Chapter 1

The Fundamentals of SMS

Last Updated: September 2019

The Fundamentals of SMS.jpg

We're excited that you're here with us and interested in the world of SMS and what it has to offer.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of SMS marketing, let's go over some basics to help you understand the rest of the chapters.

With that, let's dive right in!



What is an SMS?

SMS stands for Short Message Service, which is often referred to as a text message. They are ubiquitous—any mobile phone in the world can send or receive them, and they don't require a data connection to do so. 

A single SMS message has a 160 character limit, but you can send up to 612 characters in the form of 4 concatenated messages. 

If you plan to send messages longer than 160 characters, we recommend using this SMS Character Counter tool to help you check where your message is concatenated.




MMS, which stands for Multimedia Message Service, is not as commonly used as an SMS.

For the most part, MMS does everything an SMS can, but it offers an extended set of features that SMS does not have, which includes sending images or animated gifs.

Here’s how they compare:

Subject Title Not Available Up to 20 characters
Message Copy Up to 612 Characters
*1-3x Concatenation after 160*
Up to 1,000 Characters
*No concatenation*
Custom Sender ID Available Available
2 Way SMS Available Not Available
Keywords Available Not Available
Unicode Characters Available Available
Website Links Available Available
Unique Link Tracking Available Not Available
Multimedia Files Not Available .jpg and .gif
Pricing Based on # of messages Based on overall file size

MMS is about 4-5x more expensive than an SMS, and each campaign includes setup fees.

Want to learn more about MMS? Check out these resources:



Shortcodes & Virtual Numbers

When it comes to branding or creating a memorable experience for your customer, dedicated virtual numbers and shortcodes are highly recommended. They add an important layer of consistency and trust for your customers towards your marketing efforts. These numbers can be leased on a month to month basis and cancelled at any time.

Dedicated Virtual Numbers

Dedicated Virtual Numbers, which are also known as long codes or response numbers, are leased on a month to month basis. They look like a regular number (eg +61 459 333 444) and can receive SMS messages.

There are 3 types: standard, gold, and vanity. Gold numbers are easy to recognise and remember. Vanity numbers are used to spell a word using the keypad.

  • Standard number: +61 467 528 788

  • Gold number: +61 459 333 444

  • Vanity number: +61 467 528 778 (614675BURST)

Shared Virtual Numbers

If you don't lease a dedicated virtual number, a free shared number is your default option.

There are a couple of caveats though. You share the number with other businesses. The number also changes from time to time from a pool of rotating numbers. 

Imagine yourself receiving 3 SMS from the same business but each from a different number.


Shortcodes are similar to dedicated virtual numbers, but they're more expensive. These numbers typically range between 4 to 6 digits (e.g. 134568), and their length depends on the country's delivery policies and general availability. They are used for promotions, voting, information services, and by large corporate enterprises. Some countries, like New Zealand, require you to send messages via shortcode only.

Keep in mind that we don’t provide shortcodes in Australia. You’ll need to contact your carrier to procure one.




Spam Compliance

We all know as consumers ourselves, spam is a big no-no.

Spam laws aren’t meant to handcuff your SMS marketing campaigns. In fact, abiding by the spam laws helps you create better campaigns that build trust with your customers.

To be spam compliant, there are few important rules to follow:

  1. Permissions: The recipient must be aware that they opted-in to receive commercial messages from your company

  2. Identify Yourself: By law you must always identify yourself by company name either in the Sender ID or within the SMS itself.

  3. Opt-out Option: Give them the option to unsubscribe. As a responsible sender, you must provide an opt-out. This must be displayed within the SMS, usually on the very bottom of any message. Most SMS platforms automatically generate this opt-out for you inside your send screen.

That said, there are organisations that are exempt from the SPAM law in specific countries. For example, in Australia these exemptions include: 

  • Government bodies

  • Registered charities

  • Registered political parties

  • Educational institutions

  • Purely factual messages

Spam compliance is all about doing the right thing for your audience. If you’d like to learn more about building your SMS list the right way, check out our anti-spam policy