, but here are some examples to make sure we’re crystal clear. By using Massivemessenger, you agree not to import or send to any email address which:

– You do not have explicit, provable permission to contact in relation to the topic of the SMS you’re sending.
– You bought, loaned, rented or in any way acquired from a third party, no matter what they claim about quality or permission. You need to obtain permission yourself.

– You haven’t contacted via SMS in the last 2 years. Permission doesn’t age well and these people have either changed mobile numbers or won’t remember giving their permission in the first place.

– You scraped or copy and pasted from the web. Just because people publish their mobile numbers doesn’t mean they want to hear from you.

What To Include
Every SMS you send using Massivemessenger must include at least one of the following:

An opt-out mechanism that instantly removes the subscriber from your list. Once they unsubscribe, you can never SMS them again.
The name or number of the sender. If you’re sending an SMS for your client, you’ll need to include your client’s details instead.
If we do discover that you’re SMS messaging people without their permission, we will terminate your account with Massivemessenger immediately.

Text Blasting:  What is it and is it legal?

“Text-Blasting” has become a common term in the Real Estate world lately, and is a term used by investors and agents alike to send a mass text message to a list of potential leads. Although SMS for real estate marketing can be done in a compliant and legal manner, “text blasting” to a list of non-opt in leads remains non-compliant. Despite claims by some text message providers, sending any text message to an individual without explicit opt-in consent, regardless of the content of the message, is not compliant and “Effective Wednesday, October 15, 2013, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act passed a new rule that states any company that sends SMS marketing messages without prior written consent from recipients could potentially face fines of up to $1,500 per text.  ”

Any message which is considered  “Unsolicited Advertisement” includes advertising of the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services, which is transmitted to any person without that person’s prior express invitation or permission, is illegal. This includes a message offering a free service, such as an offer to purchase someone’s home.

Additionally, according to the FCC, having been provided with a cell phone number does not constitute consent.  Express consent must be a clear and conspicuous written disclosure that the signer is authorizing the business to deliver any type of telemarketing text messages using a text messaging service.

This article does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about the legality of SMS Marketing for Real Estate, you should consult with an attorney. The information provided in this article is the opinion of the author, based upon the citations made herein.

If you would like to speak with us regarding any of our services, including our complaint SMS platform, please schedule a free consultation.

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