MMS vs. SMS: What’s the Difference for Marketing?


In an era of screen fatigue, SMS and MMS offer a simplified way for businesses to communicate with their prospects and customers. According to Gartner, mobile marketing is known to have higher read and response rates (98% and 45%, respectively) than email (20% and 6%).

To be successful with SMS and MMS as marketing channels, the key is to use text messaging in a way that supports your audience’s interests and needs.  It will be important to avoid being intrusive or overwhelming in your outreach.  

An understanding of MMS vs. SMS on a technical and tactical level will help you figure out how to create a marketing experience that audiences value and appreciate.

SMS overview: Considerations for text messaging in marketing

Technical basics

Short service messaging (SMS) was developed in the 1980s and is one of the oldest, most widespread, and frequently used messaging services, according to Twilio.

Any mobile device, whether it’s a basic cellular phone or a more sophisticated device like a smartphone, can receive SMS messages. And compared to other modes of communication, text messaging is relatively low bandwidth, with many cell phone providers offering voice, data, and unlimited SMS communication bundles. (Though some cell phone plans charge users per message at a low rate of a few cents per message.) 


For example, if you’re an iPhone user, you can send and receive an unlimited number of text messages to other iPhone users, free of charge, via iMessage. For these reasons, texting tends to be cost and time-efficient.

By default, SMS messages have 160 characters maximum. However, texting was originally designed to support short, concise, tactical messages. But this use case has evolved to allow for more in-depth conversations between individuals who can send longer SMS messages if needed.

For a longer text message, messaging or native apps, like iMessage, iPhone, and Android, will string together these 160 character blocks into a cohesive reading experience, which in turn allowed texting to evolve and support long-form digital dialogues — including tactical discussions with brands.

SMS marketing stats to think about

One question you may be pondering as a marketer is whether texting makes sense for your overall customer outreach strategy. With the increase in eCommerce, as well as at-home delivery, you may be thinking: How does SMS messaging fit into my communication puzzle? 

Here are a few insights to guide your thought process: 

  • Over 75% of customers are open to receiving SMS from a brand after opt-in. In other words, people trust texting as a platform for receiving information that is commercial in nature, but only when they give their express consent for these communications.
  • 67% of consumers believe delivery updates are the most effective SMS messages, followed by order confirmations (64%), appointment reminders (64%), calendar reminders (54%), and promotional coupons (49%), according to research from Textlocal. This data set illustrates the need for brands to be mindful when orchestrating messaging so that it’s helpful in nature.
  • Nearly 90% of texts are opened in three minutes, which validates the previously-known fact that people pay close attention to their phones. Although brands have the opportunity to send engaging messages, it is equally likely that these communications can appear spammy, resulting in frustrated audiences.

For recipients, text messages have the potential to be communicative and helpful. Think of this channel as a way to orient audiences from point A to point B. At the same time, it’s crucial to not abuse this channel by going overboard with text campaigns, which might result in dissatisfied customers.

MMS vs. SMS: Does media fit into a texting campaign?

Technical basics

Multimedia messaging service (MMS) is when you send or receive content such as videos, GIFs, memes, or audio over a messaging platform. Behind the scenes, this technology uses a combination of validation and authentication protocols for sharing digital content.

The video below explains more about the technology, especially with respect to how it differs from SMS:

MMS messaging trends to keep in mind

While SMS was first introduced in the 1980s, MMS technology is much newer, having shown up around 2002. It was first used for commercial purposes somewhere between 2004 and 2005.

Knowing this information: marketers should be mindful of a few things with regards to MMS campaigns.

  • It’s expensive for audiences to send and receive messages. MMS messages are bandwidth-heavy due to large file sizes.. For this reason, people may prefer to save this communication channel for personal correspondence with friends and family. And from a brand perspective, bulk MMS messages can potentially overwhelm servers.
  • Some devices may not be able to display multimedia. While almost any modern phone can handle SMS, the same can’t be said for MMS. There’s a greater likelihood that your audiences will receive an error message from your campaign, which can be frustrating.
  • The success of your campaign depends on where audiences are geographically located. Mobile devices need at least a 3G connection to send and receive multimedia. In regions where connections may be slower, your audiences might have trouble receiving or opening messages.

It may make sense to keep communication to SMS only rather than adding images or sounds that might not be received by a portion of your audience.

SMS vs. MMS: Planning a campaign

The process for planning an SMS and MMS campaign is similar. Depending on your audience, it may make sense to send MMS messages sparingly, especially if your recipients are unlikely to have, or can afford a high-bandwidth data plan.

Before you plan a campaign, one thing to think about in the context of your message. A good rule of thumb is to understand what types of messaging audiences are open to receiving,  as well as how often. (Earlier in this post, we shared a bit of insight into people’s willingness to receive text message communications. Please, refer back to that section for more clarification.) 

Let’s say, for instance, that you’re looking to build a list for sharing order status updates — this makes particular sense for grocery and food delivery businesses. Collecting opt-ins for text messages will be informative and mutually beneficial to both the company and the customer. Traditionally, consistent communication yields a positive experience, which, in turn, creates a positive outlook and brand trust. Eventually, you might be able to get some of those subscribers to opt-in to receive sparing promotions. 


Perhaps you want to send your audience an offer a few days before a holiday to remind them that your delivery service is available for last-minute items. In this situation, consider sending subscribers a low-bandwidth, multimedia message, as a reminder. Just make sure you’ve already received consent (which you should have received during opt-in) before sending multimedia messages.

Once you have a campaign plan in place, make sure to execute it in a compliant and respectful manner. That means:

  • Research data collection laws in the regions where you’re acquiring customers.
  • Take precautions to prevent the likelihood of a security breach, including scanning content for viruses, implementing vulnerability scanners, and creating threat remediation protocols.
  • Continue to maintain the integrity of your list, which includes making it easy for people to opt-out from receiving communications.

If you’re looking for additional tips to build your list, take a look at this guide to build lead-generating opt-ins for your text marketing list. Learn to add opt-in messages to existing flows, offer incentives, build lists from previously collected phone numbers, capture information from website visitors, and more. With consent, text message communication has the potential to be a meaningful, valuable, and purposeful tool for your campaigns.

Last but not least

As with any marketing campaign, always remember that there’s a human being on the other side of the screen. That individual, like the rest of us, has a lot going on in life. One of the most important steps any marketer can take is to view your messaging app as a relationship-building bridge.

Prioritize what you’re able to give above what you’re looking to get from a transactional perspective. SMS and MMS are valuable pathways to helping your audiences feel empowered and inspired.

Launch your own texting campaign with ManyChat.

SMS Disclaimer
This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please always consult your own attorney before engaging in text marketing.

You already voted!
The contents of this blog were independently prepared and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ManyChat or any other party. Individual results may vary.