SMS Messaging Best Practices

From research study delivery to customer interaction, SMS messaging has become one of the most effective ways for organizations of every kind to both collect and disseminate information. Use this short guide to ensure that your organization's SMS messaging system adheres to best practices as dictated by the United States telecommunications industry.  

SMS traffic in the United States is governed by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which dictates how and when enterprises and consumers can exchange messages. If your organization complies with the TCPA, you're probably in good shape, but you may be wondering, "is there anything else I should be considering?"  That bit is dictated by CTIA – The Wireless Association, an advocacy group representing the U.S. wireless communications industry as a whole. This guide serves to break CTIA's messaging recommendations into a short, clear guide to engaging in consumer-oriented messaging while simultaneously preventing the transmission of unwanted messages.

P2P vs A2P

It's important to first distinguish between the US telecommunications industry's person-to-person (P2P) and app-to-person (A2P) messaging definitions. 


P2P covers low-volume messaging, whether the participants are (a) individual wireless consumers or (b) wireless consumers and consumers of cloud-based messaging services or enterprises (e.g. TextIt). These exchanges must conform to the CTIA's "typical human operation" classification, which covers situations in which: 

  • No more than 60 messages are sent per minute. 
  • No more than 1,000 messages are sent per day. 
  • No more than 200 unique recipients are reached in total. 
  • The average ration of incoming to outgoing messages is typically 1:1, with some wiggle room. 

When wireless messaging traffic meets these classification criteria, it is considered to not exhibit the characteristics of unwanted messaging. 


At this time, CTIA views A2P to be all messaging traffic that does not meet its P2P criteria. It's both the type of traffic that the TCPA governs and the subject of this guide. At minimum, A2P traffic should: 

  • Seek the consumer’s express consent to receive informational and/or marketing messages.
  • Give the consumer the ability to revoke consent.

The CTIA sees the following use cases as appropriate for A2P traffic: 

  • Enterprises texting multiple consumers simultaneously. 
  • Call center scenarios 
  • Alerts and notifications 

Best Practices

Send via Short Codes

Short codes are 5 or 6-digit numbers typically reserved for organizations that need to communicate with consumers at a high volume. Use cases include flight delays, banking account alerts, delivery notifications, etc. They're designed to couple higher-volume SMS traffic with built-in consumer protections. As such, you must apply for a short code and go through a review process in order to obtain one. Fortunately, Twilio, our recommended SMS, MMS & IVR channel provider, helps customers through that process

Incorporate Toll-Free Numbers

If you aren't able to obtain a short code, consider toll-free numbers. They're only slightly more expensive than the standard mobile virtual numbers you might purchase from Twilio, but they've got two advantages: 
  • Your contacts don't incur a fee when sending to a toll-free number. 
  • They send 3 messages per second as opposed to standard numbers, which send at a rate of 1 message per second. This cuts down on the time it takes to deliver message broadcasts, and generally improves the speed of two-way interactions.  

Bundle your Numbers

Twilio provides a message service feature called Copilot that enables you to dedicate multiple Twilio numbers to a single TextIt channel, and improve SMS delivery with phone number intelligence features like: 

  • Scaler - distribute messages across a group of phone numbers to reach large audiences in a short amount of time.
  • Geo-Match - create a local experience by automatically using local phone numbers that match country and area codes to your end-user's personal number.
  • Sticky-Sender - send messages with the same recognizable phone number to create a consistent experience and maintain conversation history.
  • Reroute - if you're using a short code, you Twilio will automatically revert to standard long-code phone numbers when a carrier is unable to receive messages from short codes.
With a Twilio messaging service connected to your TextIt account, your messages will be routed intelligently to ensure you're adhering to best practices. Here's a guide to setting that up

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