Best practices for SMS messaging

Being able to communicate with your school community via text message (also known as SMS) is an important part of school communication, but there are a few best practices to keep in mind.

Obtain consent for SMS

As with any electronic communication, it’s important to ensure you have proper permission to send a message to the recipient before doing so, and that you follow all local and national laws and guidelines. According to the FCC, when a parent, guardian, or student provides their mobile number to the school as a contact, the school is able to lawfully send automated SMS messages that are closely related to the educational mission of the school or to official school activities. A user may give the school express consent to send SMS messages over text, on a form, on a website, or verbally. 

As a best practice, keep a record of how and when you received consent to message a mobile number. When collecting mobile numbers from your school community, include wording like: “By providing the school with your mobile number, you agree to receive SMS alerts for important school communications, such as weather delays and closures.”

Reserve usage for important messages

In today’s world, users receive lots of text messages from various providers trying to grab their attention, or asking them to click a link in the message. It is important, therefore, not to overwhelm your users with SMS messages for every single communication you send. 

As a best practice, reserve SMS messaging for topics that must be seen by users in a timely manner, such as weather delays, admission or event deadlines, bus route changes, and so on. 

Send regular subscription reminders

It’s important for your SMS recipients to know that they can reply “STOP” to your dedicated toll-free number at any time to be unsubscribed from all SMS messaging. 

As a best practice, include this information in a text message on a regular basis (such as once a month) to remind users how to manage their subscriptions or opt out completely. For example, “Reply STOP to unsubscribe all SMS msgs. Set add’l prefs online.”

Perform a start-of-school subscription check

We’ve all had those “This is a test” alerts come across our devices that help us ensure that our systems and subscriptions are working properly in case of an emergency. These checks are a great way for us to verify that we have the correct contact information and subscriptions set. 

As a best practice, at the start of each school year, send out a “We are testing our school communication platforms” message to your school community. This message should be sent to all forms of communication (email, mobile app, SMS, voice, etc.). Following are a few things you could include in this message:

  • Why are they receiving this message? Explain that it is a test to ensure all recipients are subscribed and are receiving the necessary information from the school. 

  • When will this be used? Help recipients understand when and for what types of messages they will receive communications from the school this way. 

  • How do they update contact information? Provide steps for users to follow if they need to update their contact information.

  • Where do they verify current subscriptions? Include a brief explanation of how to verify the user’s current subscriptions or how to subscribe to other types of information. This is another great time to remind users how they can unsubscribe or stop receiving messages.

  • Can I stop receiving these message if I choose? Remind users that they can stop receiving these messages altogether. For example, "You can opt out of receiving these messages at any time by clicking 'unsubscribe' on any email or by replying STOP to (###) ###-####."

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