What Are SMS Short Codes and Why Are They Important?

short codes

So you’ve been considering SMS or text message marketing and have seen the term “short code” being used quite frequently. You may have guessed short codes are important, but what the heck are they?

Short codes are short phone numbers that can be used for SMS or text messages. Since they’re shorter, they’re easier to read and remember than regular phone numbers. Back in the early 2000s, SMS short codes were standardized to five and six digit codes in the United States. Today, they’re widely used by SMS marketing providers.

Short codes are used to opt-in consumers to SMS programs and to relay coupons, promotions, offers, text-to-win campaigns and more. Consumers can subscribe by entering this short code in the “To” field of a text message and sending a text.

Dedicated Short Codes vs Shared Short Codes

There are generally two types of short codes: dedicated short codes and shared short codes. Dedicated short codes are short codes that are dedicated or used exclusively for one business. Shared short codes, on the other hand, are shared by various businesses. They differentiate themselves by each using an exclusive keyword.

For example, if a restaurant uses our shared short code “65047,” we might ask customers to sign up for messages by texting the word “PIZZA” to opt in. (“Text PIZZA to 65047 to receive our deal alerts!”) Another business could use the same short code (65047), but might ask users to text their identifying keyword “HONDAMIAMI” instead.

Compare it to sharing a street address for a company. If your business is in an office building, you use the same address as others in the building and differentiate yours with a suite or office number. If you own your own location (or the entire building), your office is the only one using that address.

Buying a dedicated short code can be very costly ($15,000 to $25,000 a year), which is why most businesses use shared short codes.

Why Short Codes are Better Than Long Codes

If you’re wondering why businesses don’t simply use regular phone numbers, or long codes, for SMS campaigns, you should be aware of the disadvantages.

  • Long codes are not regulated as strictly as short codes, which is why they’re most often used by text message spammers.
  • They don’t have restrictions for bulk sending and receiving. Only 1 message per second is allowed on a long code, which means it could take days to send messages to all of your subscribers, unlike short codes which can send bulk message blasts quickly and easily.
  • They’re easier to remember and promote.

Do you want to learn more about the building blocks of a successful SMS marketing campaign? Contact us or call us at (305) 505-­­5393 for help with your (SMS) text message marketing.

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