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November 14, 2012

Too Many Text Messages Might Make Some Unhappy People Into Millionaires


by Ron Daly 

Papa John's is staring down the barrel of a lawsuit that might cost them $250 million...all over a few dozen text messages. Talk about your overage charges. 

According to CNN Money, the plaintiffs in the suit were bombarded by fifteen or sixteen unsolicited text messages apiece, coming one after another, even into the middle of the night. The fault was allegedly that of text message provider OnTime4U, with whom "Papa" immediately broke any and all ties. The frequency of these messages is one thing, but the other? Apparently, none of the recipients opted in for these communications. Naughty, naughty...

In another, slightly more ridiculous suit, a Buffalo Bills fan is suing the team for receiving three more text messages than he was told he would receive on sign-up. No specific amount of money is being sought in this suit, but the preceeding linked article suggests the offended party be given a batch of buffalo wings and some beer.

My take, as a Skins fan? That's what you get for liking the Bills. Yuck.

Now, I'm no lawyer, but I think there are a few laws here that everyone should abide. Maybe not "legal" laws, but let's call them "marketing laws". They are as follows:

  1. "The Edgar Allan Poe Law of Electronic Marketing" - If you say a subscriber will only receive a certain number of messages per week, only send that number of messages per week. Or less. Never more. (Get it?) And really, it's best to not be super-strict with a delivery schedule unless you're absoltuely certian you can keep to it/not overshoot.

  2. "The Law of Emotions" - Always consider the attachments people have to certain methods of communication. According to this WebMD story, 46% of adult consumers own smartphones and many feel a deep, emotional attachment to the same. It's not hard to imagine that people get upset when their phone fills up with unsolicited, unnecessary messages. If you have an inbox full  of multiple promotional emails from the same source, you're likely to unsubscribe, right? Imagine how awful that is when there are fifteen text messages and no clear-cut way to unsubscribe.

  3. "The Opt-In Law" - If there were an electronic marketing "Ten Commandments", this one would be at the top of the first tablet. Opt-in beats opt-out any day of the week. Making sure the user has made a clear, deliberate choice to sign up for your marketing messages and, if they haven't taken the necessary steps (following up on an email double-opt-in process, for example), don't send them one darn thing. Period. End of sentence.

I've based a lot of my reasoning on what I know to be true for email marketing. The rules are new and pretty vague when it comes to mobile, but the rules for email marketing make good guidelines for mobile as well. If anything, be stricter with how you use text messages for marketing. It can help you avoid a lot of angry members, or even worse, legal action.

And now, after writing this, I have an overwhelming desire to eat some pizza and buffalo wings. 

But I'm still not a Bills fan. 



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