SMS text messages are a great alternative to sending email to reach your contacts. You can use them to send discounts, purchase confirmations, appointment reminders, or any other information that you want to get in front of your contacts’ eyes immediately.

This article explains how to implement SMS messaging in your marketing and business processes.

Please note before you begin that the country of the number you are sending from determines the countries you are allowed to send SMS messages to. You can purchase additional numbers in other areas if you need to reach a country out of your home region.

Table of contents

Setting up your SMS number
Opting in and out
SMS filtering and blocking
Creating SMS messages in the SMS editor
Adding SMS messages to your automation
Adding automated responses
Sending one-off SMS messages
Viewing and managing one-off SMS messages
Stopping a one-off SMS message
Viewing broadcast stats
SMS number pricing

Setting up your SMS number

  • Click the profile icon in the top right, then AdministrationSMSbuy number button. The first number is free.
  • Enter a name in the top left. This is just for reference and is not visible to contacts. 
  • Select a country from the drop down menu then enter your area code (optional). Then click the search button.
  • Click the Choose a Number dropdown menu to see the available numbers. Select one. 
  • Click buy number button  in the top right.

buy number example

Note, due to Twilio’s regulatory compliance updates, users from certain countries — such as Australia, France and Ireland — may receive an error message when they attempt to purchase a number.

If this happens to you, follow the steps below to have our Support team set up your number for you:

  • To determine what documents you need to submit, go to Twilio’s phone number regulations → select your country → scroll down to “mobile numbers” and find your country’s required documentation in the “requirements for businesses” section.
  • Submit a ticket to Support containing all the required documents.

Note to users in New Zealand: Due to local carrier restrictions, Twilio does not support two-way SMS messages from long code numbers. If you want to send SMS messages in New Zealand, you’ll need to purchase a dedicated short code number.

SMS filtering and blocking

To protect mobile users from fraud, spam, and other unwanted messages, Twilio blocks and filters certain SMS messages with problematic content. They also do this to comply with the rules set by carriers and regulators.

Here’s a summary of what will cause Twilio to block the messages you send to your contacts:

  1. High unsubscribe rates
  2. Public URL shorteners (bitly, tinyurl, etc.)
  3. Forbidden message categories for SMS/MMS in US and Canada
  4. Inappropriate content
    1. Transmitting or storing any content or communications (commercial or otherwise) that are illegal, harmful, unwanted, deceptive, inappropriate, objectionabile, violating others’ rights, confirmed to be criminal misinformation or otherwise pose a threat to the public
  5. Harmful code or bots
    1. Transmitting code, files, scripts, agents or programs intended to do harm including viruses or malware and using bots to gain access to use services
  6. Hate speech
    1. Use of the services by a hate group, content or communications that originate from a hate group or sending exploitative, abusive or hate speech

Note, you will still be charged for filtered or blocked messages.

Opting in and out

Your contacts must opt in to receive SMS text messages either by filling out a form with their SMS number or by initiating communication by texting your Ontraport SMS number. 

Note, if you would like to opt in contacts through the API or import a list of contacts who have already opted in, please contact Support

Leads can opt in to your email and SMS marketing messages via text. This is a great way to collect leads from live events. At a minimum, they need to send you their email address, but you can also collect their names. Here are the three formats your leads can use to opt in:

  2. Melissa
  3. Melissa Scott

opt in example

To opt out of receiving bulk SMS messages, contacts can text any of these words: stop, unsubscribe, cancel, quit.

text unsubscribe example

Creating SMS messages in the SMS editor

  • To create an SMS message, go to campaigns tab → MessagesNew message button→ SMS.
  • Give your message a title so it will be easy to find when adding it to a campaign.
  • Type your SMS message. You can use merge fields, but be careful of going over the 160 character limit.
    1. If you use emojis in your message, the character limit will decrease to 67.
    2. Longer messages — up to 1,600-characters — will be broken up and sent as multiple 160-character texts and you will be charged for each message.
    3. Any characters over 1,600 will not be sent.

new sms message example

Note, if you want to include a link in your message, you need to add the URL you want to link to in your message. It is not possible to hyperlink in SMS messages, and URL shorteners will cause deliverability issues. US carrier policies forbid the use of free public URL shorteners, so your messages will be filtered if you include them.

