Pros and cons of opt-in based alerting systems

Opt-in emergency alert

This is a continuation in a series about the three main types of alerting systems; subscription, opt-in, and intrusive. The first article described the pros and cons of subscription-based alerting systems.

An opt-in based system can be defined as one where an external party handles all of the aspects of contact management on your behalf. A subscriber still has to voluntarily consent to using your service, but they no longer have to provide their contact information, the external party does this for you, as well as keeps it up-to-date. Opt-in systems therefore offer a much lower barrier to entry, in many cases its a single click for your subscribers to join.

Examples of opt-in systems are many social media services like Twitter and Facebook. Its a very simple process to Follow a user or Like a page and is a core design feature of these services that has lead to their widespread popularity. The Apple App and Google Play stores also follow this model, making the download of an app very simple and all of the user management is handled by the store. Even SMS short code services, where you can join and leave with a single text are also examples of opt-in systems. In all cases, the third party service makes signup very easy for users, and significantly reduces the management burden of the subscriber list, leading to higher market penetration than a subscription service.

There are some downsides to opt-in services. In order to precisely target alerts for users, a user must additionally provide more information about their location, rather than just clicking Like. Otherwise the user may get alerts that don’t necessarily apply to them. So an enhanced method of supplying additional contact information, while remaining within the bounds of the third party’s capabilities, is needed. Examples include providing location information via an app or check-ins on social media. Privacy can still remain a concern with opt-in systems and so its important that the interactions between the third party system and the opt-in system take the necessary precautions.

Take care. Be prepared.

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