Here at Messente, it's our job to help businesses reach out to customers through text messages. One subject we're frequently asked about is business texting etiquette. This includes what kind of language style is acceptable for business texts, whether it's ok to use abbreviations or emoticons and what the correct texting frequency is.
We answer some of the burning questions you'll no doubt have about texting etiquette in this article. There's also a handy checklist of must-follow rules to help you get business text messaging right the first time.
Why business text messaging etiquette is important
All forms of business communication impact the way customers perceive you and your company. It's essential to convey a professional and trustworthy image, no matter which communication channel you're using.
Good communication improves relationships and increases customer satisfaction, while poor communication does the opposite and can lead to complaints – or customers taking their business elsewhere.
Text messages are very short, forcing you to be brief in what you want to say. However, you can still make plenty of faux pas if you don't follow basic business text message etiquette.
Commonly asked questions about business texting
Three stand-out questions we often get asked about business texting etiquette include:
1. I have a list of customer phone numbers – can I just start texting them?
In short, no. If you want to send marketing texts to promote your business, you must obtain express written consent from each customer before texting them. Getting permission is part of ensuring your text messages are compliant with data protection legislation and telemarketing rules.
For transactional texts (individual messages deemed essential so that the recipient can use a specific service or product), the rules are slightly different. In most cases, express consent is required, which is a bit simpler than the former. It can be given verbally or via an online form, for example. This Messaging Principles and Best Practices document from CTIA contains some helpful information about consent. Note that it relates to subscribers in the U.S., and this requirement may differ in other countries.
2. How often should I text my customers?
Where promotional messages are concerned, it's very tempting to fire off campaigns whenever you think of something new to tell your customers. Text messages have the power to grab attention, more so than several other channels. But that doesn't mean you should be texting customers all the time.
Sent too frequently, texts become disruptive and annoying. When this happens, you'll see an uptick in people unsubscribing from your messages. To avoid that, take a measured approach to texting frequency. Start with one marketing text per week, and increase to two or three once you're happy your audience will tolerate them.
3. Is it OK to use emoticons for business texting?
In the case of personal text messages, emoticons are absolutely fine to use – our friends and family expect them and often use them as well. For business text messages, you should generally err on the side of caution and avoid them as they can look a bit too 'jokey' and give off a casual tone.
The exception to this rule is if your brand is funky, fun or cool, and therefore, your messaging should tie in with your brand. You can also get away with using emoticons if you're announcing something fun or exciting, or if your business attracts a young demographic (Gen Y or Z). But if you decide to use them, do so sparingly.
7 must-follow rules for sending a business text message
We've covered three of the main considerations for business texting. Now use the following etiquette tips as a checklist to ensure your message hits its mark as intended.
1. Check whether SMS is the right channel for your content
A text message is best for short and simple communications where you need to encourage an immediate response. If you need to convey something complex, an email or phone call could be a better channel to use. Don't use SMS (or plain old email) if you intend to communicate confidential information – use a secure messaging service instead.
2. Use abbreviations wisely
Text abbreviations are handy when you don't have enough character space to spell out an entire word. Some can even add a little energy or urgency to your message, e.g. 'ASAP'. However, in business text messaging, it's important to check whether your target audience will respond well to them. You might do better to avoid abbreviations altogether if you think abbreviated language is likely to hinder the customer experience.
3. Check for errors
Always double check your text message for spelling and grammar errors before you hit send. Spelling mistakes in business texts are bad news as they look unprofessional and can cause confusion for the recipient. Don't rely on autocorrect changes – give your message content a good read-through.
4. Watch your tone
Check whether your text message accurately gets across your brand's tone of voice. It's perfectly ok to use informal language, as long as it's not unprofessional. The beauty of SMS is that it's a familiar channel for most people, so you can use familiar language. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 'friendly and approachable' rather than 'stuffy and formal'. At the same time, you also don't want your tone to come across as too casual.
5. Send to the right contact
Sounds obvious, but check you're sending the right message to the right individual or group of business contacts. It can be really easy to select the wrong recipients if you've segmented your customer base into different lists. If you do happen to send a text to the wrong person, follow up immediately with an apology.
6. Send text messages at the right times
Be mindful of SMS laws that stipulate time of day restrictions. For instance, the TCPA (applicable to the U.S.) prohibits telephone solicitation (which includes texts) before 8 am and after 9 pm, according to the recipient's time zone. Check which rules apply to your subscribers based on the time zones they're in. To be on the safe side, you might want to send texts only during business hours.
7. Respond to inbound texts quickly
SMS achieves fantastic response rates – as high as 45% (for comparison, email response rates can be as low as 6%). When receiving inbound texts, as you might do for a customer service text conversation, it's crucial to respond promptly to avoid leaving your customer waiting. Aim to respond within the hour or by the end of the working day (depending on your business type). However, where sales queries (hot leads) are concerned, try to respond within 90 seconds.
Learn more about business text messaging
Browse our blog for lots more educational articles designed to help you get the most out of your SMS campaigns. You'll also find our in-depth guides useful on the most important topics in the SMS industry.
Not started texting for business? It's easy to begin with Messente. Simply register for a free account and compose your first text message using our software. You'll see how to create a Sender ID, upload your contacts list, set up an SMS campaign and more.