Should You Text or Email? Use this Flowchart to Decide

flowchart drawn on brick wall

So many different types of communication, so little time. How do you know if you’re supposed to text or email someone? They’re so similar, right? Turns out, there are some big differences between texting vs email.

Knowing which communication channel to use can be confusing, so we created a fool-proof flowchart to help you decide which communication channel is the best for your message. All you have to do is answer some simple questions to determine the correct channel. We hope this helps you better understand when to use email and when to text.
flowchart showing whether someone should call or text

Define the Key Strategic Details

The best way to determine the appropriate communication channel is by assessing key strategic pillars such as audience and intent. What’s the goal of your message? Who are you speaking to? These questions will lead you down the correct path.

Who are you trying to contact?

In our generational texting preferences survey, 73 percent of people said they wish more businesses texted them. But texting isn’t great if you’re trying to contact a big list of people at once; it was never designed or intended for mass outreach.

Think about who your audience is and how your message will be received on each of the mediums. Keep in mind, there are texting tools like Dynamic Fields that customize group texts and make them feel more human – even if they’re automated or not one-to-one.

Are you trying to market or advertise to them?

Generally speaking, texting is not a marketing platform. By nature, it’s conversational and personal. Diluting the channel with this kind of noise will damage the integrity of the medium over time. The unique benefits of texting – such as faster response times – will be virtually eliminated if texting falls prey to the same fate as email.

Have they opted in to receive texts on their mobile phone number?

We cannot stress this point enough – you must receive consent before contacting your customers via text. The nuances of consent are tricky to navigate, but we’ve compiled some helpful tips in our texting compliance and security guides. When your customers have consented to receive communication from you, they’ll be more responsive.

Still not sure if you’re spamming your customers or not? Take our quiz to find out. You might be surprised by the complexity of this medium. As we mentioned before, texting is mostly conversational and it should stay that way.

Can you say what you want to say in 600 characters or less?

There’s beauty in brevity, and texting embraces that fully. Zipwhip has a character limit on text messages sent through our technology for a reason. If you can’t say what you need in 600 characters or less, then email might be a better option for you.

However, texting and email often work together in tandem. Instead of typing out a monologue via text, you can send a longer email and then follow up with a quick text saying, “Hey, I just send you some important information via email. Let me know if you have questions!” Be creative about how you use the two channels to complement each other.

Are you trying to send a file (i.e. PDF or Word Document)?

If the answer is “yes,” we recommend email. At this point in time, there aren’t any texting providers that support attaching PDFs or Word Documents to your messages.

That said, you can send pictures of documents via text. Many of our clients use this feature for important paperwork, signatures and more.

Are you trying to send a photo, video or GIF?

From screenshots of important documents to photos of damaged vehicles for insurance claims, there are endless uses for MMS picture messages. Sometimes, sending or receiving multimedia files on email can be a challenge both for companies and consumers alike. Videos can be too large to email or photos are too big to load quickly. You also run the risk of being sent to spam for including attachments. To avoid this, people will frequently upload these files online, but then those links are often blocked by corporate internet controls. And so, the cycle goes on. Texting solves all of these problems – allowing you to send the picture or video directly via text in a matter of seconds.

Do you need an immediate response?

According to our 2019 State of Texting report, 74 percent of people will respond to a business text within an hour, whereas only 41 of people will respond to an email within an hour. No need for superfluous greetings or sign-offs, it’s easier and faster to craft a response via text. If you want a response right away, a text is the obvious choice.

Texting vs Email

It can be hard to distinguish the differences between the two communication channels, but it’s important to understand. The benefit of texting is that it’s a high-priority and short form of communication compared to email, which is a low-priority and long-form mode of communication.

Texting will never fully replace email. There will always be a time and place for these core channels. For the most effective communication possible, make sure you understand the differences between email and texting and define these key strategic details before selecting a medium.

Text, Email, Phone: The Mighty Trio of Customer Communication

Here is a 4-minute excerpt from a recent webinar about using text, email, and phone together. Keith and Carlene enact a role play, demonstrating how a business might actually use this mighty trio to win a customer. 


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