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A complete guide: Text keywords & Auto-reply messages

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

A complete guide: Text keywords & Auto-reply messages in SMS marketing

Hi, Pony Express riders! We hope your mass text messaging campaigns are going great. 🎯 Today, we’ll discuss one essential method to pack a punch on your text marketing campaigns: text keywords. 🥊

We’ve divided this method into the following sections. Please click the titles to link you to your questions about text keywords.

Let’s get started to improve your mass text messaging campaigns!

1. What is a text keyword in text marketing?

Text keywords are words or phrases that customers/members text to a short-code, local or toll-free number of businesses/organizations to subscribe to their specific mass text messaging campaigns. We strongly recommend using text keywords to have successful text marketing campaigns.

💡Text keywords are also known as SMS keywords, mass text marketing keywords, message keywords, and text message keywords.

2. What is an auto-reply message?

Auto-reply messages are automated text messages sent by businesses/organizations to customers/members when they text a specific text keyword. Auto-reply messages are also known as auto-reply text, auto-reply SMS, auto-response message, and autoresponder.

Text keyword and auto-reply message example in SMS marketing
Text keyword and auto-reply message example

Setting up SMS keywords and mass auto-reply messages within Pony Express HQ is very easy. We’ll explain it later in this article, but first, let’s learn why small businesses/organizations should use SMS keywords!

3. Why should you use text keywords in mass text messaging?

  1. Grow your list: Text keywords are a great way to constantly grow the SMS opt-in list, which is one of the essential ingredients of successful mobile marketing campaigns.

  2. Direct targeting: You can deliver specific offers, deals, and coupons to more relevant audiences. For example, you can send newborn products to only newborn parents instead of teenagers.

  3. Run seasonal campaigns: Send seasonal campaign deals to only interested customers. For example, if some people are only interested in your Christmas sales, they can opt into your Christmas SMS message list by texting XMAS to your number.

  4. High ROI: Since only relevant and interested people will subscribe to particular mass messaging lists, your ROI will be high.

  5. VIP segmentation: Text your exclusive offers to only VIP customers.

  6. Show exit: Text keywords are great for showing subscribers the way out if they want to unsubscribe from your SMS marketing list.

These are the six main reasons to use SMS keywords. They can be increased/updated according to the small business's marketing strategy or the organization's aims.

4. How to create text keywords in 3 Steps

STEP 1: Open your Pony Express Dashboard.

STEP 2: Click Create New Group button.

Create text keyword in Mass text messaging - Pony Express HQ

STEP 3: Write your Group Name and Keyword in relevant places. Then click the Create Group button.

Create text keyword in Mass text messaging - Pony Express HQ

Congratulations! You’ve created your SMS keyword successfully. 🎉 Now, let’s continue with how to generate an auto-reply message in 3 steps.

5. How to create an auto-reply message in 3 Steps

STEP 1: Open your Pony Express Dashboard.

STEP 2: Click the Edit Settings button of the group you want to create an auto-reply message.

Create auto-reply message in mass text messaging - Pony Express HQ

STEP 3: In the Settings section, you’ll see a placeholder text in the Auto-Response box as “Hey, thank you for joining the VIP text list.”. If you’re happy with this text, just leave it as it is. If you want to change it, then write your auto-reply message and click the Update Group button.

Create auto-reply message in mass text messaging - Pony Express HQ

Congratulations! You’ve now created your auto-reply message successfully. 🥳 You can always edit or delete your auto-reply message and SMS keyword from the Groups section on the left panel.

NOTE: You can take a screenshot of the box on the right side to share it on your social media and invite prospects to subscribe to your mass text messaging lists.

Promote your text keyword for SMS marketing - Pony Express HQ
Promote your text keyword for SMS marketing - Pony Express HQ

6. Text keyword & auto-reply best practices

You can create successful text keywords and auto-reply messages by applying the best practices below.

Best practices for selecting text keywords

  • Keep your SMS keyword short, simple, and clear

  • You can benefit from your brand name to make your SMS keyword memorable

  • Use only 1 word as a text keyword AMAP

  • Use only characters for your SMS keyword, do not use punctuations like -?(*!+#$§/.,:)

Best practices for first auto-reply message

  • When people text you the SMS keyword to opt-in, send a warm welcome and/or thank you message as an auto-reply message

  • Explain what kind of and how many messages they will receive from you

  • Mention any fees that they could be charged; that standard message and data rates may apply.

  • Let people know how to opt out of your text message campaign by providing a clear opt-out text keyword in your auto-reply messages

  • Write a compliance sentence that confirms their opt-in.

  • Identify your brand/organization name

Text keyword & auto-reply message best practices - Pony Express HQ
Text keyword & auto-reply message best practices

7. Text keyword examples

Opt-in SMS keyword examples:


  • JOIN


  • YES


  • VIP

  • DEAL





  • BOGO



  • TACO




  • XMAS


  • HELP


Opt-out SMS keyword examples:

  • STOP


  • END



  • QUIT

8. How to promote your text keywords?

To make existing or prospective customers text you, you need to promote your text keyword and number properly. Here is a list of physical and online platforms that you can promote your SMS keyword and number:

  • In-store poster

  • Flyers

  • Receipts

  • Website widgets

  • Google My Business profile

  • Social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, Linkedin, or whatever you have)

  • Email campaigns

The critical thing is to make your text keyword and number visible and attractive. For example, you can leave interesting cards on the tables if you have a restaurant. Or, if you are a realtor, you can use your business cards to promote your text keyword and number.

❗️Reminder: According to TCPA opt-in requirements, you can not text any prospects before collecting their opt-ins. So, these two guides can help you on collecting customer opt-ins for your SMS marketing campaigns:

9. Best keyword texting service

This guide explains how to make the best use of text keywords and auto-reply messages. So, you only need to apply these tips through the best keyword texting service: The Pony Express HQ! 😏

Yes, we are quite ambitious when it comes to text keywords because we provide unlimited keywords for each of our clients. 😎 So, if you want to benefit from this unique service for affordable bulk SMS pricing, just sign up for free at → best keyword texting service

Best keyword texting service: Pony Express HQ

Got questions? Leave a comment below 👇

Happy Texting 🤍

The Pony Express HQ Team

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