There is No Free Text Messaging

There is No Free Text Messaging

There is No Free Lunch in Text Marketing

Undoubtedly you have discovered that there are tons of text message companies to choose between when you are ready to dive into text marketing. While there are a large number of terrific options available you may also come across some that are downright bad for your business. This post will help you to tell the difference. Let me start off with some basic text messaging knowledge.

There are two ways to send text messages – SMS and SMTP. SMS is true text messaging that utilizes short code technology and there is a fee charged for each message that is sent. SMTP is essentially sending an email to a cell phone number and it arrives looking like a text message; there are no fees for sending SMTP messages.

To many people it will seem like the same thing. Using either method a business sends a message and a consumer gets it on their phone. No difference, right? Wrong. In fact, the SMTP method might seem better since there is no fee per message. Free is always better, right? Wrong.

To be blunt, SMTP text messaging is DANGEROUS for your business for three reasons.

1) Your messages sent via SMTP are likely not getting delivered to your customers.

From the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices Guidelines:

Carriers, at their discretion, make available SMTP gateways so that subscribers may receive SMS messages originated via email. Example: A mobile subscriber can be reached by sending an email (SMTP) message to [10 digit number]@[carrierdomainname].com. The carriers that support such gateways do so with the intent that they are not utilized for any commercial traffic. To that end, carriers actively monitor and filter against these connections to protect subscribers from unsolicited messages (spam) and utilize a variety of mechanisms to do so, including spam keyword filters, throttling against questionable domain or IP addresses suspected of abuse, and the like.

That’s right. The cell phone carriers are actively monitoring these gateways for commercial traffic and abuse of the system. They can and will shut down your messages with a flick of a switch. All your hard work to build a text message list will be wasted as the carriers shut down your messages.

You will receive no notification that they have done so. You will have no recourse to get things moving again. Your text messaging will simply stop working one carrier at a time.

When your messages don’t get delivered you will see your results plummet and may incorrectly think that mobile marketing doesn’t work. It will be worse if you have signed up for an SMTP service that charges a monthly fee because you’ll be paying money for nothing. A marketing tool that you may be counting on to bolster your bottom line will fail you.

2) If your messages do get delivered you are opening yourself up to legal action.

Because messages sent by SMTP are sent via email, they are subject to Section 14(b)(1) of the CAN-SPAM act and anyone sending unsolicited messages can and will likely be prosecuted. If you think people are fussy about getting spam in their email, just imagine how quickly they will report spam text messages coming to their phones.

Even if you have gotten permission and think you are not spamming, it is entirely possible that customers will think that you are. Or report you as a text message spammer just because they want to opt out of getting your messages.

Using true SMS messaging with short codes there are systems set in place to protect businesses from unfair accusation of spamming – there are opt-in audit trails and built in opt out mechanisms (support for HELP or STOP commands).

3) You risk your company’s reputation and customer good will by doing text messaging wrong.

There is no other media that is so personal as the mobile phone. When you send a message to your list you are going directly to your customer wherever they are and interrupting them with a personal message. This is a very powerful communication channel and must be used responsibly. Your customers will not tolerate anything on their mobile device that is not relevant to them and gives them the ultimate control over the communication. SMTP messaging does not.

Bottom Line
Do not use SMTP text messaging for your business mobile marketing efforts or you will ultimately regret it.

How to tell if a text message company is using SMS or SMTP technology:

Side Note: Not all of the companies who have built services on SMTP platforms are scammers. They may think they have built a viable service and are offering an affordable option to fee-based text messages. Regardless of the intent behind it, you should steer clear of their services.

Many of the text message companies that are using SMTP technology will have the words SMS messaging spread widely throughout their site. Simply seeing the phrase “SMS” is not enough to ensure you are getting the right kind of service.

The only way to tell if a particular company is using SMS technology is to see if you will be using a short code (a 5 or 6 digit number) in your messaging. It might be a shared short code where all customers of theirs utilize the same number but are distinguished by keyword or they may work with you to lease your own short code.


The first question you should ask a potential text messaging vendor is “What short code will I be using if I go with your service?”
Your messages will come from that code and your customers can send a text message to opt-in to your messages using it. You will pay a fee for each message you send. There is no such thing as free SMS messages. There are some SMS companies that allow you to send messages free, but their revenue model is to include advertising within your messages. Still, not free is it?

Rob Woodward III

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