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How to Transition Off of a Shared Short Code (and Why Do It Now)

What Is a Shared Short Code?

If your company already uses shared short codes to communicate with prospects and customers, you likely know exactly what they are. For those who may need a refresher or never gave them much thought, we’ll bring you up to speed. 

Unlike a regular 10-digit phone number (or “long code”), an SMS short code is only five or six digits and used for texting customers versus calling them. Short codes are a great way to send mass text messages.

The FCC says, “Short codes and long codes are analogous to phone numbers; the code determines to whom the message is sent and how the message is routed. Short codes are rented to the public by the Common Short Code Administration (“CSCA”). Any entity that wishes to operate a service based on a short code must first lease the short code from the CSCA. Then the entity must ask every wireless provider to recognize and route messages using that code to the service provider.”

We’ve all received these texts, typically from organizations sending reminders, coupons, delivery or pickup times, alerts, or some other transactional or promotional message. The texts always ask us to type in a keyword to opt-in for future messages or participate in a marketing campaign. The CSCA requires service providers to allow subscribers to accept or decline these messages to limit spam.

Related: Long Code vs. Short Code Texting: Which is Right for Your Business?

The keyword does more than just give the recipient a way to join. When used for marketing purposes, SMS short codes enable the sending company to track the success of their campaigns. Each keyword can be unique to the campaign, making it easy to see which short code messages resonate with the intended audience.

Shared Short Codes

A shared short code is a type of short code that thousands of organizations share to text their own customers. Companies often choose to use the same SMS short code to message customers because it is less expensive than having a private short code. 

Many service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, allow SMS shared short code services but not for long. As of June 1, 2021, all major wireless carriers will eliminate shared short codes entirely.

Why Are Shared Short Codes Going Away?

The termination of shared short codes is primarily intended to reduce customer complaints about spam and unwanted text messages. Carriers are in agreement that supporting shared short codes is labor-intensive and cost-prohibitive. Service providers are looking for ways to decrease spam traffic to protect consumers and meet customer needs.

There is also the issue of accountability and tracking. It is difficult for carriers to know precisely who is responsible for any messaging on shared codes.

One of the biggest issues with shared short codes is the fact that the carriers and CTIA state that no two-way messaging is allowed on shared codes. Shared short codes, therefore, are only effective for one-way conversations, making them more akin to spam. 

In an effort to reduce spam, carriers are replacing shared short codes with 10DLC (10-Digit Long Code) messaging that ties messages to a specific organization via a unique phone-like number. Organizations that use this new type of messaging can send and receive messages on their assigned local number as well as use the number for voice calls.

Of course, this isn’t a magic bullet, and there are other options. For instance, while 10DLC is less expensive compared with shared short code services, it is still new. The velocity of messaging and delivery isn’t yet on par with SMS short code services. They require registration just like short codes but still have limits on volume per day per code, estimated to be around 50K – 100K per day.

Marketing teams will have no way to determine whether their audience received the message, removing the ability to keep customer data sets clean or understand the campaign’s true success rate. This may lead more organizations to consider other types of SMS short code services.

Short Code Options

Evaluating options other than shared short codes and 10DLC is also wise when it comes to gaining control over messaging and campaigns. Keep in mind that participating organizations and bad actors sometimes misuse the shared short code, causing the service provider to block the code for everyone. You also have to choose a keyword no other brand is using – not an easy feat when you consider tens of thousands of organizations can be using the same short code.

Organizations cannot control how others use the code, what would trigger a shutdown or when it may happen. This lack of control can cause serious interruptions in service, bring marketing campaigns to a screeching halt, and force organizations to switch to a new code to continue communicating with their audience. 

Thankfully, you have options. SMS shared short code services may be going away, but that doesn’t mean you have to go the 10DLC route.

Dedicated Short Codes

Shared short codes are just one type of short code. Dedicated short codes come at different price points but enable your organization to have a private short code just for your brand.

