Getting Started with SMS

  • Updated

To get started with SMS, you'll need to do 3 things:

  1. Purchase SMS credits.
  2. Import an SMS opt-in list.
  3. Ensure that any marketing lists used for SMS have a mobile phone number field that is mapped to the standard Act-On cell phone field.

Read on for details.

Purchasing SMS Credits

Contact your Account Manager to purchase SMS credits. Once your Act-On account is configured to send SMS messages, continue by following the instructions below.

Importing SMS Opt-Ins

SMS messages can only be sent to opted in recipients. This means that recipients must have explicitly opted in to receive SMS messages. Act-On does not verify SMS opt-in status, it is your responsibility to provide accurate opt-in information.

Before you can send an SMS message, you’ll need to provide a list of mobile phone numbers that have opted into receiving SMS messages. This is done by importing an SMS opt-in list.

In your Act-On account, navigate to SMS > Opt-Ins to:

  • Upload a .csv file that contains the following required fields:
    • Mobile Phone Number
    • Opt-In Source (i.e. Form Submit)
    • Opt-In Date (format: 2021-01-18)
  • Example .csv file fields:
    • Other fields can also be present in the .csv file but will not be used
  • Next, you’ll use a simple mapping tool to indicate which fields in your .csv file correspond with the 3 required fields. 
  • Then, complete the file upload and review a list of opted in mobile numbers.
  • Note that when creating an SMS message, you will be selecting Act-On marketing lists, not the SMS opt-in list. I.e. the SMS opt-in list isn't used for message targeting purposes, it's used to determine which contacts inside a marketing list are eligible to receive SMS messages.

What about Opt-Outs?

  • After receiving a SMS message, the recipient can reply back to opt out
    • Example: “Reply with STOP to opt-out of future messages”
  • Mobile phone numbers who have opted out with an SMS response will be listed on the SMS > Opt-Outs page

Composing and Sending an SMS Message

Under SMS > Messages, click on New Message to compose and send an SMS message.

The SMS composer will automatically save any changes. If you leave the SMS composer without sending the message, you can find the saved draft message under the Drafts tab of the SMS listing page. 

Using the SMS composer

Under the Recipients tab:

  • Enter message Title and optional message Description.
  • View your assigned Sender Code

  • Select recipients:
    • Select the Act-On marketing lists or segments that contain the recipients you want to target. 
      • Note that selected lists must contain a mobile phone number field that is mapped to the standard Act-On “Cell Phone” field. 
      • To map a marketing list field, go to Contacts > Marketing Lists and click into the specific list. Inside the list view, click on "More Actions" > "Identify List Columns". Find the field that contains the contact's mobile phone number and make sure it is mapped to the system usage field of "Contact's Cell Phone". 
      • List or segments that don’t contain a mobile number field mapped to the standard “Cell Phone” field cannot be selected.
  • After list selection, review the Recipient Summary for the following information:
    • Number of selected recipients
    • Number of recipients without a mobile number
    • Number of recipients who are not opted in to receive SMS (not on the Opt-In list)
    • Number of total eligible recipients (= selected - no mobile number - not opted in)
    • Percentage of eligible recipients out of all selected recipients

Under the Message tab:

  • Write your SMS message
    • See character count and message count (1 message = 160 characters)
  • Optional: Insert a short URL to the message (click on the Screen_Shot_2021-03-24_at_4.25.11_PM.png icon)
    • Use the built-in URL shortener to convert a long URL into a short one
    • Clicks to short URLs are tracked by default and shown in SMS reporting (you can turn off click tracking if necessary).
    • A tracked URL is displayed in the SMS composer with 8 X's to indicate the maximum number of characters the link may utilize. Example display URL:
    • The tracked URL sent to recipients is unique to each recipient and includes a unique id at the end of the URL. You can see this URL in the preview window after selecting a recipient. Example recipient URL: 
  • Optional: Add personalization to the message (click on the Screen_Shot_2021-02-23_at_11.09.05_AM.png icon)
    • Personalize with fields about the recipient (example: “First Name”)
    • Personalize with fields about the sender, i.e. you. 
    • Provide a fallback text
      • This will be used if we’re unable to personalize for the selected recipient
    • Provide maximum character length 
      • If personalized text is longer than max character length, fallback text is used
  • Highly recommended: Add a compliance text (click on the Screen_Shot_2021-02-23_at_11.09.48_AM.png icon)
    • This tells the recipient how to opt out
    • I.e. “Txt STOP to OptOut” Preview message
  • See Credit Summary
    • See a breakdown of the credits required to send this message to the recipients you've selected
      • Your available credits
      • Total credits required for this send
      • Remaining balance after this send
  • Send message to recipients:
    • Use the Send Message button to send the message now
      • A confirmation modal is shown after the Send Message button and includes an estimated on the amount of time needed to send the message to all recipients. 
    • Use the Schedule Send button to send the message at a later time
      • Select date and time of send and see an estimate of the amount of time needed for the send.
      • If the selected time is outside of business hours, an additional confirmation step is required to proceed with the send.
    • After selecting the type of send and submitting the send request, you'll be directed to either the Sent messages page or the Scheduled messages page depending on the type of the send.

Reviewing Sent, Scheduled and Draft messages

The SMS listing page (i.e. SMS > Messages page) is divided into three tabs:

  1. Sent messages
  2. Scheduled messages
  3. Draft messages

Sent messages

Sent messages lists previously sent and currently sending messages and includes the following information for each message:

Field Name Field Description
Title Title of the message
Send Date Date the message was sent
Sent By The Act-On user who sent the message.

Total number of recipients included in the send.


Number of recipients who did not receive the message.

(Failures include carrier not accepting the message and processing failures.)


Number of recipients who responded with "STOP" and were opted out.


Number of recipients who clicked on a link created with the Act-On link shortener.


Number of recipients who replied to the message (excluding opt-out replies)

The messages table is sorted to show the most recent messages at the top but can be sorted by any of the fields in the table. Messages display as “Sending” until the send is complete. 

After the send is complete, you can download a recipient level spreadsheet report by hovering over the message row and clicking on the report icon. The spreadsheet report includes: Message ID, Message Title, Recipient Mobile Phone Number, Recipient Email Address and boolean (0=no, 1=yes) values for each of the following actions: Sent, Clicked, Opted Out, Failed, Replied as well as the text of the reply under Reply Text. The report can be used to find out what actions individual recipients took and to summarize results. 

Scheduled messages

Scheduled messages tab shows messages that are scheduled to go out in the future. The table shows who scheduled the messages, when it's scheduled to go out and how many recipients are targeted.

Scheduled messages can be canceled by selecting the checkbox next to a message and clicking on Cancel Send. Once canceled, the messages return to the Draft state.

Draft Messages

Draft messages tab contains any messages that were edited in the SMS composer but not yet sent or scheduled. Messages are automatically saved as they are edited (i.e. there is no Save button in the composer). Drafts display Last Edit timestamp and name of the person who last edited the message. You can click into the message to continue editing or to send the message. You can also delete one or more draft messages by clicking on the checkbox next to the message and selecting “Delete”. 


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