Chapter 1

The Fundamentals of SMS

Congratulations on taking the first step towards learning all about the world of SMS and what value it can bring to your business, no matter the industry. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of SMS marketing, let’s go over the basics to give you a foundation of what SMS is. With that, let’s dive right in!
Chapter 1
The Fundamentals of SMS

1.1 What is an SMS?

SMS stands for Short Message Service, usually known as a text message. They’re ubiquitous—meaning any mobile phone in the world can send and receive SMS right out of the box without a data connection.

A single text message has a 160 character limit, but you can send up to 612 characters in the form of four concatenated messages. Learn how to measure your SMS character count and how concatenation works.

1.2 SMS vs. MMS

MMS stands for Multimedia Message Service, and they’re less common than SMS for business use. In its simplest definition, MMS is a more visual version of an SMS.

MMS does everything an SMS can with exception to having 2-way capabilities and keywords. That said, it does offer an extended set of features, which includes a longer character count, subject line, and image and GIF capabilities.

Here’s how they compare:

SMS MMS
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:

If you’re interested in sending an MMS campaign, get in touch with us.

1.3 Shortcodes & Virtual Numbers

If you want to create a consistent and memorable customer experience, then you should use a dedicated virtual number or shortcode when sending SMS marketing campaigns.

Lease these numbers on a month-to-month basis and cancel them at any time.

Dedicated Virtual Numbers

Dedicated Virtual Numbers, which are also known as long codes or response numbers, look like regular numbers and can receive SMS.

There are three types: standard, gold, and vanity.

Gold numbers are easy to recognise and remember, while vanity numbers spell out a word using your mobile phone’s keypad.

  • Standard number: +61 467 528 788
  • Gold number: +61 459 333 444
  • Vanity number: +61 467 528 778 (614675BURST)

When you lease a dedicated virtual number, you also have the option to send your SMS marketing campaigns with a Custom Sender ID.

Instead of coming from a number, your campaign comes from a name. But here’s the caveat. You can’t receive SMS replies directly, making it inconvenient for opt-outs.

Instead of replying to your SMS message, they have to text your number directly. Use Custom Sender IDs are better suited for one way SMS campaigns.

Shared Virtual Numbers

If you choose not to lease a dedicated virtual number, our online SMS service provides you with a free shared virtual number to use.

Here’s a word of caution. You share the number with other businesses, and the shared number changes from time to time from a pool of rotating numbers.

Imagine yourself receiving three text messages from the same business but each from a different number. Confusing, right?

Shortcodes

Shortcodes are similar to dedicated virtual numbers, but they’re much more expensive. They range from 4 to 6 digits (e.g. 134568). Their length depends on the country’s delivery policies and general availability.

Some countries, like New Zealand, require you to send messages via shortcode only. Large enterprises and organisations use them for promotions, voting, and information services.

We don’t provide shortcodes in Australia. If you need one, contact your local carrier directly.

1.4 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 body copy of your text message.
  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 message composer.

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.

Go back to
Beginner's Guide to SMS Marketing
Chapter 2
5 Reasons why you should use SMS Marketing