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What Can You Fit within the SMS Character Limit?

While SMS is used for a variety of different content that needs to find its way to the customers quickly, in marketing, it’s the conveyed idea that matters the most. Not only does the client need to receive the message technically, but also understand and comprehend the message.  

There’s no greater copywriting challenge than writing a responsive SMS marketing text. It’s like trying to cram a whole marketing department into a tiny SMS. Here are a few tips to help you with that. 

What is the SMS character limit? 

In short, the SMS character limit is 160 characters. But some terms and conditions apply. The limit is 160 characters only when you are using characters from 7-bit alphabet. Thus, you need to use these characters: 

@£$¥èéùìòÇ'Øø'ÅåΔ_ΦΓΛΩΠΨΣΘΞ'ÆæßÉ !"#¤%&'()*=,-./01234 

56789:;<=>?¡ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZÄÖÑÜ'¿abcdefghi 

jklmnopqrstuvwxyzäöñüà 

But when it happens that the character is not in the 7-bit alphabet, the message will use 8-bit data encoding or in other words Unicode. And the limit then is 70 characters. So, you should try to avoid that unless your message is really short. You can read more about this from one of our blog post, where we explain how SMS length is calculated

What can you fit in the SMS character limit? 

Grab attention

Stop the recipient in their tracks. You’ve interrupted their day with your SMS marketing text, you’d better make this exciting or you’ll be consigned to the bin in seconds. Entice them by being timely or imparting information that would be valuable to them. 

Make a solid offer

This needs to be clear and concise. No waffle, no room for interpretation or vagueness. Punchy is the keyword. Make sure that the entire message supports the singular message you are trying to convey. There’s only room for one ask, so make it stand out.  

Call to action

So how do I respond? Is there a discount code or coupon for a website? Do I have to quote a code over the phone? Will the offer automatically swing into action when a make a purchase? If I’m clicking through a link in the text, is the website fully mobile optimised for the device I’m using?  

Whichever call to action you choose, it needs to be crystal clear and very intuitive. The fewer steps a customer has to take to apply your offer, to make your offer deliver on the promise, the better the chance of conversion.
 

Provide an opt-out

All SMS marketing campaigns are required by law in the EU and in many markets globally to include an opt-out, allowing customers to get off your list quickly and easily. This uses up precious characters but is vital in protecting your integrity and lawfulness as an SMS marketer.

The opt-out is best handled by consumers texting in a simple code to a 5-digit shortcode.

For example, to optout text abcd to 80945. - that’s 33 characters, so make sure you take that into account when you start setting up your marketing campaign. And tackle this part first, it makes handling the rest of the matter much easier. 

Here are a few quick examples of messages that cover all the basis:  

Get Mother’s Day sorted. All chocolate gift packs are 20% off. Price range £15-£65. Free wrapping on all orders. Chocgifts.com To optout text abcd to 89022

155 characters     

Free delivery on all gifts today at thefigtree.com. Use code fg2 at checkout. 1st 50 orders receive free gift candles. Figtree.com To optout text abcd to 89022

159 characters 

Queue jump with this text! Show this text at Bear’s nightclub for instant entry and free shot for you and your friends. To optout text abcd to 89022

148 characters 

So, it’s doable, and a variety of content can be crammed into the message, but it’s important to make sure you use up space wisely. Be precise, concise, direct and enticing. Make sure you cover the opt-out first and have a clear call to action. 

Also, be sure to use our free SMS length calculator tool when creating your awesome SMS marketing campaigns. It will greatly help you with staying in the character limit.

Uku Tomikas
2019-10-28 00:00:00 UTC
2203607