You can use your dedicated short code for any SMS communications, marketing or operational. Because it is yours and yours alone, you don’t have to worry about a bad actor misusing it or having to constantly find a unique keyword for marketing campaigns. 

There are two types of dedicated short codes: a vanity short code and a non-vanity short code.

Vanity Short Code

A vanity short code is one you choose yourself, like a vanity license plate for your car. You can select your five- to six-digit code based on availability. Organizations often lease vanity codes that are easy to remember or have specific brand meaning. For instance, Chipotle’s vanity short code is 888-222, a simple code anyone can recall. 

A vanity short code is an excellent way to help your recipients recognize your brand when they see it come up on their mobile devices. It can also be easier for your recipients to remember when you ask them to text your SMS short code to participate in a marketing campaign. Of course, this kind of personalization comes at a price, costing approximately $1,500 per month.

Non-Vanity Short Code

With a non-vanity short code, the CSCA will select your short code at random. It will still be your own dedicated short code to lease, but you will not select the digits. You can expect to pay about half of the cost of a vanity short code. This is a smart choice if your organization doesn’t use short codes for marketing purposes or you are looking for the most cost-effective option.

A Short Code Service Provider Can Help

When searching for a vendor, look for a short code service provider with a comprehensive SMS platform. They will be able to help you build an ideal SMS platform for your specific business needs. 

For instance, you may want both dedicated short codes and long codes, which you can use exclusively or in tandem to send high-volume text messages. The most advanced platforms allow short code texting for mass SMS messages and long code texting for personalized 2-way conversations – all in the same user interface. In fact, with the right provider, you can send millions of text messages, as well as enable multiple users to engage in two-way conversational texting at scale to improve customer experience.

Related: How Text Messaging Improves the Customer Service Experience

It is also a good idea to cut out the middleman and work with a provider that has direct carrier connections. By doing so, you will reduce potential points of failure and reliance on third parties to improve short code deliverability. You can also save money as these providers have lower costs and can provide enterprise volume pricing.

Want to learn more about all of the powerful features you can get with an SMS platform? TrueDialog’s industry-leading platform allows mass texting and personalized 2-way conversational messaging all in one seamless, easy-to-use interface. Learn why TrueDialog is a Capterra top-rated SMS software platform.

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Bulk SMS Marketing Is Changing The Game

How many emails do you get every day from businesses you may have shown interest in at some point and organizations you support? Add in the number of unsolicited emails, and you can see people read so few emails anymore. While the majority of Americans check their phones an average of 160 times a day, few get through all of the emails clogging their inboxes.

Bulk SMS marketing is a tactic that turns customer engagement tactics on its heels. Email is great for certain things, such as longer-form communications, but it isn’t exactly original, and it’s often associated with spam. Texting prospects, clients, and employees, on the other hand, is not only a more modern way to communicate, but it is proven to be more effective.

Reports continue to show that texts have a 98% open rate and response rates as high as 45%. Compare that with email open rates of only 22% and response rate of just 6%. Gartner says, “No other messaging medium approaches SMS in its reach.” The global research and advisory firm recommend mobile marketers “actively seek opportunities to benefit from SMS as a form of mobile engagement and employ SMS as an easy initial method for customers and prospects to connect to your brand.”

Still, few businesses have caught on, continuing to send doomed emails instead of leveraging the power of bulk SMS marketing. This opens up a fantastic opportunity for your company to be different. As everyone else zigs, you zag. And in a world where differentiating your brand is everything yet one of the hardest things to do, a marketing technique as simple as texting could be the game-changer.

New Game. New Rules.

Bulk SMS marketing isn’t the same as email marketing. It’s an entirely different channel that demands respect, and it isn’t free. With email, you can write paragraphs, insert cool graphics, and send as many emails as you want without additional costs. 

On the other hand, marketing texts are short in length, relatively rudimentary in graphic capabilities, and almost always point the reader to another location or a call to action. That means you have to get your point across in just a sentence or two and get them to click a link to get more information, purchase a product, engage in an activity, or do something you want them to do. Your messaging must be concise, relevant, engaging, and actionable. 

