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SMS Short Codes for Marketing

The statistics around the ownership and usage of smartphones are staggering, even for tech-savvy folks. There are 3.8 billion people worldwide who now own a smartphone – more than half of the global population. It’s been shown that 60% of customers open text messages within 1-5 minutes, and as of 2021, 67 million Americans redeem coupons via their mobile phones.

With such a broad and active audience available, businesses are leveraging SMS short codes for marketing to extend offers to their customers, but there’s more to it than picking up your phone and typing a text to your friends. If your business is interested in using text message marketing, then you will want to understand the logistics of SMS and the difference between sending messages on a short code versus a long code.

What is a Short Code?

A short code is a 5-6 digit phone number that businesses use to send out marketing SMS messages. If you’ve ever received a text message from a business, you may have noticed that the sender’s number doesn’t look like a standard phone number. This is because they are using short codes, which are ideal for sending non-personal messages and mass texting. These codes are for sending only and not for receiving text responses.

While short codes can be used to initiate communication with customers, they can also be used to receive requests. Have you ever been listening to the radio when a contest comes on? The host tells you “text PAY ME to 12321 and you may win!” They’re asking you to message them on a short code.

Related: Short Codes – Dedicated vs. Shared

What Are Short Codes Used For?

There are several kinds of tools available to enable you to communicate with customers. SMS allows you to deliver time-sensitive alerts, offers, reminders and other information quickly and reliably. 

When you initiate communication from a business application (such as a web platform or software application) rather than an individual’s mobile phone, it can be referred to as an A2P (Application-to-Person) SMS. This is the common use for short codes.

Short codes are the preferred tool for sending marketing SMS messages. In fact, SMS traffic of messages from businesses to consumers reached 2.7 trillion in 2020, a 10% growth from the previous year and it’s not projected to slow down. 

This growing adoption rate will allow individuals to easily interact with the brands, companies, and service providers they value via text message while providing a quick and trusted communication tool for the companies.

Why Use Short Codes for SMS Marketing?

It’s clear why SMS marketing is a valuable approach for businesses in 2021. But why use short codes to send those messages?

Short codes are succinct, making them easier to remember than 7 or 10-digit numbers. Your messages will be recognizable to recipients based on your personal short code. These short codes also set you apart from personal text messages, as they are quite obviously from a business.

Let’s cover a few more practical reasons to use short codes for SMS marketing:

SMS Regulation

Short codes are regulated by Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and the CTIA (The Wireless Association). These consumer protection regulations require companies using short codes to ask permission (opt-in to subscribe) before contacting an individual. This provides a certain level of value in exchange, protecting the consumer and creating more successful SMS campaigns because trust has been built with the customers using their mobile device.

Speed of Message Delivery

Using an SMS short code for marketing allows your business to send large volumes of text messages in a short period of time. Business SMS providers set up deals with mobile carriers allowing a large number of messages to go out to subscribers  at a time. This is vital to those businesses with a database of 5,000 or more contacts. 

Many businesses have millions of contacts in their SMS database – imagine sending those one-by-one!  Timeliness is key to your campaign’s effectiveness with customers.

Flexibility for Innovation

Short codes allow for more development flexibility and innovation. Wireless carriers can easily change, update, or add new features to short codes for enterprises. When you are driving end users to take the same action to interact with your brand, it’s easier to make updates. 

Plus, application developers can leverage short codes to provide mobile solutions such as a one-to-one chat, triggered alerts, security authentication, and mobile coupons.

Related: Dedicated vs Shared Short Codes for SMS Marketing

Shared vs. Dedicated Short Codes

Shared short codes have recently become a thing of the past, but we’d like to briefly cover them as they’re making their transition.

Shared short codes were as you may imagine: codes shared amongst multiple businesses, saving costs for business SMS marketing. With multiple companies sharing the cost, no single business needs to cover the entire bill themselves. There were times when hundreds of companies may be sharing the same code. That may sound appealing, right?

While virtually everyone can agree that it’s great to save money, there were some inherent risks to sharing short codes. With other businesses using your same code, you relied upon them to stay compliant. If another, unrelated company uses the code improperly, mobile carriers often blacklist the number. This would block you from sending communications to your customers.

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

With shared short codes, you also don’t have any control over what – or how many – communications your customers are receiving. If they begin to receive messages from another company they don’t wish to hear from, they may accidentally opt out of yours as well.

More than that, many carriers are restricting or barring the use of shared short codes. With these shared addresses, there is less capability to block phishing or spam attempts from less reputable companies. Consider this ban a good thing: you wouldn’t want to unknowingly find yourself associated with that type of company.

Dedicated short code registration with carriers allows for a trusted gateway of delivery via their networks. They are not subject to the filtering that long code and toll free lines are subject to, making their delivery much more reliable.

On the other hand, dedicated short codes give you an opportunity to have a unique identifier when messaging your customers. You can even set up a “vanity number,” where you can deliberately choose the numbers of your short code to represent your business.

If Reliability Matters…

SMS text is the most reliable way to send bulk messages to customers, and ensure they’re received. With SMS short codes for marketing, your messages will be sent and delivered swiftly, and will stand out in your recipient’s inbox.

As a communication-as-a-service company, TrueDialog knows SMS text marketing. We can help you create, send, and track personalized messages to your clients.

Disclaimer: Please note that this advice is for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team. 

Best Practices, long codes, Mobile Marketing, short code, SMS Marketing

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