As we continue to share the differences between the uses of SMS Short Codes and Long Codes, today we’ll focus on using SMS Long Codes for operational text messages. If your business is interested in using SMS for operational efficiency, then you’ll want to understand the logistics of SMS and the difference between sending messages on a short code verses a long code.
What is a Long Code?
A long code is a 10-digit phone number, just like your home or cell phone number. They are designated for P2P (Person to Person) Communications by the wireless carriers. You can read more about Long Codes here.
What is a Long Code Used For?
SMS gateway providers such as 3Seventy have created deals or arrangements with the major mobile carriers to send and receive SMS messages over long codes and short codes. The relationship between the SMS gateway provider and the carriers allows for the transmission and reception of a large number of SMS messages to and from a long code, however it moves much slower than a short code (1 message per second vs. 40 message per second)
Knowing this information, the best uses of long codes are for internal and operational SMS. If a business chooses to use it, then SMS can be quickly become an integrated part of their existing platforms. Great uses of SMS long codes include:
- Employee Communication
- Customer Service
- International Communications from the US
- Triggered Alerts (such as disasters and important events)
- One-Time Updates and Notifications
- Highly-localized small business marketing
Why Should You use Long Codes for Operations SMS?
Long codes are not regulated by MMA and the CTIA (The Wireless Association), so they are often associated with spam messages. So if you are concerned about managing a positive brand reputation, then SMS marketing messages in the US are best delivered via short codes. However, operational messages or those for highly localized communities.
Speed of Message Delivery
Short codes win the speed race (sending 40 messages per second compared to 1 message per second). However, those businesses with a small database or only sending one-to-one messages should be perfectly comfortable using long codes.
Affordability and Availability
Long codes are much more affordable than short codes – largely because of the lack of regulations – and they are readily available for setup. Short Codes can be quick to get on if it is a shared short code, but dedicated short codes can take 4-6 weeks to get setup and approved. Long Codes are a more familiar medium for the customers than short codes.
This week we’re looking closely at the differences between the uses of SMS Short Codes and Long Codes. 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 verses 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 message from. Read More about Short Codes.
This is an add for A&W Restaurant’s Text Club. They use a Short Code (70626) and a Keyword (Burger) as the means of having customers opt-in for special offers such as a Papa Burger. When the consumer texts in, he or she is subscribing to A&W’s Text Club and agreeing to receive SMS messages from them.
What are Short Codes Used for?
Businesses use several kinds of tools to communicate with consumers. SMS allows businesses to deliver time-sensitive alerts, offers, and other information to consumers. When the communication is initiated from a business application (such as an SMS platform), rather than an individual’s mobile phone, it can be referred to as a A2P Communication (Application-to-Person) SMS. This is the common use for Short Codes.
Short codes are the preferred tool for sending marketing SMS messages. Growth in the use of SMS marketing is expected to continue through 2016. This growing adoption 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 Marketing SMS?
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 a short code allows your business to send large volumes of text messages in a short period of time. Text message providers, like 3Seventy, setup deals with the carriers allowing a large number of messages to go out to consumers from each carrier at a time. This is really important to those businesses with a database of 5,000 or more contacts. Many businesses have millions of contacts in their SMS database, so timeliness is key to the campaign’s effectiveness with customers.
Flexibility for Innovation
Short codes allow for more development flexibility and innovation. Wireless carriers can change, update or add new features to short codes for enterprises without a problem. 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 NEWS: Neustar’s contract with CTIA to manage the CSC registry will end on December 31, 2015.
Small Businesses are Tapping Into a Smarter Way to Communicate with customers – Using SMS on Long Codes
A small business, such as a real estate agent, has the on-going communication issue that so many of us have. It’s difficult to pin down your clients and connect with them while they are always on-the-go. Many real estate agents are using SMS (text messaging) to stay in contact real-time with their clients, but doing so from your own phone all of the time is not so simple either. The costs can get out of control very quickly, and agents want the client to still feel the personal / local touch.