Here’s the kicker: you can’t just say anything. Texts aren’t a secure form of communication, and we have privacy issues to contend with these days. Gartner outlines a few possible downsides of SMS, saying, “SMS campaigns are significantly more costly than email campaigns on a per-message basis. To address legal concerns, marketers must follow consumer privacy best practices, including explicit opt-in procedures, easy access to program terms and conditions, and simple mechanisms to opt out.”

These aren’t deal-breakers, however. Business SMS providers know full well that they have to build in user preferences to be compliant. But once you get someone to opt-in, you just identified a hot lead or an engaged customer – the golden ticket for any marketer.

As far as pricing goes, there are multiple price points and pricing structures from which to choose. You’ll typically pay per message or a monthly fee for a specific number of messages. Depending on your provider and your plan, you may also pay a setup fee.

Determine your budget and usage requirements, and it’s not difficult to find a plan that works for you. Keep in mind that while you may spend more on texting campaigns than you did on email campaigns, the investment clearly has a higher return based on open and response rates.

The Many Use Cases for Bulk SMS Marketing

If you’ve never considered SMS marketing, it may be because you haven’t thought about all you can do with texting and an integrated SMS platform. Yes, you can often integrate an SMS text messaging platform into your existing CRM, such as Salesforce, Marketo, and Hubspot. That means you can text directly from your CRM without having to bounce to another application, keeping all texts centralized and archived in one system. 

Related: Integrating Text Messaging Into Your CRM

But that’s only the beginning.

The Business Side

One of the keys to any marketing campaign is to know if it’s worth doing again. Did your investment pay off or do you need to go in a different direction? Your SMS platform often provides detailed analytics to help you instantly see how well your text messaging campaign is performing. 

You can dig into analytics to determine:

  • Which texts failed to send (so you can correct bad data)
  • Which texts were read by how many (to compare campaigns)
  • How many people responded to the CTA (to gauge effectiveness and identify opportunities to improve strategy)

With success metrics in place, you can see the effectiveness of each SMS campaign per dollar spent, and compare it with other marketing tactics. You can even combine it with other marketing tactics to ensure you are consistently reaching your intended audience on the right channels at the right time with the right messaging. Understanding how your marketing efforts contribute to the conversion process is essential in prioritizing and justifying marketing spend.

The Creative Side

What kinds of campaigns are ideal for bulk SMS marketing? According to Hubspot, marketing goals can fall into five broad categories:

  1. Raise brand awareness
  2. Generate high-quality leads
  3. Grow and maintain thought leadership
  4. Increase customer value
  5. Empower colleagues

SMS marketing is ideal for all five of these objectives. 

Brand awareness

Through creative SMS campaigns, you can instantly get in front of your target audience with brand messaging that either introduces them to your brand, invites them to explore a new product or service, or touts your awesomeness. You can use your brand voice to express your company’s value proposition, mission and purpose. Text them links to games, promotions, discounts and coupons. Invite them to read your blogs, sign up for curated content, or simply check out your website, a video or a social post.

Leads

As we said, with every opt-in, you’re building a leads pipeline for sales. If someone says “yes” to your texts or does not opt-out, they’re giving you the green light to stay in contact. They may not do what you ask by clicking on a link or participating in some way, but as long as they’re still willing to get the text, there’s a 98% chance they’re at least reading it.

Thought leadership

If you want to beat the competition, you have to establish your brand as the best for what you do. Part of that means convincing your audience that you know more than the competition. You may have a better product or service or more useful information – all to build trust in your brand. 

The Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust in 2020 found that trust is the second most important factor in the decision to buy a new brand (53%) or become a loyal customer (49%). Much goes into brand trust, but SMS marketing provides a channel to communicate effectively with prospects and customers to start building that trust.

