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Is a Picture Worth 160 Characters? SMS vs. MMS Marketing

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but is that true in mobile marketing? With Mashable reporting on the possibility of MMS campaigns being the “next big thing” in the marketing scene, one has to wonder. Both methods are opt-in only, so only the people interested will end up on the list. Both are also more likely to be opened than email, with the open rate likely to be within a few minutes of sending, given the near-constant use of mobile devices .

Both marketing strategies have their own strengths and weaknesses. Understanding the difference is the only way to weigh your options and decide which one is best for you, your business, or that marketing campaign you’ve been planning.

Multimedia Messaging Service

If someone has ever sent you a photo over your smartphone, without using an app like SnapChat or Photobucket, then you’re already familiar with MMS. With the number of positives in this messaging format, it seems like it would be the clear winner – but don’t call it just yet.

Pros of using MMS:

Utilizes pictures, audio and video over just text, and allows for the creation of sticky content rather than relying on a short textual hook.

Has a 2000 character limit.

Is covered with SMS by most carriers at no extra cost.

Cons of using MMS for marketing:

Not all mobile devices are MMS enabled.

Opens and clicks are difficult to track. MMS offers are self-contained, not redirects to a mobile landing page, and mobile carriers don’t track or report their open rates at all.

Many devices require manual user permission on an individual basis to receive MMS messages, and they can bounce or fail to download, even with user permission, with uncertain technology.

Short Messaging Service

SMS messaging is the more familiar member of this mobile marketing family. With familiarity comes confidence, making SMS the default for many companies interested in mobile marketing. While SMS marketing comes with its fair share of downsides, the positives can hardly be denied.

Pros of using SMS:

Opens and clicks can be tracked via traffic to mobile landing pages created specifically for the campaign.

Mobile landing pages offer more optimal sticky content than an MMS video or picture slideshow.

Short messages must be more succinct and impactful in order to assure customer engagement.

Cons of using SMS:

160-character limit can make composition difficult.

Engaging users to opt in can be equally difficult without recent SMS spam concerns.

Final Vote

While the final decision rests on the needs of your business and the interests of your target audience, the general opinion favors SMS marketing for the time being. Even marketers and companies who experienced success with MMS have stated a preference for SMS in the long run. When asked, the mobile marketing account manager for Starbucks Coffee, referred to MMS marketing as a “tactic, not a strategy.”

What do you think? Is it worth the risk of a bounce and limited trackability if you’re producing more colorful, engaging content? Or is a carefully crafted SMS hook the key to a good mobile campaign? The choice is yours. Both methods have proven effective, and both come with their own unique strengths. Weigh your options and choose the one that’s best for you.

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About Victor Green

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