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The difference between SMS and MMS text messages: How to combine the two for standout marketing

Learn the difference between SMS and MMS text formats along with ways to combine them for unmissable messaging.

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What’s the difference between SMS and MMS text messages and why does it matter? What even are those types of messages?

These are questions we hear every day from business owners starting out their text marketing strategy. The good news is, both SMS and MMS are easily accessible text marketing tools.

We’ll walk you through the differences between SMS and MMS text messages along with instructions for using both to send audio, video, GIFs, and more.

What is SMS messaging?

SMS, which stands for Short Message Service, is a fancy term for text messages under 160 characters. If you want to get technical, it’s a special communications protocol created to send and receive text messages over cellular networks. 

The first text message was sent via the SMS protocol way back in 1992. It is the most widespread and frequently used texting technology.

What is MMS messaging?

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service, and it’s a type of texting that involves media (like videos, images, GIFs, and audio) and up to 1,600 characters. 

MMS is an extension of the core SMS protocol, and it was developed to enable the transmission of multimedia content via text message. 

What is the difference between SMS and MMS text messages?

The main difference between SMS and MMS messages is the type of content you can send. With SMS, you can only use plain text under 160 characters. (With extended SMS, you can send up to 306 characters.) 

MMS allows you to send images, videos, audio, GIFs, PDFs, and text up to 1,600 characters. However, because of the increased character length, MMS messages typically cost more to send.

TL;DR: SMS comes with a 160-character limit, while MMS allows for 1,600 characters as well as media such as pictures, videos, or audio.

You’ll run into these two terms most often in the phrases “SMS marketing” and “MMS marketing.”

Let’s get into some more specifics about both.

SMS vs. MMS at a glance

Almost all devices support both SMS and MMS, so you usually don’t need to stick to one over the other. Realistically, a good text marketing strategy should include a combination of the two for variety.

As you can see here, SMS and MMS text messages can look quite different, meaning you can match the message type to the text you’re sending.

A preview of SMS and MMS messages

The biggest differences between SMS and MMS messages go beyond the visual elements and MMS’ ability to include media. 

SMS messages are best for quick text-based alerts or notices, while MMS messages are perfect for highlighting products, sales, or anything that needs a visual element.

The table below highlights some of the practical differences between MMS and SMS messages to help you pick the best option for each scenario.

Stands forShort Messaging ServiceMultimedia Messaging Service
ImagesAppear as linksAppear directly in message
Maximum length160 characters1,600 characters
Price1 credit3 credits

You can group the main differences between SMS and MMS into three areas:

  • Character limits
  • Supported media
  • Pricing

MMS gives you more characters

Where SMS marketing only allows for up to 160 characters per text, MMS marketing allows for an unlimited number of characters per text, technically speaking.

Practically speaking, wireless carriers tend to limit the length of MMS messages, but the result is still roomier than SMS.

At SimpleTexting, for example, you get up to 1,600 characters per MMS message.

MMS lets you embed rich media

MMS also gives you the ability to embed rich media like images, audio files, baby elephant GIFs, and short video clips. 

With SMS, you can only include links to your media — you can’t add it directly to the text itself.

There is different pricing for SMS and MMS messages

MMS messages cost a bit more than SMS messages because they involve transmitting more data.

The difference in cost varies from provider to provider. With SimpleTexting’s text messaging platform, MMS costs 3 credits per message. SMS, on the other hand, costs 1 credit per message.

The nice thing is that you can mix and match your MMS and SMS messages to suit your messaging strategy. 

For example, if you buy a 1,000-credit plan, you can send 400 SMS messages and 200 MMS messages. (400 + [200*3] = 400 + 600 = 1,000.)

A credit breakdown of SMS and MMS messages

In case you’re wondering, “Why should I pay more for MMS?”, the answer is simple: MMS campaigns have a 20% higher opt-in rate than SMS campaigns. MMS messages are also 8x more likely to be shared on social media.

Don’t take our word for it, though. Check out these SimpleTexting customers who got amazing results using MMS.

When to use SMS messages

We recommend choosing SMS for messages where “short and sweet” makes the most sense. SMS is perfect for communicating important details, from order confirmations to time-sensitive alerts.