Customer value

A happy customer is a loyal customer. Bulk SMS marketing gives you a great medium to continually engage customers with interactive messaging and opportunities. To keep your customers on the hook, so to speak, and help them build affinity for your brand so they continue to buy and refer others to you, you need a way to reach them. As with brand awareness, texting will point people to things you know they enjoy, such as special discounts and promotions, VIP/members-only opportunities, polls and crowdsourcing ideas, and social media contests.

Related: How Text Messaging Improves The Customer Service Experience

Empower colleagues

SMS marketing doesn’t have to be solely for external use. Many companies use it for internal marketing campaigns as well. Your employees are more likely to read a company text versus a company email. As long as you don’t overuse it and keep it to what you truly want them to see immediately, it can be highly effective. Getting them valuable information quickly is one advantage of texting, but it is also ideal for conducting employee surveys for all kinds of initiatives, engaging them in team-building activities, and encouraging participation in corporate events.

Bulk SMS marketing is a game-changer in how you can communicate and engage with your prospects, customers and employees. The applications are endless, and the effectiveness of SMS speaks for itself. Want to learn more? We’re here to help.

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Bulk SMS for Universities: Changing Communications for The Better

The Need for Bulk SMS for Universities and Colleges

College may be about education, but it’s also a time for many students to be on their own for the first time, navigating a new world where they are accountable for managing their lives. Older students may be managing families and work responsibilities on top of school. For colleges and universities, email is often the go-to for reaching students with important messages, yet email has a dismal open rate and even worse response rate. Is bulk SMS the answer for universities?

Gartner reports that people only open about 20% of the emails they receive and respond to just 6% of those. Compare that with SMS open rates as high as 98% and response rates at 45%. And that’s for the general public. Students who fall into the younger demographic are even less likely to open emails. One study found that more than 50% of students don’t read emails from their institutions, even though a single missed communication can have detrimental outcomes for the student.

Even while some universities cut back on the number of emails they send students to encourage higher open rates, students may not be used to communicating through emails or are trying to juggle multiple aspects of life. Their language is quick, brief, and easy, most often spoken through social media and messaging apps. Retraining students to use email is an uphill battle. Instead of fighting it, universities need to embrace how students communicate

Bulk SMS for universities is essential to connect with students where they are and how they interact, which is typically on their mobile devices on the go. While they have access to email from these devices, it is clear they aren’t always checking their emails, at least not regularly enough to avoid missing important deadlines and messages. And even when they are, they can have hundreds of emails to sort through, something they postpone or even ignore because of the required time commitment.

Related: Higher Education Text Messaging: Everything You Need to Know About TCPA Consent Laws

Does this mean that higher education institutions have to give up email altogether? Absolutely not. In fact, texting and email can go hand in hand. The same goes for texting and social media, voice calls, and secure portals. Texting is a way to get students’ attention.

Blending SMS Texting with Emails and Social Media

Some universities have transitioned to social media to reach students. Yes, students spend a lot of time on social media, but the problem is, there are multiple social media platforms, and they aren’t always connected. That means a university has to go into each platform separately and craft a message, and there’s no integration to easily track open rates.  

Bulk SMS for universities, on the other hand, is universal, and everyone uses it throughout their day. Universities no longer have to worry about which social media platforms students use, spending time crafting messages per platform, or analyzing success rates across platforms. Texting becomes a unified communication strategy.

If a message is better suited for email because of the length of content or security reasons, for instance, higher education institutions can send bulk SMS to direct students to an email. The students receive a push notification to check their email for an important message about an upcoming deadline, as an example. Bulk SMS for universities is also helpful to direct students to their secure online portals, where they can tend to-do items quickly and securely.

Universities may also use the SMS platform on its own to remind students of an appointment, a payment due date, class registration dates, or any information that can help students stay on top of their academia. A research study on texting and students found that approximately 85% of students reported that text messages from their universities promoted them to complete a task, informed them about something they didn’t realize they needed to do, and/or was useful in helping them get everything done for college.

