SMS Opt In: Everything You Need to Know + 14 Examples [2024]

October 19, 2023 | By Sam Pelton
Cartoon graphic of two smartphones side by side connected by a glowing bar. In the middle of the bar is a handshake emoji

So you most likely receive SMS notifications from businesses or organizations on your phone and/or you send them for your own business.

For example, Statista reports that in 2022, ecommerce brands saw an increase of 62.9% more SMS campaigns than 2021. Grand View Research anticipates that the SMS marketing market will be valued at $12.6 billion by 2025.

And it makes sense—everyone uses their phones, so using text messaging as a way to reach people seems only natural.

But for business owners and marketers, the concept of “SMS opt in” can be intimidating.

How does SMS opt in work? Is it required? Will you get in legal trouble if you don’t do it right?

In this article, the mystery of SMS opt in will be demystified.

You’ll discover the in’s and out’s of SMS opt in and you’ll discover best practices and strategies to help you have the best success possible in growing your SMS opt in’s.

First, let’s go over what exactly “SMS opt in” means

What Is SMS Opt In?

“SMS” technically stands for “short messaging service” but really just refers to basic text messaging. “Opt in” refers to getting people’s consent ahead of time in order to send them messages. This is in contrast to “opt out,” which, of course, refers to people unsubscribing from your text messaging list.

Although the term “SMS” is used as a catch-all, “SMS opt in” would also include opting in to receive MMS messages (which refers to multimedia messages—that is, messages that contain media, typically images).

There are two types of opt-in:

  • Single Opt-In: In this approach, users provide their phone number and their consent to receive SMS messages with just one action, such as filling out a subscription form on a website or sending a specific keyword to a designated number. This is a simpler and typically preferred method, although in some cases you may want to employ a more secure approach.
  • Double Opt-In: Double opt-in requires users to take two steps to subscribe. First, they express initial interest by, for example, filling out a form or sending a keyword. Then they receive a confirmation message and must respond with a positive acknowledgment to complete the subscription process. Double opt-in helps ensure that only genuinely interested users are added to your SMS list, reducing the risk of spam complaints and improving data accuracy. Double opt-in’s are not typically required in the US, but may be required in other places.

Why Is SMS Opt-In Helpful?

Why is SMS opt-in helpful

Collecting appropriate opt-in consent from your potential SMS subscribers is beneficial for a number of reasons…

Better Message Delivery

Although not necessarily required on a legal basis in the United States, getting opt-in consent is primarily helpful because mobile carriers (such as T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T) are strict about filtering out messages that they believe to be spam. If they suspect a message is spam, they will prevent it from being delivered to the recipient’s device.

If you get people to opt in before texting them, your messages will be much more likely to be successfully delivered.

Because if your message isn’t delivered, what’s the point of sending it?

Enhanced Customer Engagement

If you have a good opt-in process for your SMS messages, you’ll get an audience that is more interested in your content, products, and services.

When customers willingly subscribe to your SMS updates, they signal their interest in your brand or products. This interest translates into higher engagement levels as they are more likely to read and interact with your messages.

And that means you won’t be irritating people by sending them messages that don’t pertain to them.

Brand Reputation

Once a brand loses its reputation, it can be difficult to get it back.

If you become known as a brand that sends unsolicited messages to people who are not interested, you may lose credibility with the public at large. People may leave bad reviews or may spread negative word of mouth.

On the other hand, if you send messages to people who have opted in, you know that they want to receive your messages, so you know it won’t damage your reputation.


The bottom line is that we all have a bottom line!

And you don’t want to waste money that impacts that bottom line.

If you’re spending money on messaging to people who haven’t opted in, this audience may not actually be interested in your products. Thus, you may be wasting valuable resources on ineffective messaging.

Regulations and Best Practices for SMS Opt-In

Here are a few thoughts in regards to SMS opt-in regulations…

The TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) used to require clearly communicated consent in order for businesses and organizations to send mass texts. However, a Supreme Court ruling a couple of years ago narrowed the scope of the TCPA so that certain provisions no longer apply to SMS.

Long story short, it’s not necessarily a legal requirement for you to collect opt-in consent from your recipients.

That being said, as mentioned above, the mobile carriers require consent in order to be in compliance with their regulations for “clean” messaging traffic. This simply means that if they suspect you aren’t collecting appropriate opt-in consent, they may stop your messages from being delivered.

Or if you have a high opt-out rate for your SMS, that could raise some red flags as well and prevent your messages from getting delivered, or could cause your messages to go to your recipients’ spam folders.

Hence, it is still best practice to collect clear opt-in consent so that there is no question as to whether you recipients actually want to receive your messages or not.

Providing Opt-Out Instructions

It’s also best practice to provide clear opt-out instructions—preferably in every text message you send, or at least regularly.

The good news is that all people need to do in order to opt out is reply STOP to any of your messages—their phone number is then automatically removed and you won’t be able to accidentally add them back in.

SMS Opt In Tools

SMS opt-in tools

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There are several tools you can use to facilitate collecting phone numbers to receive your text messages. Here are a few of them…

Text-to-Join Keywords

Arguably the most popular way to get consent from your recipients is to allow them to subscribe by texting in a particular word to a particular phone number, AKA text-to-join. (This method is often associated with short code texts—texting from a short 5- or 6-digit number.)

