Mobile Industry Still Trying To Figure Out SMS Spam

The problem has been around forever, yet the mobile industry is still fighting for a solution to SMS spam.  As such a quickly growing problem, the FCC and several mobile-specific organizations are still trying to define what is and what isn’t considered mobile SPAM- a process that’s easier said than done.

Mobile spam can be sub-divided into two general categories: legitimate marketers not following best practices and sending unsolicited messages, and the more devious malware attacks, in which malicious messages are sent through text or e-mail to attack a phone’s operating system.  Either way, this spam is annoying to consumers, and is giving legitimate rule-following mobile marketers a bad name.

The MMA and other mobile communities have been busy creating industry best practices, rules and regulations to help legitimate marketers stay a step ahead of spammers and to remain transparent in their efforts, but the entire landscape changes so quickly that staying ahead of the curve is getting increasingly difficult.

Contributing to the intolerance of SMS spam is the fact that consumers often will stop what they are doing to read a new mobile message, and will likely have to pay a fee for receiving it.  Getting more and more spam messages makes consumers that much more weary of opening any marketing-based SMS message, legitimate or not.

Wireless carriers are doing their part in trying to curb SMS spam, such as AT&T allowing customers to restrict the sources of email that can reach their devices, or replying BLOCK to any email or SMS message deemed unsolicited, but as it does via traditional spam, carriers are usually a step behind the spammers.

“Marketers should enable the end user to control the communications that are received at the device, and enable them as a user, not through the carrier or customer service, to say, ‘I don’t want any messages from short codes’ and also to create lists of who can get through,” says Daniel Hoffman, SVP of communications at SMobile Systems.  “As you eliminate the ability to do targeting what you are doing is making it closer to spam,” Wehrs adds. “So, there is a delicate balance to being targeted and relevant without going too far and making the user feel that their privacy is being invaded.”

It’s a delicate balance, and a problem that won’t be going away any time soon, but the carriers, the FCC and most mobile-based organizations are busy trying to distinguish, fight and regulate spam the best they can.  It just reiterates the fact that if you’re a mobile marketer, industry best practices should be your number one concern at all times.