SMS messages are also great for campaigns where you’re bringing contacts in using a keyword

A keyword is simply a short word or phrase that contacts can text to your number to agree to receive texts from you. If you’re expecting a lot of new contacts, using SMS for your confirmation message can help keep your costs low. 

Here’s an example:

You are now signed up for text updates about the 5th Annual Easton Marathon. Reply with your email to get updates there, too.

SMS messages also work well for transactional texts like:

  • Order confirmations and delivery tracking
  • Appointment reminders and updates
  • Updates
  • Password resets and two-factor authentication (2FA)

Finally, many of our awesome customers also use SMS for marketing and promotions, generating new sales, and improving engagement with coupons and other offers.

When to use MMS messages

Most promotional text messages benefit from photos, GIFs, or videos. 

The reason is simple: Those who use visual communication to get their message across to an audience are more successful than those who rely on words alone. 

We ran an A/B test with a SimpleTexting customer to prove the concept, and the test found that the MMS message in the test received a 52% higher click-through rate (CTR) than the SMS message. 

Consider sending MMS when you want to:

  • Show off your product
  • Offer a mobile coupon
  • Invite your contacts to an event
  • Send a birthday or anniversary message
  • Run a competition

The first 50 people who show this image on their phone at checkout receive 20% off their entire purchase. 

Send your contact card with a welcome message

Texting out your contact card with your welcome message encourages your subscribers to save your contact info right off the bat so they recognize and trust your texts going forward.

First thing, you’ll need to create and download a virtual business card (you can design a free one in Canva).

Example of a business card to attach to a text message

Once you’ve created your card, you’ll attach it to a message. People do this most often with a keyword. 

Keywords are words or phrases that new contacts can text to your number to sign up for your texts. A dog grooming business might use the keyword “GROOMER.”

An example of a keyword setup in SimpleTexting

Your keyword setup will require an auto-confirmation message that automatically replies to new subscribers. You’ll use this message to send your business card.

Send images or animated GIFs for promotions (and beyond)

Images and GIFs help communicate your message more effectively and add an engaging visual component.

If you’re sending a GIF from your phone’s messaging app, you’ll only need to follow a few steps.

  1. Copy your GIF from an app or website like GIPHY.
  2. Launch your texting app.
  3. Paste your GIF.
  4. Hit “send.”

The process is just as easy within your SimpleTexting account.

  1. Head to the Campaigns tab and start a new campaign.
  2. Select MMS as the message type.
An example of an MMS campaign
  1. Hit the paperclip icon above the message box and add your GIF. Highlight the GIF in your media library and click the blue “Include” button.
Adding media to an MMS campaign
  1. Fill out and send or schedule your campaign as usual. Your subscribers will see the full-size GIF in the body of the text.
How an image looks when attached to an MMS campaign

Sending an image in your text takes a few more steps.

  1. Start a new campaign in the Campaigns tab.
  2. Choose “MMS” as the campaign type.
Setting your message type to MMS

3. Click the paperclip button.

The "Add media" icon in an MMS campaign setup

4. Upload the desired image or paste in the URL where it’s located.

Choosing your media to upload to an MMS message

5. Click the image once it’s uploaded and hit the blue “include” button.

How to include your file to an MMS message

6. Send your campaign as usual.

Send pictures as links in SMS text messages

It’s still possible to send photos without using MMS, but your image won’t appear in the text message itself. 

With SMS, you can instead include links that, when clicked, send recipients to the photo online.

Here are six steps to attach an image to an SMS message as a link:

  1. Open a new campaign.
  2. Ensure SMS is selected as your campaign type.
  3. Select the image icon.
Adding media to an SMS message

4. Paste the image’s URL or upload a file from your computer. Any JPG, PNG, or GIF file up to 10MB will work.

5. Hit the “insert” button.

6. Send your campaign.

Send PDFs for invoices or additional information

Texts (even MMS messages) are a super concise way to communicate, and what you have to say might not always fit within 1600 or 160 characters.

In those cases, you can text a PDF that includes the information you couldn’t include in the body of your message.

  1. From your SimpleTexting account, go to Campaigns and select SMS as your message type.
  2. Click the media icon.
Sending a PDF in an SMS message

3. Upload your PDF as a URL or a file, then press the blue Include button.

Adding a PDF as an attachment to an SMS message

4. Your PDF will appear in your message as a link that will send recipients to the document online.

Send PDFs with two-way business texting

That’s the campaign PDF setup, but you also have the option of sending PDF files through your two-way messaging Inbox. 