SMS from a local Long Code
The local real estate agent has 2 key goals: connecting with new prospects as quickly and easily as possible and staying connected with current clients while in the process of searching for/closing a home. Since young couples and similar home buyers are using their phones more and more (for both work and personal life), it is easy to connect using SMS.
The first goal of engaging prospective home buyers requires some external signage and a series of helpful SMS campaigns. It begins with a “welcome + more info” style campaign for the prospects. When someone drives past a house and sees a sign that reads “Text MOVEIN to 512-123-4567” and takes action, then the automated message back will provide basic info about that agent plus a link to view property details. The real estate agent can also receive a notification or view in a report that a specific contact (based on phone number) texted-in, so she knows to follow-up with that contact.
A different approach to the initial engagement process with a lead is offsite marketing – newspaper ads, social media, website, or other outdoor signage – that lead to a dialog campaign. This SMS campaign utilizes the SMS dialog feature of asking questions to determine the home buyer’s needs and wants. Gathering this data helps the local real estate agent to offer the best possible offerings to the contact/prospective client. Then the information about each contact (called contact attributes) can be synced with the agent’s customer database software for sending smarter and more targeted messages through all marketing channels.
The importance of using a long code, in part, is the experience of seeing a local phone number posted in the advertising rather than a short code (which is associated with marketing SMS). If you are a local business, then it is so key for your customers/clients to feel like they are engaging with a local business and not some giant conglomerate.
The second goal of staying connected with current clients uses SMS tools in a more long-term way. Keeping things very simple, an agent can simply use SMS through a platform as a better way for tracking communications. Instead of sending a text from his/her phone, the agent can send SMS from a desktop computer or tablet. The key differentiator in this experience are the improvements to the agent’s long-term reports and tracking communications.
However, a small business that wants something a little more robust can leverage the SMS API to be connected with a CRM system and send text messages using different triggers. When a home buyer completes a step in the buying process, such as putting in an offer, that is tracked in the CRM system, then a SMS message can be triggered by that change in the system. We can set it up in such a way that a pre-set text message is sent to the home buyer when that offer is either accepted or decline by the seller. It is one less step for the agent, while still fulfilling on a protocol.
The result of these upgrades is a smoother communication strategy. The small business real estate agent makes small upgrades to the communication plan and process, and in-turn improves the overall experience of buying a home. SMS offers a faster and more affordable approach to client communications while maintaining the local-feel using a long code.
Ways companies are improving upon their customer support and direct communications with “customers”
Innovation in the area of customer support. Customers are always on the go, but they don’t necessarily want to chat on the phone or wait on hold to have questions answered. So companies are going beyond the call center, email support, and social media engagement to improve customer support
SMS Chat (a one-to-one messaging feature)
A university wants to accomplish 2 key goals: staying engaged with current students who are disperse across multiple campuses (both on and offline) and introduce prospective students to their programs. University email addresses are used for assignments and staying connected with professors, rather than university-wide announcements. And students are spending more time on their phones than in past years – particularly sending SMS (text messages) or using mobile apps.
To address the first goal of engaging current students, we’ve setup a 411 type of SMS campaign. Using signage throughout the campus, the campaign invites current students to text a keyword (such as “CAMPUS”) to a shared short code (such as 33898*) so they can ask questions and send feedback about the school. When a student texts in, a new SMS Chat session begins with a live person from the campus administration’s support team. This team is equipped to answer questions about the university and document and feedback from students.
Each phone number is used as a way to identify each student as a unique contact. All messages exchanged between the support staff and that student are saved, and can be referenced back to. While the support staff are replying to students from a computer, students have the look and feel of texting with a friend from their own mobile phone. The information can even be synced with the university’s customer database software.
The result of this upgrade is a more engaged student population. Students feel more empowered to provide feedback to the university and ask important questions about their finances or grades before it becomes a problem.
The second goal of reaching prospective students is an equally interesting prospect for leveraging SMS tools. Many high school students fill out applications online or meet recruiters at college fairs, but they often do not complete the application process or something is missing. Following up with these young people via email is not the most effective way to communicate.
