What is a 6-Digit Phone Number & How Does It Work? | SimpleTexting
COVID-19 Response: Qualifying schools, governments, and municipalities get 50,000 free credits. Find out more.
BlogBest Practices, Definitions

What to Know About 6-Digit Phone Numbers

What to Know About 6-Digit Phone Numbers

We all routinely receive text messages from five or six-digit phone numbers. How do these numbers work? And are they right for your business?

There is a strong likelihood that you receive text messages from 6-digit phone numbers quite regularly. By now, you may have figured out that these phone numbers are used solely by organizations to communicate with their audiences en masse. Case closed, right? 

There’s a little more to it than that.

While these numbers may look odd next to your 10-digit phone number, they’re actually quite powerful–and popular. Every day, these shortened phone numbers enable Amazon to send verification codes to confirm new accounts, FedEx to share delivery notifications, and SouthWest to promote its flash sales.

What Is a 6-Digit Phone Number?

A six-digit phone number is referred to as a short code (there are also some instances of 5-digit short codes). These short code numbers were created by the major wireless carriers in 2003 to allow marketers to easily communicate with consumers. Businesses and organizations will use these 6-digit numbers to communicate with subscribers about things like promotional offers or to communicate important alerts. 

If you want to know more about these numbers, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll cover the following FAQs in this article:

How Do 6-Digit Phone Numbers Work?

6-digit phone numbers are used by companies of all sizes to send marketing blasts, conduct two-factor authentication, and send out relevant notifications and alerts. 

Six-digit phone numbers are leased from the Common Short Code Administration, and once this happens, organizations can send and receive SMS and MMS messages. It’s not a free-for-all, though and there are several rules businesses must follow to be TCPA compliant.

The most important thing to remember here is that customers must give you explicit permission to send them text messages. Anti-spam laws are no joke. 

One of the most common ways for customers to provide this permission is by texting in a keyword. For example, a burger chain might use the keyword “subs.” A customer would send a text to the 6-digit number “555888” with the keyword “burger” to opt in. The chain can then send this customer text messages. 

Keywords are arguably the most popular method to ensure customers are providing their explicit permission. There are a bunch of other compliant opt-in methods you can read about here. If you want to learn more about keywords and compliance, we recommend checking out the following resources:

What Is the Difference Between Shared and Dedicated Short Codes?

As we mentioned in the intro, these five or six-digit numbers are known as short codes. There are two kinds of short codes: shared and dedicated. They are similar in how they work, but there are a couple of crucial differences that you’ll want to understand.

Dedicated Short Codes

A dedicated short code is a number that is only used by your business. This exclusivity has a couple of benefits. 

  • You are not sharing your number so you can choose any keyword you want, something that you cannot do with shared short codes. This restriction is because other businesses on the short code may already be using the keyword you want.
  • Dedicated short codes can contribute to your overall customer experience, providing brand recognition as your customers receive texts from a unique number.
  • You also know precisely what messages your customers are receiving from your number. This control is something that you don’t have with shared short codes.

It’s no surprise that these extra benefits come with additional costs. Dedicated short codes are leased monthly and also involve a one-time setup fee. The setup fee can vary depending on whether you use a random number of a vanity number. 

Shared Short Codes

Shared short codes can be cheaper, but individual carriers are discontinuing them to prevent spammers from taking advantage of the technology. However, there are specific industry short codes that are still kosher. You can find a list of the industry-specific short codes that SimpleTexting offers here.

The most significant advantage of shared short codes is that they don’t involve any setup or recurring costs. You pay for credits to be able to send your texts, and if you don’t use the credits, they roll over with SimpleTexting. All incoming text messages are free.

What Is the Difference Between a 10-Digit Phone Number and a 6-Digit Number?

The most significant difference between a 10-digit phone number and six-digit number is that the longer 10-digit number can also place calls and send faxes (if anyone still sends faxes). So, with a 10-digit phone number, you can offer your customers the chance to both text and call you. 

All SimpleTexting accounts come with a free 10-digit toll-free number. However, if you want to enable calling and texting on the one line, you’ll need to purchase the number from a 3rd party like 800.com and we can text-enable it. 10-digit phone numbers also allow you to send out mass text messages if they are toll-free and text-enabled. If you’re eager to learn more, we’ve written about how to pick the right number for your SMS marketing efforts here.

You might be thinking, why should I use a 6-digit phone number if I can get the best of both worlds from a toll-free 10-digit phone number? Short codes are best for high-volume messaging and if you plan on using keywords often. But––with that said––we encourage customers to use toll-free numbers in the majority of cases. 

This advice applies specifically to customers trying to decide between a shared short code and toll-free 10-digit phone number. In October 2018, AT&T announced its decision to discontinue most shared short codes, and their fate remains up in the air.

How Do You Get a 6-Digit Phone Number?

If you want to learn more about acquiring a dedicated short code, then we recommend you check out our dedicated short code services. The first step involves deciding between a dedicated vanity short code (e.g., Kmart’s SMS short code 56278 spells out Kmart) or a dedicated random short code. 

Vanity short codes are neat in the sense that they make your 6-digit number even more memorable. However, this comes with extra costs, and random 6-digit numbers are more affordable.

The process of getting either a vanity short code or a random short code is as follows:

  1. Apply to the cellular providers for one by filling out the necessary forms.
  2. Once you’ve secured your short code, cell carriers test it out to make sure all the information on the forms you filled out was accurate.
  3. The cellular providers give their final approval, and you are now able to launch your text marketing campaigns.

With over a decade of experience with short code texting, we can guide you through the entire process to make it as smooth as possible. Get in touch with us here to get started.

Gaining access to a shared short code is a much more straightforward process. We also have short codes approved for use by specific industries such as e-commerce and real estate. Our onboarding team can help you get set up on the right shared short code for your business when you sign up for a free trial.

Where Do You Go From Here?

6-digit phone numbers are ideal for one-way business-to-consumer communication. If that’s what you’re looking for, these shortened numbers are unrivaled in their effectiveness.

As we alluded to above, though, shared short codes are in a state of flux. This uncertainty underlines the need to select an SMS service that partners with you and guides you through these developments. 

Do you still have questions about 6-digit phone numbers? Our support team is available seven days per week if you want more information or have unanswered questions. Text or call us at (866) 450-4185 or use the chat at the bottom of your screen. Alternatively, schedule a demo or sign up for a 14-day free trial, no credit card required.

More From The Blog

Send Your First Message in Minutes

Start a text marketing campaign or have a 1-on-1 conversation today. It's risk free. Sign up for a 14-day trial and get access to all of our features.

Try Us Free