Guide to Writing SMS and MMS Copy

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SMS messages are an easy way to get information in front of your customers. But with only 160 characters at your disposal, every character matters. Even the greatest call-to-action (CTA) can flop if your copy isn’t clear, concise, and compelling. The same is true for MMS messages, even though they allow up to 1600 characters to work with.

This guide will walk you through writing killer copy in SMS to maximize every interaction you have with your customers.

Planning Your SMS Strategy

Before you begin building out your SMS messages, you’ll need to take the time to figure out your strategy. When building your message, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the goal of this message?
    This will impact your wording and CTA.
  • Who is interested in this message?
    This will impact your tone and ability to personalize the message.
  • Will an offer be included?
    This will also impact the content and tone within the message.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can move on to building out your SMS content.

Best Practices for SMS Copy

Establish Your Brand's Tone

It's important that you communicate with your customers in a way that they find interesting and helps foster a relationship between you and your customers. Not sure where to get started? Head to our article on Guide to Building a Brand Voice for a deep dive into building a voice for your brand. 

Target Your Communication

Personalize your text messages to ensure each recipient is getting the information they care about in a way they will best respond to it. Consider the following:

  • Personalize the content of your messages.
    Use template tags to pull in profile information about someone (e.g., first name or favorite food) and if your flow is triggered by an event, or metric, you will be able to pull in event data (e.g., name of abandoned cart items or cost of items someone has purchased). You can find this by previewing your message in the content editor.
  • Personalize the tone of your messages.
    Does your brand reach across many different demographics? Will your text messages reach people at different stages in their customer journey? If yes, add a conditional split to your flow. Some ideas for how to split your flow include:
    • Demographics-based (age, gender, location, etc.) 
    • Prior purchase behavior (long-time customers, new customers, prospects, etc.)
    • Marketing engagement (brand enthusiasts, lapsed purchasers, etc.)
    • Predictive analytics (high predicted CLV, expected date of next order, predicted gender, etc.)
  • Use splits to target your messages, ensuring each customer has an excellent experience with your brand, as unique as your recipients. 


Text as You Would Normally Write

The best SMS and MMS messages are short and clear. This means adhering to the following rules as you’re building out your message:

  • Do not use text abbreviations (unless it's in-line with your branding).
    While it may be tempting to abbreviate to decrease character count, it will make your business appear unprofessional and may your messages confusing. You can't assume that recipients will know what you mean unless you have a very pointed brand voice and are certain your audience will be able to decipher your abbreviations.
  • Do not write in all capital letters.
    Don’t "shout" at your recipients. If you have an important word like “Sale” or “Free,” you can capitalize these individual words to highlight them. Otherwise, use typical sentence capitalization.


Avoid SHAFT-Related Terms

Terms related to sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco (SHAFT) are prohibited by the CTIA, the regulatory body which enforces guidelines for SMS messages. Due to this, mobile carriers and sending services often automatically filter messages with SHAFT-related words. Further, terms that are considered or relate to profanity, controlled substances, or CBD are similarly filtered.

Optimize Your Content and CTA

Capitalize on the First Word

The first word of your SMS/MMS message is where you can make a big impression. If you’re including an offer, lead with that information. Using someone’s first name is also an easy way to personalize your message. Head to our article on template tags and variable syntax for more information.

Use Short Sentences

To make your SMS and MMS messages skimmable, use short sentences so your recipients can glean the most information in the shortest amount of time.

Make a Clear Offer

If you’re including an offer in your message, mention the offer early on in your and make your CTA as clear as possible. Additionally, as with any offer, using urgency or scarcity will drive conversions.


Consider Adding an Image or GIF

If you think it will enhance the content of your message, think about adding an image or GIF. This can be a good way to show off your brand and/or product, although should not be used for every message. Check out MMS Image Best Practices here.


Before Hitting Send

Include Opt-Out Language

Including opt-out language on all of your texts ensures that you aren’t wasting your resources sending SMS messages to customers who don't want to hear from you. Including STOP language is also important, as carriers heavily filter messages without opt-out text. Use the built-in toggle in the SMS editor to include opt-out messaging on all of your emails. 



Go back through your SMS to check for typos, make sure your CTA is clear, and send yourself a preview text to ensure that your message looks as expected and your links are pointed in the right place. For more information on previewing your SMS messages, head to Test and Preview Flow Messages.

Additional Resources

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