So we will update the online forms to include a mobile phone field (along with SMS compliance content). The prospective student’s information is added to the customer database software, and the call center team can now follow-up with these teens in the fashion they prefer – text messages. Each call center team member can open an SMS Chat with individual prospective students to follow-up on their questions about the university, the application process, or any other burning questions.
*Note this is not a live campaign, so do not try to text in to see a sample.
If you are relatively new to the mobile world, specifically SMS (text messages), then you may feel unsure about the differences between long codes and short codes. You are not alone, so let’s take a look at what you need to know about long codes, short codes and your SMS campaigns so you can make an informed decision.
Here’s an Overview of Long Codes Vs Short Codes
10-digit phone number for sending SMS
5 or 6 digit shorted phone number exclusively for sending SMS
Slow: 1 SMS per second
Fast: About 40 SMS per second
Carrier regulations do not allow SMS broadcasting.
US and International
A long code is a 10-digit phone number, just like your home or cell phone number. This can work for or against you.
Good: For highly-local companies that seek for the user experience to feel local. Imagine that as you are waiting for the cable installation guy to show up, a local number appears on your phone with the “on our way” text message – it appears that a the installer is a local who took the time to text you, even though it was an automated SMS from a platform. Long codes are also useful for companies trying to reach international customers, whereas short codes cannot be used internationally.* The other reason for companies to leverage long codes is that they are inexpensive to use.
Bad: There are no definitive guidelines for acceptable use of long codes in the US. This means that there are no best practices or consumer protections, which can lead to spammers abusing SMS. Unlike short codes, long codes are not submitted to carriers or required to go through an approval process. The biggest issue with long codes is speed – messaging throughput on long codes is significantly slower than on short codes ( about 1 message per second). So you wouldn’t want to do any large SMS message blasts to a large database on a long code, rather you would best use it for one-to-one messaging.
A short code is a 5 or 6 digit phone number designated for text messaging, especially marketing messages.
Good: There are strenuous consumer protection regulations in the US put in place by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). These regulations prevent companies from sending unsolicited marketing messages to consumers. This ultimately leads to a better user experience for customers, because they are demonstrating interest in the company by choosing to opt-in for messages. Short codes are also significantly easier to remember, so promoting a text messaging campaign is thus easier too.
Bad: Only a limited number of countries use short codes, so they are primarily for bulk messaging in the US. The cost is higher than a long code, unless you are on a shared short code. Shared short codes are offered by some SMS platforms to reduce the overall cost of text messaging (sometimes even cheaper than a long code).
Long codes are cheaper than dedicated short codes, but shared short codes are the best way for you to save money and achieve your goals. It works especially well if you are working with a text messaging provider that already owns shared short codes that have space for your company.
If you want to be up and running with your text messaging campaign today, then (again) you’ll want to work with a text messaging provider that already owns some short or long codes. Provisioning time for either long or short codes takes time, so keep that in mind. If your company wants a dedicated short code, then plan on 6-8 weeks for provisioning time and be prepared to spend a significant amount of money on it upfront.
For companies focused on brand recognition, short codes, especially dedicated short codes, are going to be the best choice. A dedicated short code affirms that no other company can use that code to send messages. The dedicated short code becomes part of your branding and messaging. Taking it a step further, companies can even lease vanity short codes that spell out a specific word or phrase to connect with the brand. This is helps with the company’s exposure on external media such as radio contests or billboards, because it is easy to remember and easily aligned with the recognizable brand.
If your aim is to create an engaging SMS marketing program that you send to a large and growing list, then working with short codes are probably the best fit. This stays true for both platform and API users. Whereas, your small book shop in a highly localized community setting may only want to use a long code for a few messages with a small list with lots of one-to-one messaging.
Dedicated vs. Shared short codes?
Before we can compare dedicated short codes to shared short codes we must first learn what a SMS short code is and how it works.
What is a SMS Short Code?
