What's the difference between SMS and MMS (and which is better?)

Text messaging has become the preferred method of communication for nearly everyone in the world. Texting has taken over not only personal conversations but also interactions with businesses.

When setting up your text messaging strategy, you will see both SMS and MMS messaging mentioned, and this article will help you learn about the differences and benefits of both.

SMS vs. MMS Overview

What is SMS messaging and what does SMS stand for?

SMS messaging stands for "Short Messaging Service." Short Messaging Service is the first communications protocol created for text messaging, and in fact, the first text message ever sent was an SMS text message. SMS is the most commonly used text message technology, and about 6 billion SMS messages are sent every day.

What is MMS messaging and what does MMS stand for?

MMS messaging stands for "Multimedia Messaging Service." Multimedia Messaging Service is an extension of SMS technology and was created to transmit multimedia content such as video, images and links via text messages.

MMS allows images and multimedia to show up in the text chat, whereas any image sent over SMS will show up as a link to the media. See below for an example of both:

difference between sms and mms

What’s the difference between SMS and MMS?

The way images are passed through the chat is one significant difference between MMS and SMS, but there are some additional disparities as well:




Character Count

160 Characters

1,600 Characters

Data Usage

Up to 1,120 bits

Up to 500 kb 

As you can see in the chart above, SMS limits users to only a 160 character limit, hence Short Messaging Service. In addition to sending multimedia message files up to 500 kb in size, MMS allows you to send up to 1,600 characters as well.

Texting for Business: When to Use SMS vs. MMS

Now that we know the difference between SMS and MMS, you may be wondering when you should use one over the other.

When choosing between the two, it's best to have a clear idea of who your audience is, what your campaign goals and the type of content you will be sending before deciding one way or the other.

When to Use SMS Messages

Although SMS has a tighter character restriction and may not look as aesthetically pleasing as MMS messages, there are still many times when SMS is the best method of communication.

SMS is recommended when you need to deliver a short and direct message to your customer or prospect.

SMS is simple and direct. Currently, 89% of customers prefer to communicate with businesses through texts. Texting for business converts at a higher rate compared to other channels, and it increases customer satisfaction.

Using shorter, text-only SMS messages to communicate with customers, you’re actually tapping into one of the greatest strengths of this channel: it’s simplicity. SMS messages are immediate and no-frills. It’s sometimes exactly what a customer wants.

What is the difference between SMS and MMS messages when it comes to costs for your business? Once you have your customers signed up, SMS is cheaper than MMS to keep your customers up to date and engaged with your brand. Because SMS is a text-only service, and you’re not sending videos, images and other expensive data files, the costs of sending each message are lower.

Here are some of the best ways to use SMS in your business communications:

One to One Conversation

Selling is the soul of every business, and SMS is one of the simplest and most effective ways to increase sales. To do that, you need people to buy your product or service. However, people need to know that you exist before you can sell them anything.

If you want potential customers to show more interest in your company, ask them to sign up to receive your text messages. You can use SMS messaging to keep them up to date on promotions, events, and other vital events.

SMS text messages are great conversational tools that don’t require any multimedia or large files. All you’re doing is having a conversation with leads and customers in a quick, convenient way.

Order Confirmations and Delivery Tracking

SMS is the preferred way to communicate transactional information with customers. These texts can take multiple forms, but some of the most popular are:

  • Order confirmations
  • Transaction details/ receipts
  • Delivery tracking
  • Delivery updates

Appointment Reminders and Updates

Sending an SMS text to remind a customer of an appointment they made is a great way to avoid late arrivals and a way to minimize no-shows. Because 98 percent of text messages are read, you can almost guarantee your customer will see the reminder SMS you send to them.

Password Resets and Two-factor Authentication

When customers forget their passwords, the easiest way to get in touch quickly is through text messages. Via SMS, you can easily send a link for a customer to reset their password. You can also implement two-factor authentication measures to be sent via SMS to add a layer of security to any log-ins or transactions. These are simple messages that don’t require the added space, capabilities or expense of MMS. 

Customer Service

SMS is a great way to allow your customers to access customer service on their own time. They can text their questions and get support via text rather than having to call in and wait endlessly on hold. Customers can get in touch with your support team quickly and easy through SMS, and you can manage multiple cases at once, increasing the efficiency of your customer service overall.

Internal Operations Management

SMS can be used internally to help manage operations. For businesses looking to communicate with field teams or schedule shift workers via text, SMS will offer the quickest, most effective means of communication.

SMS can help your internal operations run more smoothly and increase the transparency. Your team can get in touch with you as easily as a quick message, and they can be better informed on the job that needs doing. 

SMS is also a wonderful tool to enhance the experience for recruitment. With SMS messages, recruiters can use a fast, reliable method of communicating with candidates and moving people through the recruitment process with more accuracy and efficiency.

When to Use MMS Messages

On average, MMS marketing campaigns boast 15% to 20% higher engagement levels than traditional SMS messages.

That’s because MMS messages have a little more pop than SMS messages, which can be valuable when you are trying to get your customers' attention. Like SMS messaging, MMS messaging can provide one-to-one conversations with your customers and engage them personally, but (depending on the situation) people are often more likely to gravitate to texts in their inbox that contain pictures or videos.

The use cases for text messages can be extensive in the business world. If you're subscribed to a company's text marketing campaign, think about the different messages you've received from them. They were more than likely MMS messages.

MMS messages are used more in text message marketing when images or videos add a layer of impact vs. a conventional SMS message with text only.

Here are some of the best ways to use MMS messaging for your business:


MMS messaging is ideal for promotions because you can add visuals to your upcoming promotion and engage your customers with a more personalized approach.

In fact, 77% of customers said they opted into a company's text messages to find out about new promotions.

When running a flash sale, texting is the best way to get the word out. Because your sale will only be for a limited time, the quickness of a text is a valuable way to alert your customers of a limited time offer and increase your conversion rates.

Using MMS allows you to up the engagement of your campaign to give it more impact by using images or videos to catch the attention of your customers.

Reduce the number of abandoned carts

You have done all the hard work to attract customers to your website and interest them in what you are selling. The last step is to make sure they don't abandon their cart.

You can send them text messages reminding them of the goods they left in the cart and include enticing offers to get them across the finish line. So many companies choose to do this kind of reminder via email, which is helpful if you’re trying to reach someone who’s guaranteed to be checking their email frequently.

But, what about the customers who don’t look at their email as much or let things get lost in their email’s promotional folder? You’ll be able to reach those folks better by using text messaging.

MMS wins out over SMS in this particular use case because you can not only remind your customers to come back to their cart, but you can also remind them what’s in their cart by sending them a picture.


Coupons sent through text can be redeemed online with a few taps, making online shopping more likely thanks to a texted coupon's power. Coupons sent via MMS can be personalized and designed with the customer in mind and with more data capabilities so you can use images, videos or other design files to dress up your coupon.

You can also use MMS to send bar code coupons and QR codes that they can use online or in store.

Special Events

Texting is a great way to tell customers about the cool stuff your business is doing that’s relevant to them. A tent sale, community fundraiser, or even special hours are significant events that can be conveyed to customers with a fun text. MMS is ideal for special events, especially if you want to include particular branded images or designs.

Want to learn more?

Now that you know the difference between SMS and MMS and when to use each to bring more value to your business, you can begin planning your text campaigns to engage your customers (and internal employees!) further.

Texting is a great way to add a personal touch to your sales, operations, customer service and marketing efforts and enable unique one-to-one conversation with your customers.

Reach out to us at Avochato to learn more about using text for your business.