Business Texting Etiquette 101: How to Communicate and Engage Over SMS
Phone and email have been essential business tools for decades, and video conferencing has been adopted rapidly by organizations around the globe. Yet, one of the most dominant forms of communication in the Digital Age — texting — remains uncommon in business spheres. Why?
The evolution of texting as a communication method has been slow relative to other digital communication technologies. Initially, texts could only be a handful of characters, limiting the information organizations could convey to their audience, and the high cost of individual messages made the medium prohibitive for most businesses. What’s more, texting has always carried a reputation of informality; teens were initially the most avid adopters of the tech, so most business leaders dismissed the communication method as immature and ineffective.
Yet, as the population ages, those who were once texting teens are now pushing 40, and texting has only gained popularity. These days, more and more businesses are interested in engaging with their consumer audience via text, but unlike the practices used over the phone and email, text etiquette for businesses can be less than clear.
How a business manages to text depends on a number of factors, from its brand values to its texting objectives to the age and interests of its audience. Still, there are a few rules of etiquette for business texting that every organization should follow. These include:
Do Be Friendly
Whenever business professionals send a text — whether it is a 2-way SMS conversation with a client or a bulk marketing text to the customer list — the message needs to be polite and friendly. However, this does not mean that every text should be filled with emojis and exclamation points. Rather, the language should be warm and comfortable, and the message might end with a “please” or “thank you.”
Don’t Send Bad News
Just as it is poor etiquette to send bad personal news over text messages, it is a disastrous idea to text customers and clients with business bad news. Even if a customer or client initially reaches out via the business texting service, customer service should continue the conversation via phone call or in-person meeting if it is likely to take a negative turn.
Do Test and Retest
Mistakes are common in SMS culture because the medium lends itself to a quick and relatively thoughtless composition. However, a bad business text could be disastrous for a brand’s reputation. Thus, text messages should undergo several steps of quality assurance, checking for spelling accuracy, sensitivity, encoding accuracy, comprehensibility, and more.
Don’t Use Slang
A business using the newest slang terms is as cringy as a parent trying to look cool in front of their teen child’s friends. Because businesses are rarely part of the culture responsible for creating slang, they often do not know how to apply the terms properly, which makes them seem especially out of touch. Emojis can be equally dangerous, as many carry connotations that might not be obvious. In general, it is best for businesses to stick to words and phrases they understand well.
Do Make Introductions
Because consumers rarely save the contact info for businesses in their phones, it is imperative that businesses introduce themselves with every message. An introduction helps to build trust and make the conversation feel more authentic and personal, both of which will increase response rates.
Don’t Text Randos
It is against Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations to contact customers over SMS without receiving explicit consent. As tempting as it might be to buy consumer contact information on the web, businesses should instead encourage their real customers to opt into their text message marketing campaigns.
Do Include a CTA
Because of the intimacy of the SMS medium, when businesses message customers, they must do so with a purpose. Every message should include a call to action (CTA), compelling the customer to do something with the information the business is providing them. In many cases, the CTA might involve clicking a link or visiting the business’s premises, but businesses should try to vary their CTAs to continue providing value and maintaining engagement.
Don’t Text Incessantly
No consumer wants to be barraged with marketing messages, even if they signed up for a business’s text services. Organizations should refrain from contacting their customers via text more than once per week unless to remind them of an upcoming appointment. Marketing messages might be best sent even less frequently, every few weeks or even every few months.
Text message etiquette is far from set in stone. Businesses that are adopting SMS tools for communicating with customers need to stay aware of what consumers expect from business interactions over text.