What's a Segment

What's a Segment

If you’re new to SMS marketing, or confused by your billing statement, then segments are probably a new concept. Perhaps you’re wondering why you can’t just be billed by the message or why your company only sent a certain amount of messages but got billed for more. We’re here to clear the air on what a segment is and why it's imperative that you understand them.

Simply put, a segment is a message of 160 characters or less. Characters are any letter, number, symbol, emoji, or space that is written/typed. 

It is not uncommon for companies to end up with the increased messaging cost and a higher bill than anticipated. This may also affect the ROI (return on investment) of that business’ campaigns. Oftentimes the culprit is negligence of SMS segments. Marketers or business leaders simply focus on writing the perfect SMS message for an effective campaign without taking segments into account. 

As a company sends large batches of SMS marketing messages based on their perfectly crafted template, they are unaware of the implied costs. Once the bill comes in, the company is unhappily surprised. We’re here to educate you on how SMS marketing billing works, industry-wide, so that you can avoid these unpleasant surprises. 

Let’s look at a brief review of the segment and how it has always been intrinsically tied to SMS messaging. Millennials and older, do you remember your first cell phone? Maybe it was the infamous Nokia brick or Motorola flip. While you were ferociously hammering away at the old T9 keyboard (3 letters per key) your phone would keep a counter in the corner of the screen. The counter often had a number, starting with 1 and then another number which would start at 160 and count down to 0. It looked like this – 1/160. Why was that counter there and what was it doing?

That counter was counting the amount of segments you were sending based on the amount of characters you typed (with segments on the left of the backslash and characters on the right). To put that into context, segments are as old as SMS messaging. When the number on the right (characters left) hit 0, the number on the left (segments) would count upwards to 2, 3, 4, etc. The amount of segments you sent to the recipient were the amount of messages you were charged for on your bill. 

Helios put our own twist on the segment counter, making it as simple and visible as possible. Our counter shows up directly next to the send button while typing a message and updates in real time. The counter reads “X chars / X msgs.” It will start at 0, reading 0 chars / 0 msgs and count upwards as your type. Chars is short for characters and msgs is short for messages. This way you know exactly how many segments are being billed when the messages are sent. 

So let’s say your business is sending out a 190 character SMS marketing message to 10,000 contacts. How many segments will you be billed for? Well, as soon as you cross over 160 characters you are into your second segment. So that’s 2 segments x 10,000 recipients, meaning you will be billed for 20,000 segments. 

To protect the profitability of your campaign, consider strategizing around the amount of characters you use. If you need every character you’ve typed to reach your conversion goal then the extra segments are a small price to pay. But what if you’re over the limit by only a few characters? Can you find a way to word your message in a more concise manner? Consider using compound words or an abbreviation. Emojis (which each also count as a character) are a great way to shorten a message by capturing several words in a single character.

Remember, regardless of your provider, they are billing you by the segments sent or received. In the case of Helios, we only bill for outbound segments, so don’t worry about the length of your recipients responses. If you have any questions about your bill, or would like further clarity about segments, you can reach us via email – hey@sendhelios.com 24/7.

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