Simply open the conversation where you want to send the file and click the paperclip icon below the message box.

Attaching media to an SMS business texting message

Click Upload and add your desired PDF with the blue Include button.

Your PDF will show up in your message as a link just like in a campaign.

How to text a PDF via MMS

While the steps here are the same, PDFs sent with an MMS message will show directly in the message body instead of as a link.

When a subscriber clicks on the PDF, it opens within the text message, where the recipient can save the PDF like a photo.

  1. Start a new campaign and select MMS as the message type.
Selecting MMS as your message type

2. Choose the paperclip icon.

The Add media icon in an MMS campaign

3. Follow the steps to upload your PDF as a file or from a URL.

4. Your PDF will show up directly in your message and can open without the need for an internet connection.

Send audio files 

Maybe you’re sending out some content meant for the audio learners on your subscriber lists, like a podcast or a voice memo announcement. Piece of cake.

If you want to send an audio file bigger than 1 MB, you’ll do so via a link in an SMS message.

  1. Start a new campaign with SMS as the type.
  2. In the message box, paste a link to your audio file.
  3. Click the chain link button above your text to shorten your URL. This will help you save space and characters as well as allow you to track who did and did not click on your link for each campaign.
  4. Your audio file will show up as a link in the message box. The URL will be automatically shortened, and it will show in the preview box on the right the way your subscribers will see it.
  5. Type out your message and send your campaign.

The resulting message will look like this to recipients. When they click the link, they will be redirected to listen to your audio.

#TuneTriviaTuesday: Listen to this clip and reply back with the song name and artist. Correct answers will be entered to win a raffle!

How to send audio files via MMS

To use this method, your file must be 1 MB or less. 

If your file is bigger than that, you can try to compress it. There are a few different ways to do so.

The easiest way is by using Adobe Premiere or Audition. You can set your compression to a significant amount (aka 1 MB). There are other free tools out there with a few extra steps, like HandBrake.

Once you’re ready to text your audio file, follow these steps.

  1. Start a campaign with MMS as the type.
  2. Choose the paperclip icon.
  3. Upload and include your desired 1 MB audio file. 
  4. Your file will show up in the body of your text where recipients can click to open it.

Send videos

Sending a video text message is one of our top tips for standing out in subscribers’ inboxes and showing off your brand’s voice.

An example of a text message containing a video

And you don’t have to take our word for it. Let me show you how one of our customers does this. 

Our customer Casey regularly sends texts with a video and a discount on monthly services to customers who book a single cleaning with his company.

Here’s how to replicate the process using SimpleTexting.

  1. From your inbox, open a conversation and type a message in the box.
  2. Click the media icon.
  3. Upload your video and include it.
  4. Send or schedule your text. 
Attaching a video file to a business texting SMS message


Still have questions? We don’t blame you. Check out these FAQs from business owners like you.

Is iPhone SMS or MMS? 

iPhones support sending and receiving both SMS and MMS through their Messages app.
Android devices can send and receive both SMS and MMS messages through the Messages app. 
Not exactly. Smartphones are very common nowadays, but not every phone owner has one, and some cell phone plans don’t allow for MMS. 
We love MMS, but as with all things, it does have a few cons. 

  • MMS costs more than SMS because of the data transmission involved.
  • MMS messages may not reach contacts who can’t receive them because of their cell phone or plan.
  • If you’re sending images or video, you’ll need to be careful that your media is high-quality and well-designed (which means you may need someone on your team to design your visuals).

Start using SMS and MMS messages in your marketing strategy

We all love exciting visuals, so it’s not surprising that text messages with pictures typically drive more engagement. However, with conversion rates from SMS campaigns as high as 45%, your text marketing strategy should include a mixture of both.

If you’re interested in SMS or MMS marketing, here are some helpful links to get you started:

If you’d prefer to chat with someone, our team of SMS marketing experts would love to help. We’re available 7 days a week. Text or call us at (866) 450-4185 or use the chat icon at the bottom of your screen.

Drew Wilkinson
Drew Wilkinson

Drew Wilkinson is the Head of Marketing at SimpleTexting. Drew has more than a decade of experience managing successful integrated marketing programs to build brands, raise awareness, and generate demand.

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