Related: Higher Education: Top 12 Statistics on Why Universities & Colleges Should Be Texting Students

Another study of the use of SMS in higher education revealed that students rated text messaging as “very useful” for academic purposes. They cited saving time, resolving administrative issues, convenience, and ease of use as their top reasons. Texting these messages is much more effective than email, ensuring more students don’t just get the message but see the message and have a fast way to respond. 

Higher Education Texting Platforms

Bulk SMS for universities is easier than you may think. It doesn’t require heavy lifting or massive technology investment. Many higher education institutions have already implemented a bulk SMS solution as a way to target messages, notifications, and alerts to students, as well as faculty, staff, and parents. 

The ease of deployment will depend on the texting platform’s API. It should allow you to seamlessly integrate the platform with your CRM and other institutional and marketing apps. It should also be intuitive and easy to use at scale.  

Texting is effective for a variety of audiences and communication types:

Admissions and enrollment

The majority of students research multiple colleges and universities before they apply, giving you a prime opportunity to set your institution apart from the competition and provide a responsive, supportive environment, even before a prospect becomes a student. You can use SMS to reach out to prospective students to answer questions, encourage tours and advisor meetings, and remind them of application requirements and deadlines.

Once they have applied, you can use the texting platform to engage in one-on-one, two-way texting to humanize your communications for a more personal touch. Answer questions and keep them updated on the timelines, next steps, and acceptance notifications.

Student retention and success

University students can quickly fall behind, especially during their first year as they get their feet on the ground and learn how to “do” college. SMS is a great way to stay connected with students along their journeys by sending them real-time messages, notifications, and reminders to keep them on track. You can also connect them with university resources to help them get more engaged and feel part of the institution.

This sense of belonging is critical to student success. A recent study by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) discovered that institutions that successfully promote belonging and invest in a supportive environment realize higher rates of student retention.

Financial aid 

As many as 86% of first-time, full-time, degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students were awarded financial aid in the past couple of years. As common as financial aid is, it still remains a complicated and daunting process for students and parents alike. Bulk SMS gives universities an easier and more effective way to help students navigate FAFSA and scholarship opportunities. 

And while financial aid information can often be subject to privacy compliance, texting is a great way to get students to log in to their portal to complete required documents and make payments. You can send messages to parents as well, reminding them of upcoming due dates and other important messages related to financial aid. 

Urgent Alerts

Bulk SMS is ideal to send urgent messages to students, faculty, and staff. Some SMS platforms enable you to send mass student SMS text, email, and voice message alerts with a single click, as well as continue the dialog one-to-one if a student replies to the text. You can also segment your audience by location. For example, if your university has multiple campuses, you can send a mass text message to only the students affected by the urgent event.

Career services

Career services are an important part of a student’s life as they think about what comes after college and get closer to graduation. Texting is a useful way of communicating important information about upcoming career fairs, campus speakers, student events, job listings, and internship opportunities.

Alumni engagement

Alumni are an important part of any higher education institution, yet they can be challenging to reach once the school deactivates their school email address. Bulk SMS is effective in keeping in contact with alumni and encouraging them to get involved in alumni events and donation campaigns. The best texting platforms will enable you to segment your audience so you can customize messaging to their preferences.

How Universities Can Maximize Bulk SMS 

There are a few valuable SMS capabilities you should consider when evaluating bulk SMS for universities. A texting platform needs to enable multiple school agents or staff members to simultaneously communicate with students using the same threaded conversation. This will allow your institution to respond faster to issues and questions and provide a unified conversation history.

Another important feature is the ability to send both bulk SMS and one-to-one SMS. While one-to-millions mass SMS texting is effective for some messages, you want your staff and faculty to be able to engage in more personal messaging in certain circumstances.  

You will also want the ability to schedule SMS texts or send messages on demand, with access to reports that drill into message history, users, recipients, open rates, and similar details. SMS shortcodes and texting long codes should also be an option.

SMS is a powerful tool higher education institutions can add to their communication toolbox. When optimized, it is proven to have a higher success rate than any other form of communication. Contact us to learn more about bulk SMS for universities and how you can support more effective and efficient student engagement.

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