What is SMS Opt-In for Mass Notification Systems?

Picture of Andrea Lebron By Andrea Lebron


SMS Opt-inMost people will have been exposed to SMS opt-in, as it is commonly-used in text message marketing. Not as many people will be aware that an SMS opt-in/opt-out option also exists on most mass emergency notification systems, and that this feature can be a valuable asset in many different use case scenarios.

You have undoubtedly seen them. They appear on the sides of buses, outside houses for sale, on chalkboards outside restaurants, and inside practically every magazine. They are ads inviting you to text a keyword (i.e. “pizzas”) to a short code number (i.e. “749927”) in order for you to get a discount on your next order, get further information about a product or service, or to donate to a good cause. 

When you text the keyword to the short code number, you are then invited to opt-in to the text message marketing service. Usually there is a good reason for doing so such as future discounts or further information. If you choose to opt-in, you will then receive an SMS text notification whenever there is a relevant promotion or information available you have indicated an interest in.

There are probably many more uses of SMS opt-in services than you think. Churches, political parties and schools take advantage of text messages to build connections with parishioners, voters, and parents. Employers operate SMS opt-in services to advise job seekers of vacancies, while a number of sports team also offer SMS opt-in services to keep fans up-to-date with scores on game day.

SMS Opt-In for Mass Emergency Notification Systems

Mass emergency notification services populate their databases in different ways. Systems used by employers and educational institutions are typically populated by uploading an existing database of employees or students into the mass, while city and local governments usually invite businesses and residents to register for emergency notifications via a web portal or by SMS opt-in.

Of the two registration methods, SMS opt-in is the most effective. Not everybody has a smartphone they can use to visit a web portal immediately, and they may well forget to register by the time they can access an Internet-connected device. By comparison, people tend to act immediately when they see a text message marketing ad for fear of forgetting the keyword or short code number.

The SMS opt-in method is also ideal for temporary visitors such as tourists, concert-goers, and conference delegates. Temporary visitors follow the same opt-in method as permanent residents and, as soon as they leave the area and no longer have a need for emergency notifications, they simply text “stop” to the short code number to be removed from the emergency database.

How NYU Simplifies the SMS Opt-In/Opt-Out Process

A good alternative to the opt-in/opt-out process for temporary visitors is used at New York University (NYU). The university populates its mass emergency notification database automatically as students start their academic careers, but also gives temporary visitors the opportunity to enroll in NYU Alert via the SMS opt-in method. For example:

  • Visitors wishing to enroll for 24 hours text “NYUALERT1” to 67283
  • Visitors wishing to enroll for one week text “NYUALERT7” to 67283
  • Visitors wishing to enroll for six months text “NYUCOMMUNITY” to 67283

As soon as the selected time period expires, temporary visitors are sent a reminder with instructions on how to re-enroll. If visitors fail to re-enroll, their information is removed from NYU´s emergency notification database. It is a very simple process and it enhances the safety of anyone participating in an NYU-Sponsored program - including visitors to campus, program participants and their parents. These extra safety steps can play a large role in the college or university students choose to attend. 

Other Ways in which SMS Opt-In Systems can be Used

Although NYU only gives temporary visitors three options for enrolling in the university´s mass notification system, the actual number of options available is almost infinite. Organizations with an SMS opt-in system that uses a dedicated short code number can generate countless keywords and sub-keywords in many use-case scenarios - both emergency and non-emergency.

There are many benefits to this capability. By using different keywords, organizations can create different categories within their emergency databases according to location, role, or other attribute. When an event occurs that only affects one category (for example a fire in an isolated building of a university campus), emergency notifications can be sent to only those for whom the alert is relevant.

There are no limits to how many keywords businesses, universities, and state and local governments can generate, or how many categories they can create. Therefore, in theory, it would be possible for residents wanting to be informed of traffic delays (the category), to receive information relevant to their location (a sub-category), in Spanish or any other available language (sub-categories of a sub-category).

Find Out More about SMS Opt-In Emergency Notification Systems

SMS Opt-in Product Info Sheet


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Written by Andrea Lebron

Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.


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