In brief, a short code is a 5 or 6 digit number, like a short telephone number, used by businesses for text message purposes. A business may purchase their own short code or share a short code with other businesses. If a business purchases their own short code it is considered a dedicated short code, in that it is dedicated solely for the purpose of that business to be able to text message their contacts. If that company wishes they may allow other businesses to use the same code. Sharing a short code is usually done in order to reduce the costs associated with owning a dedicated short code, as it can be very expensive (as you will learn later in this article).
How SMS Short Codes Work
Dedicated short codes have a number of “KEYWORDS” associated with that particular number. When sharing a short code the keyword is what would differentiate one user/business from another. For example:
- Joe’s Pizza and Sam’s Spa share the short code 54321
- Joe’s keyword was “pizza”
- Sam’s keyword was “spa”
- Both Sam and Joe send text messages to their customers cell phones
- All customers get a text message from the short code 54321
- When customers reply they must type the keyword a space and then their message.
- The customer message is then sent to the appropriate business based on whether they replied “pizza” or “spa”
- “pizza” responses are delivered to Joe, and “spa” messages are delivered to Sam.
If a company decides to keep the dedicated short code to themselves they may use all the keywords for themselves. Now we have an overview of short codes and how they work let’s take compare shared short codes and dedicated short codes.
Shared Short Codes
As mentioned above, a shared short code is typically owned by one business and that business allows other businesses to use the same short code to send bulk text messages their customers. Most often the short code is owned by a text message marketing provider. The provider will then form text message packages that offers their customers the ability to use their short code, have their own keyword, and an allotted amount of text messages a month for a specified fee. A typical text message package may include a keyword and specific number of messages a month for a set price. Because dedicated short codes are difficult to obtain and very expensive to get and maintain, a mobile marketing provider would need to be able to sell these packages to a number of people before their expenses would be covered.
Shared short codes are an excellent way for any size of business to save money on group text messages. Text message providers usually have a variety of text messaging packages to accommodate the needs of a variety of business needs. By using this type of service, a business can send an instant text message to a single contact and all the way up to millions of contacts. Sharing a SMS short code is the most cost effective way to send group text messages.
Dedicated Short Codes
It would be great if every business could afford their own dedicated short code, and maybe someday it will be like cell phone numbers and every business will have them. But for now unless you have an extreme marketing budget the chances of being able to afford your own dedicated short code is probably not in your near future. The process of getting your own dedicated short code is also very time consuming, do not think it’s like picking a telephone number. It will take a minimum of months before you are able to meet all the requirements and obtain all of the approvals necessary to start using your new short code. However, that time period will allow you to get everything (including your own platform) ready so when you get approval you may start sending messages. Generally speaking most businesses are not in a financial position to afford their own dedicated short code, they don’t have the technological skills to build a platform, and cannot take the time work out all the details.
If a large business is set on having their own dedicated short code, has the money but not the time or technical skills they may opt to have a third party provider assist them. However, it is still going to be costly and take some time. Here are just a few things you can expect when trying to obtain your own SMS short code through a third party:
- A random short code costs about $500.00 a month
- A vanity short code is about $1,000.00 a month
- A one-time set up fee of about $3,000.00
- About $500.00 a month for platform use
- A minimum of about $2,000 a month, in per message costs
- A minimum 6 month commitment
- Any charges from cell phone companies billed to the short code (these are fairly rare and not too expensive, but they do happen)
- Many may also charge a deposit of about $2,000.00
Keep in mind that whether you choose to get your own dedicated short code or have a third party provider do it for you, it is going to take anywhere from 6-12 weeks to get the provisioning of a new short code approved.
As you can see, there are a number of huge differences when comparing using a dedicated vs. shared short code. Shared short codes are the most common, most cost effective, and by far the easiest to obtain. When considering whether to choose a shared or dedicated short code do your research and make sure you are aware of all the pros and cons, chances are the comparisons will have you researching SMS shared short code providers.
*Originally published by SMS Shortcode