Peer-to-peer (P2P) texting has exploded in popularity since the 2016 cycle and shows no signs of slowing down. In many ways, texting is the new email for campaigns. As email faces increasing challenges getting eyeballs, about 90 percent of texts are read within three minutes of being received, according to a report commissioned by SinglePoint, a mobile tech company.
No other channel can boast that kind of instant visibility. But unlike email vendors which tend to offer variations of the same product, there are different types of texting services and potential clients should understand the nuances before they sign a vendor contract.
To help with that vetting process, here are five questions to ask your P2P vendor:
1. Does your P2P vendor follow the applicable TCPA and FCC regulations?
A reputable P2P vendor should be able to provide you with a document that explains how their product complies with the laws and regulations surrounding texting. This document should have been written by their legal team in coordination with their engineering team, and you should have your lawyers look over it as well. Many companies offer cheap P2P services, but cut corners and have not done their homework when it comes to how they designed their product.
2. Does your P2P vendor follow the CTIA phone carrier guidelines?
Beyond TCPA and FCC regulations, your P2P vendor should be following CTIA best practices. This includes items like honoring people’s opt-out requests and making sure that the messages you’re sending comply with the kind of content and delivery method that the phone carriers require. Otherwise, your messages will quickly stop being delivered and you run a much higher risk of your recipients filing complaints. Phone carriers (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, et cetera) currently have wide latitude and control over what messages they allow to be delivered — or block.
3. Does your P2P vendor provide transparent deliverability reporting?
There’s a persistent myth that P2P vendors cannot provide deliverability reports. On the contrary, a reputable P2P vendor should and is able to provide you with a comprehensive report of any texts that were unable to be delivered due to the phone number turning out to be a landline, the carrier blocking the message due to spam, or even, in some cases, because the phone was undeliverable (in case the cell phone was turned off, for example).
Your P2P vendor should also be able to tell you how many of your messages were never delivered because the phone carrier marked them as spam (most often because the P2P vendor was not following CTIA).
Carriers are continuing to improve deliverability reporting and plan to implement full handset delivery receipts later this year. But in the meantime there are many other checkpoints along the delivery journey that the P2P vendor should be able to see and let you know if the message was not delivered. A really good P2P vendor will provide near real-time reporting so you can pause your texting campaign if your messages start getting marked as spam, saving you time and money.
4. Does your P2P vendor have a process for appealing messages incorrectly marked as spam?
Political campaigns and nonprofits should have no problem getting their messages delivered if they are working with a reputable P2P vendor who follows best practices. But sometimes the phone carriers will still mark messages as spam and not deliver them at all. A good P2P vendor will have a direct relationship with the phone carriers that includes an appeal and escalation process so your message content can potentially be removed from spam filters.
The completion of this process will either give you key insights into what you must do differently to get your messages delivered and in some instances your messages will even be released from phone carrier limbo and get delivered.
5. Is your P2P vendor prepared for the new phone carrier standards which will determine if your P2P texts get delivered or get blocked?
How the phone carriers treat P2P text messages will be changing dramatically this year. This includes positive developments such as handset delivery receipts and more deliverability success for reputable P2P vendors that follow best practices.
Additionally, though, there are potentially negative consequences for text message deliverability if your P2P vendor doesn’t have a good rating from the phone carriers due to ignoring or violating CTIA, TCPA or by piggybacking their texting traffic via a third-party vendor, which may itself be in bad standing with the phone carriers.
Your P2P vendor should have a plan for these coming changes and be able to provide that plan and timeline to you upon request.
A final thought: reputable P2P vendors are like a good email service provider (ESP): not only will they send your emails, they’ll make sure your emails actually show up in Gmail and have a chance of being opened. It’s always worth taking the extra steps to make sure your P2P vendor can show their work and prove to you that they can safely and reliably deliver your text messages.
Spencer Sullivan is VP of Partnerships for RumbleUp: Advanced Peer-to-Peer Texting.