Segments in initial messages and replies

Did you know long text messages can break into multiple texts for some recipients? Text messages are sent using blocks of encoded characters called segments. Segment length is based on the amount of data that each character uses within that segment to be translated into readable text.

Segment lengths

The default message length is 160 characters. Basic characters ("7-bit encoded") are worth one character. Some special characters can be encoded this way but are worth two character lengths of data. 

Many "fancier" characters and emojis will cause the entire segment length to be shorter. This is because the language used to explain emojis and special characters is more complicated and uses more data. Messages sent with "fancy" characters will transform every segment in that message to a maximum of 70 characters.

Most modern cell phone carriers will reassemble these multi-part text messages into one long text. However, some cell phone carriers (and many older phones) will deliver these segments in multiple,  separate messages. Sometimes, these texts arrive out of order, and some carriers will mark each message with an indicator like (1/3), (2/3), (3/3). These indicators take up 7 characters themselves, which will further shorten the message.

External tools like this SMS Length Calculator can help analyze your message to preview how many characters it will use. 

Limiting length

For the best user experience for your contacts, we highly recommend limiting your initial messages to shorter messages that invite conversation. Very long initial messages can negatively impact your deliverability. We strongly recommend against using links in initial messages and never using or tiny.url link shorteners.

Be wary of using emojis and other special characters in long scripts. Your target contacts will also appreciate it!

Preview feature

ThruText's Segment Preview Feature will allow you to estimate the segments for messages. The preview is an estimate because the length of your custom attributes (like the texter's first or last name) in the script may change. However, this is a great way to gain visibility into your script's length and how it will appear to contacts on devices that display message segments as separate texts.

In the following example, the estimator shows that the crafted message currently uses one segment and has used 122 out of the 160 characters for segment one. This means there is space for around 38 more characters before the start of segment two.  

Required Variables

As you can see in the above example, there are required variables for you to use for inserting your Organization Display Name and Opt Out Language. It is considered a best practice and can help deliverability to identify your organization and provide opt out instructions in your initial message. For more information on these required variables, please check out our guide Organization Display Name and Opt Out Language.

To see additional tips on creating the initial message, click here, and for additional tips on creating recommended replies, click here.