Adding SMS messages to your campaigns

To seamlessly integrate your SMS communication efforts with the rest of your marketing campaign, you’ll add SMS elements to your automated campaigns in Campaign Builder.

  • Go to Campaigns and create a new campaign or edit an existing campaign.
    1. If you’re starting a new campaign from scratch, you’ll add the SMS element wherever you choose on the campaign map by clicking the What Happens Next? prompt.
    2. what happens next? element

    3. If you’re editing an existing automation map, click + between any elements where you want to add the SMS element.
    4. add new element example

  • Under the Actions tab, click Send an SMS. Once the element is added, click into the SMS element and a settings sidebar will appear.

    add new element example

    1. Under Send Contacts this SMS, choose an SMS text message from the dropdown menu that you would like to send, or create a new one.
    2. Choose which number you would like the text to be sent from or add a new number. (This is the number your contacts will see when you send the text message.)

    send an SMS settings

    Note, contacts who have opted out of SMS messages will still appear on your SMS elements and click-through groups, but they won’t receive your message.

    Adding automated responses

    You can set up automation that responds to the SMS messages your contacts send you based on the content of their message. For example, you can ask leads to text you “free ebook” to trigger automation that sends your lead a free ebook. To do this, you’ll use an “SMS received” trigger or goal with “SMS contains” conditions. Here’s how:

    • Create a new automation map, or edit an existing one.
    • Add a trigger if you want to create a new line of automation, or add a goal if you want to add on to existing automation.
    • SMS trigger example

    • Click add condition button and select one of the “SMS contains” conditions.

      SMS trigger condition example

      1. The “SMS Contains Text” and “SMS Does Not Contain Text” conditions allow you to add the text you want, such as “free ebook.”
      2. These conditions are not case sensitive. However, it’s a great idea to add multiple conditions. Then if your leads text you different versions of your keyword, your automation will still fire. See an example in the image below. 
      3. SMS trigger multiple condition example

    • Click What Happens Next? below your trigger or goal, and continue building your automation.
      1. To continue the free ebook example, you’ll add an email that includes a link to download your ebook.

    Inbound SMS automation example

    Note, you can also use the “SMS contains” condition on standalone condition elements. This option is great if you want to nest conditions to take different actions based on what your contacts send you.

    automation example

    Sending one-off SMS messages

    You can also send one-off SMS messages manually to a single contact or to a group of contacts. SMS messages sent to a single contact are sent immediately, while broadcasts to a group of contacts are sent via the broadcast queue. SMS broadcasts can be viewed and managed in Broadcast History.

    • Go to Contacts and select the group of contacts that you’d like to send your SMS to.
    • Click the sms action.
    • Select the Quick SMS tab to create a new message or the Choose SMS tab to select an existing one.
    • SMS action tabs

    • Choose the number you want from the “From number” dropdown.
    • Click send now button or click send later button to schedule your SMS to send at a specific date and time.

    Note, many phone carriers have strict spam filters that may be triggered when you send more than one of their subscribers a message at the same time — which can happen if you send broadcast messages to a group of contacts. If your message trips a filter, they will simply discard your message without any feedback, and they may block your sending number. It is safer to send SMS messages through an automation rather than a broadcast.

    Viewing and Managing One-off SMS Messages

    All messages that you send manually to two or more contacts can be viewed and managed in your account’s Broadcast History. You can also view messages sent to a single contact if they were scheduled to send at a later time.

    To get there go to the Contacts tabBroadcast History and, if you’d like to see only your SMS message, click type dropdown and select SMS or Quick SMS.

    broadcast history example

    Stopping a one-off SMS message

    If you choose to send an SMS immediately to two or more contacts, there will be a five-minute delay while it queues to send. This gives you time to cancel it if it was sent in error. You can also cancel SMS messages that you scheduled to send at a later time by following these steps:

    • Select the broadcast(s) you wish to cancel.
    • Click.

    Viewing broadcast stats

    You can check the status of your manually sent SMS messages by hovering over the “sent” column and see the number of messages:

    1. Scheduled
    2. Sent
    3. Failed

    The “failed” status will also show you why the messages were unable to be delivered.

    broadcast history hover stats example

    SMS number pricing

    Ontraport provides the first SMS number at no additional charge for all accounts. The price of additional SMS numbers and price per sent message depends on location. Visit our pricing reference page for more information.