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What Is the Difference Between Texting and Instant Messaging?

Apr 15, 2020

More than 60 billion messages are sent around the world daily through texting and instant messenger apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. 

Both texting and instant messaging have exploded in popularity over the last decade. As a result, many people now use the terms text messaging and instant messaging interchangeably, referring to both as “messaging.” 

But some key distinctions exist between the two. 

Texting is a form of messaging that requires a cellular network and is typically limited to 160 characters. Instant messaging allows you to communicate in real time through an application connected to the internet. 

But the distinctions don’t stop there. In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about the differences between instant messaging and texting.

What Is Texting?

Texting, or text messaging, is the process of sending short electronic messages between two or more mobile devices. Texting requires a cellular network to send messages.

Virtually every cell phone, regardless of whether it’s a smartphone, is capable of sending and receiving text messages. More than 5 billion people own mobile devices, and over half of those are smartphones. 

SMS (Short Messaging Service), MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) and text messages all fall under the texting umbrella. But SMS and MMS do have a few slight differences. 

SMS messages have a limit of 160 characters of text per message, while MMS messages enable you to add images, video and other types of content to a text message.

What Is Instant Messaging? 

Instant messaging allows you to send real-time messages through a software application. Popular instant messaging services include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and iMessage. 

Instant messaging applications are often referred to as “Over the Top” (OTT) applications because they do not require a cellular network connection. To send and receive messages, you need to use a device that connects to the internet via WiFi or a mobile internet connection, such as a smartphone, laptop, desktop or tablet. 

Some instant messaging applications also allow users to make video and voice calls and share files.

What Is the Difference Between Instant Messaging and Texting? 

Here are some key distinctions between instant messaging and texting: 

  • Application/Cellular Carrier: Instant messaging requires the sender and recipient to use the same application. Someone using WhatsApp cannot send messages to a person using Facebook Messenger. With texting, you can send or receive messages using any cell phone, no matter the cellular carrier. For example, someone with a T-Mobile phone can easily text someone with a Verizon plan. 
  • International Capabilities: Instant messaging allows anyone with an internet connection to communicate with people across the world. With texting, your international carrier plan will determine if you’re able to send messages to people in other countries – and how much it will cost. It’s always possible, but cellular companies control the cost and message limits.
  • Devices: You can send instant messages from a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Regular cell phones without an internet connection can’t support instant messaging. On the other hand, texting is native to each mobile device, so the only requirement to send text messages is a cell phone.

Should You Use Texting or Messaging? 

Texting and messaging are both invaluable tools for businesses that want a fast, easy, cost-effective way to communicate with customers. But which one is better for marketing purposes?

Messaging makes it easy to send content that contains text, photos and videos, but it comes with some limitations. 

You can only reach people who have the same messaging app that you’re using. Instant messaging also requires an internet connection, so customers who aren’t connected to the internet won’t receive your messages in a timely manner. 

On the other hand, every modern mobile network and device supports SMS messaging. All you need to start texting your customers is their phone number. Texting allows you to reach customers more immediately than an email or phone call, and customers don’t need to download an additional application.

94% of U.S. adults own a mobile phone, so you’re guaranteed to reach a wider audience through text messaging than nearly any other marketing channel. Text messaging also boasts high engagement and customer retention. 90% of text messages are read within 3 seconds, and SMS marketing campaigns have an average 14% conversion rate. In contrast, the average OTT app campaign loses 77% of its users in the first three days.

Start Texting Customers Today with Textedly

If you’re looking for a cheap way to reach your customers where they’re already spending most of their time, texting is the perfect solution. 

Interested in learning more ways texting can benefit your business? Textedly provides simple, affordable SMS solutions that are easy to set up, so you can start texting your customers immediately. 

Get started with Textedly’s free trial (no credit card required) to kickstart your SMS marketing campaign.