MMS marketing: Using images in your text messages

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Using images in your text messages (otherwise known as MMS marketing) is a great way to convey brand identity and other important content in your text message marketing.

It is often said: “A picture is worth a thousand words,” which can help you communicate more than the typical character limit for a standard text message. Plus, using MMS can also help avoid carrier violations!

But, as great as it sounds, it’s not as simple as just picking an image and sending it. There are important considerations for the type of image and implications surrounding delivery. Below are some tips and recommendations to get the most out of your MMS marketing messages.

What is a MMS text message?

As defined by Wikipedia, a Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is a standard way to send messages that include multimedia content to and from a mobile phone over a cellular network.

Examples include: images, video, JSON and more. For the purpose of MMS text message marketing where hundreds or thousands of messages may be sent, we’re limiting our discussion to images.

Use JPG or GIF file formats

MMS supports many image file formats, but we recommend staying with a more standard and common format.

Unfortunately, not all devices you are sending to will support all the newer formats, and the goal is to always maximize deliverability.

For images, we recommend using JPG or GIF, but only use GIF when sending animated images.

Image resolution should be less than 640 pixels wide

The image used should not be wider than 640 pixels and no taller than 1,138 pixels. This ratio (9:16) is a portrait ratio and is optimized for viewability on mobile screens. However, you can use other ratios, such as a square, while staying within these dimension constraints.

Larger, high-resolution images will not be as easily viewed on a mobile device. They also will cause the file size to exceed the recommended 300 KB, and carriers will reject the message if the image is too large.

Image size should be less than 300 KB

Image size, or how much storage space your image uses, is important to consider.

Generally, images that are larger than 300 KB should be avoided.

While the newest specification for MMS allows for larger formats when sending marketing text messages, we typically recommend the smaller the better.

You can easily find the size of an image by right-clicking and selecting properties. Below is an example from Windows for the MMS Image Dimensions image (used above) that is 36.7 KB. Well under 300 KB!

Images that are too large will not be supported by all devices. Staying within the preferred size will prevent carriers from rejecting messages for MMS file sizes being too large.

What to include

We typically recommend using imagery associated with your brand — as this helps people identify who the text is coming from. You can also include text, too.

Using text in the image is one way to work around carrier restrictions for certain words or phrases.

For example, the text phrase “20% OFF” would get flagged by carriers as part of their carrier violation score. However, the same text used in an image can bypass this restriction.

An MMS text can still include additional text content, too. We recommend including the standard “Reply STOP to opt out,” but other content can also be included. We recommend limiting the text content to no more than 320 characters, though.

What not to include

Don’t take one of your large images used on Instagram or your website and just downsize it to use for MMS. The image quality will suffer and most likely the content will be unreadable.

Keep it simple and always design for MMS, just as you would design specific assets for social media channels like Instagram.

Sounds great, but … it’s triple the cost

Text message marketing isn’t free. Carriers charge based on the number of characters sent: 160 characters is called a “segment.” Billing is calculated per-segment times the number of messages sent.

MMS text messages are no different. They effectively cost 3 segments and may go over that depending on if additional text is included (varies by carrier).

Therefore, sending an MMS is effectively triple the cost of a regular text message.

MMS deliverability

The No. 1 concern with any text message is deliverability. And, while MMS text message marketing is a way to enhance your messages, it, unfortunately, doesn’t guarantee delivery. The tips above will help, but they can’t prevent carrier violations.

Additionally, all mobile phones do not support MMS. For example, pay-as-you-go phones have limited support for text messaging.

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