How to ensure your SMS messages are delivered

Learn what content you can/can't use in your SMS in order for them to be delivered.

Ira avatar
Written by Ira
Updated over a week ago

Getting the best results from your SMS campaigns is as simple as making sure they are opened. The campaign can't be opened till it's delivered to your customers.

That's why we'd like to talk about spam traps and prohibited content that shouldn't be used in SMS campaigns to prevent them from being banned.



To protect recipients, Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (further C.T.I.A.) has created a list of prohibited content that shouldn't be included in any SMS โ€” Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco or S.H.A.F.T.

SMS marketers use this acronym as a guideline on what not to include in their messages.

S.H.A.F.T. guidelines should be taken seriously by anyone using SMS to communicate with their consumers to ensure they are compliant with the C.T.I.A. and foster positive relationships with their consumers.

Consequences of S.H.A.F.T. violation

The C.T.I.A. has three levels of severity for guideline violations (0-2). Each is graded by the level of potential harm to the consumer. S.H.A.F.T. violations are the only violation rated under a level 0 violation and can permanently terminate your program.

Note! Currently, S.H.A.F.T. does include CBD, vaping, marijuana/cannabis, and any content relating to each (even though it is not explicitly stated.) Be sure to refer to the C.T.I.A. Short Code Monitoring Handbook for more info on SHAFT.

In Omnisend, along with allowing you to get most of the platform, we follow strict guidelines to make sure none of the messaging principles and best practices are violated.

Forbidden Use Cases

Alcohol brands with proper age-gating measures can be verified in compliance with requirements. Please note robust age gating means that website users must input their date of birth in mm/dd/yyyy format. It cannot be a yes or no question.




"S.H.A.F.T." use cases and electronic smoking devices

  • Sex

  • Hate

  • Alcohol

  • Firearms

  • Tobacco

  • Vape/E-ciggs

Alcohol traffic is allowed on Toll-Free, Short Code, and Long Code in the US, as long as proper age-gating procedures are in place. Age gating means that website users must input their date of birth. It cannot be a yes or no question.

Firearms, Tobacco, Vape, and E-cigarettes are not allowed on Toll-Free, Short Code, or Long Code regardless of age gating.

All age-gated content in Canada must be blocked across Toll-Free, Short Code, and Long Code. The only way to send age-gated traffic into Canada (even with proper age-gating) is to receive a special carrier exemption. Allowed age-gated content in Canada includes: pocket knives, lighters, and non-alcoholic beverages

Using any S.H.A.F.T. - related content in your SMS will result into:

  • Your dedicated toll-free number being blocked on the SMS providers end;

  • Money spent on SMS campaign with SMS sent but not delivered.

Therefore, in Omnisend SMS channel cannot be used for any S.H.A.F.T. - related content.

SMS content best practices

Besides S.H.A.F.T. rules, we will also block any messages that violate our Anti-spam policy, which involves illegal activity such as "phishing" or identity theft scams, unlawful threats, or fraudulent activity.

So, if you're not violating any laws, you have nothing to worry about, but we'd advise checking before sending an SMS campaign C.T.I.A. Messaging Principles and Best Practices.

Your SMS campaign didn't break any C.T.I.A. rules, but you or some of your recipients haven't received it? Follow these practices to improve deliverability:

  1. Use natural language. It would be best to use natural language in your messages so you do not use non-standard spellings. For example, "H! h0w ar3__you do1ng?" is a non-standard spelling.

  2. Direct consent. You should collect the consumer consent yourself and not use consent acquired from a third party. The consumer is expecting a relationship with the business they interacted with.

  3. Set expectations on frequency. You should set the proper expectation with the consumer on how many messages they can expect to receive. If you send five texts a month, disclosing "5/msg a month" on the first interaction will result in a positive customer experience.

  4. Business recognition. You should include the business name within the message to ensure that consumers know who they are interacting with and not attempt to hide their identity.

  5. Length of the message. SMS stands for "Short Message Service," which should be considered when formatting a text message. Even though concatenated messages exist, we recommend not sending more than a 250-character message to keep the medium a short message platform.

  6. Give your recipients an option to opt-out. We're adding unsubscribe links for US/CA recipients by default but not for non-US/C.A. Even though adding the Unsubscribe link is optional for non-US/C.A. recipients, we highly encourage you to add it to the content of your SMS Campaign. SMS marketing is more sensitive compared to Email. The customer can't choose when he wants to check the message, and it is almost impossible to ignore it. If you want to avoid receiving spam reports or complaints from your customers, you should allow them to unsubscribe from your marketing.

Did this answer your question?