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Text vs. SMS vs. MMS: What's the Difference?

All the best marketers know that it’s crucial to reach their customers at the right time, with the right message. But what about the right place? With Americans spending 5.4 hours a day on their phones, it’s no surprise that text message marketing has exploded among brands in recent years. Text message marketing services like Voxie have even generated ten times more revenue than traditional marketing channels like email.

For marketers and brands that are new to text message marketing or eager to learn more, let’s explore a few basic nuances. For starters, what’s the difference between text, SMS, and MMS messaging? Well, text messaging and SMS, or Short Message Service, are essentially synonymous. On the other hand, MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. Using the same technology as SMS, MMS is typically used to send pictures, videos, audio, phone contacts, and other media between mobile devices rather than text alone. Let’s dig in a little further.

Text SMS MMS Messages Brand Conversation

In the image above, the white and blue text bubbles represent SMS/text messages. The picture message is an example of an MMS message.

Text/SMS Messaging

Invented in 1984 by Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert, text/SMS messaging is one of the oldest and most widely-used data applications in the world. Standard SMS messages have a 160-character limit per message. When messages exceed the character limit, they are broken up into segments of up to 160 characters each. In 2007, Americans sent and received more text messages than phone calls per month for the very first time. Today, Americans text twice as much as they call.

MMS Messaging

Now think of MMS messaging as an extension to SMS messaging that was developed in order to enable the exchange of multimedia content via text message. While MMS messages don’t have a standard limit, they do have maximum file size constraints depending on the carrier and device receiving the message. Most carriers can reliably handle a message size (along with attachments) of up to 300 KB. Picture messaging is the most common application of MMS messaging, but other use cases have risen over time, ranging from weather reports to sports news.

SMS/MMS Message Marketing Implications

With potential customers around the world sending and receiving text messages at virtually every second of every day, SMS marketing presents a massive opportunity for brands to communicate with their customers where they’re already spending their time. In fact, SMS open rates are upwards of 98% compared to only 20% for email, and response rates fall around 45% and 6% respectively. Research also shows that 75% of consumers said that they’d like receiving an offer via text, and 65% of marketers say that SMS marketing is one of their most effective marketing channels. Whether you’re interested in getting started with SMS marketing or looking for ways to boost your existing SMS marketing performance, consider these three fundamental best practices:

1. Use MMS messages to enhance your SMS marketing

Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Sure, receiving a 10% off text message deal from your favorite pizza parlor is enticing. But what if it’s followed by a high-quality image of the full menu? What about a picture of your favorite deep dish pizza smothered in melted cheese? Use MMS messages to amplify your SMS marketing messages, and make it as easy as possible for your customers to take your desired action.

Text message SMS MMS restaurant happy hour flow

2. Be creative!

Text message marketing offers unique capabilities that may not be available through your other marketing channels. 36% of millennials aged 18 to 34 prefer emojis and gifs (re: MMS messages) over words when it comes to communicating their thoughts and feelings. Experiment with emojis in your text message copy! Complement your text copy with relevant video or other media to illustrate your brand’s unique value proposition.

In 2019, SNICKERS® launched a groundbreaking SMS marketing campaign aimed at lifting the spirits of smartphone users “amidst the negativity displayed across thousands of mobile screens daily.” Through the ‘Big Mood’ campaign, gifters could send a friend a SNICKERS® Bar along with a personalized message by texting BIG MOOD to 62770. Whether you’re A/B testing different text message copy or creating a viral SMS marketing referral campaign, always remember to keep your customer at the forefront of your strategy.

3. Personalize your message

According to Harvard Business Review, one-to-one marketing means changing your behavior toward an individual customer based on what they tell you, along with what else you know about that customer. Tailoring your message to your targeted audience is a well-known industry best practice, and your SMS marketing efforts should be no different. Again, think like a consumer. If a brand texts you a generic offer for a product or service that you have no interest in, are you more likely to engage or opt out? Conversely, say you receive a text message from a brand that addresses you by name and provides an exclusive offer based on your previous purchase behavior. Does your likelihood to engage with the brand change?

One of the biggest challenges marketers face is the ability to scale their personalization efforts, especially when it comes to the emerging channel of text message marketing. While several SMS marketing platforms offer the ability to send one-way text message blasts at scale, exponential value can be unlocked through delivering that personalized, one-to-one touchpoint.

Text SMS Message Retail Campaign

Voxie offers a differentiated SMS marketing experience by enabling brands to engage in two-way conversations with their customers. Customer responses, behavior, and sentiment are stored and leveraged to segment your contact list, create targeted SMS marketing campaigns and ultimately drive repeat purchases. Interested in learning more?

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