When the subscriber does this, their phone number is automatically added to your subscriber database so you can start sending them texts.

Web Sign-Up Forms

Another way to collect phone numbers is through sign-up forms that you can embed on your website or share as a link to prospective subscribers.

When your audience fills out the form, they are automatically subscribed to your texts and added into your online database.

Existing Lists

If you have an existing list of people that have already consented to receive your messages, there are a few ways you can get them loaded into a texting database to start sending them SMS:

  • Import a list from a spreadsheet
  • Use API to port over your existing contacts programmatically
  • Use the integration site Zapier to connect your current list to your SMS platform

QR Codes

A final way to encourage SMS opt in is through automatically-generated QR codes that are connected to your SMS platform account.

You can share these QR codes in person or online, and when recipients scan the QR code, they are able to opt in to receive your texts.

SMS Opt In Strategies

SMS opt-in strategies

So all of the above is well and good.

But people are sometimes hesitant to give out their phone number.

So how do you actually get people to opt in to your texts?

Here are a few strategies you can consider.

Incentives, Incentives, Incentives

Incentives are the best way to convince people to subscribe to your texts.

People have a much easier time making a decision if there’s a near-immediate benefit. Providing an incentive gives people that quick benefit, which opens the door for them to receive the longer-term benefits of being subscribed to your text list.

Different types of incentives you can give as a “thank you” for subscribing include:

  • Discounts
  • Free items
  • Giveaway entries

Plaster Opt In Instructions Everywhere

There’s no need to limit yourself to only one of the opt in tools mentioned above—you can employ multiple (or all!) of them, and you can share the instructions everywhere that you feasibly can.

Give the opt in instructions in marketing materials, emails, on social media, invoices, in-store, and anywhere else you can think of.

The more that people see the instructions, the more likely they will be to follow those instructions and subscribe.

Make the Opt In Process a Part of Something Bigger

You can get more subscribers to opt in to your texts by making your outreach a part of something bigger.

You could run a webinar, for example, in regards to a relevant topic that your audience finds valuable and interesting. As a part of your webinar, you could ask for your audience’s phone number, letting them know it’s for webinar reminders as well as the other valuable texts you’ll be sending.

Or if you’re doing a product launch, you could make sure people know to sign up for the texts in order to get the latest updates on the upcoming launch.

Make People Aware of Opt Out Instructions Upfront

It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but letting people know how easy it is to opt out upfront may make them more likely to be willing to opt in.

Why? Because seeing how easy it is to opt out will give them more confidence that they can change their mind and stop receiving texts at any time. So they’ll know they won’t be stuck receiving messages.

SMS Opt In Examples

Here are some examples of how you could encourage people to opt in to your texts…

1. Exclusive Discounts and Offers:

"Get 10% off your first purchase when you join our VIP text list!"

"Receive exclusive weekly discounts! Text 'SAVINGS' to 12345."

2. Early Access to Sales:

"Be the first to know about our Black Friday deals! Text 'BF2023' to 67890."

"VIP members get early access to our summer clearance sale. Get on the list!"

3. Insider Updates:

"Get insider news, product launches, and behind-the-scenes updates. Join now!"

"Get the scoop on our latest arrivals and trends before anyone else."

4. Freebies and Giveaways:

"Get your free sample of our newest product! Text 'FREEBIE' to 54321."

"Enter our monthly giveaway for a chance to win! Join our text list to enter."

5. Event Notifications:

"Never miss a concert or event again! Join our SMS list for event alerts."

"Get notified about local happenings - Text 'EVENTS' to 777888."

6. Personalized Recommendations:

"Get personalized product recommendations based on your preferences - sent directly to your phone."

"Unlock a customized shopping experience with our SMS recommendations."

7. Birthday Surprises:

"Celebrate your birthday with us! Subscribers receive a special gift on their big day."

"Enjoy a birthday treat from us! Text 'BIRTHDAY' to 12345.”

8. Exclusive Content:

"Access premium content, articles, and tips only available to our SMS subscribers."

"Enjoy expert insights and exclusive interviews by joining our SMS newsletter."

9. Limited-Time Sign-Up Bonuses:

"Hurry, the first 100 subscribers get a bonus gift with their first purchase!"

"Receive a special welcome package if you join THIS WEEK ONLY."

10. Loyalty Program Enrollment:

“Get points with every purchase! Join our SMS loyalty program."

"Text 'LOYALTY' to 98765 to start earning rewards today!"

11. Event Registrations:

"Secure your spot at our upcoming workshop by texting 'WORKSHOP' to 54321."

"Want to win an exclusive prize? RSVP for our webinar series via SMS."

12. Early Product Testing:

"Be among the first! Try our latest releases before they hit the shelves by joining our text list."

"Get exclusive access to beta versions of our apps by joining our SMS beta group."

13. Time-Sensitive Notifications:

"Receive urgent updates on weather alerts, traffic, and local emergencies via SMS."

"Be in the know on breaking news as it’s breaking! Text 'ALERTS' to 12345 for instant notifications."

14. Community and Support:

"Connect with our community of enthusiasts and experts. Join our SMS group today!"

"Need help or support? Text 'HELP' to 78900, and our team will assist you."

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Note that this article does not constitute legal advice.

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