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SMS short codes vs SMS long codes: which one is right for you?

The main difference is that an SMS long code is a 10 digit number that can be used to send SMS messages, plus send and receive faxes or calls. SMS short codes are different because they are 5-6 digits and can only send and receive texts.

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Marketers today have more ways to reach customers than they ever have before. So choosing the right communication channels for your business is no easy task.

However, one of the easiest decisions you can make is to start texting.

The text message inbox is one of the least-saturated, most-effective marketing channels available. 

With open rates as high as 98%, more and more businesses are using SMS marketing to reach their customers. 

Types of SMS long and short codes

Texts can be sent through either a short code or a long code. Here are some examples of the types of short and long code numbers you can use for SMS marketing:

  • Short codesDedicated short codes are five- or six-digit phone numbers, like 938965, that customers can text to sign up for SMS updates. Learn more about how to lease a short code here. You can choose to lease a randomly-generated short code or a vanity short code that you choose.
  • Toll-free numbers: 10-digit phone numbers that begin with a three-digit toll-free code (800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844 or 833). 
  • Vanity toll-free numbers: This is a toll-free telephone number that, after the three-digit code, spells a name, word, or acronym. For example, 1-800-FLOWERS or 1-888-NEW-CARS.
  • Local numbers: This is another 10-digit number. We call these “local numbers” because you can choose the area code that matches your business’ location.

Let’s walk through the advantages and disadvantages of both number categories to help you decide which option makes the most sense for your business.

What is an SMS short code?

A short code is an easy-to-remember, 5 to 6-digit number used to send SMS or MMS messages. Customers text a keyword to this number to opt-in for messages.

If you own a pizza restaurant, for example, you may have customers text “CHEESE” to 35344 to receive discounts.

Sometimes known as dedicated short codes, you can get a randomly generated short code or select a custom vanity short code. For example, a spa may choose the custom code “73529” which spells out “RELAX.”

The cost of one of these short codes begins at $1000 per month.

One last thing, a dedicated short code can take up to a few weeks to provision.

When should I use a short code?

Short codes are a great SMS marketing tool for sending text blasts or mass text messaging campaigns. Other common uses include:

What is an SMS long code?

An SMS long code is a standard, 10-digit number. Just like a short code, it can be used to send SMS messages.

Advantages of long codes

With a long code, your company can use the same number to send SMS messages and place calls. 

It can be helpful to establish a consistent channel for all forms of customer communication. Our business texting service even lets you text-enable an existing landline or VoIP line.

Plus, a message that comes from a standard, 10-digit number feels like it’s coming from a person, not a bot. That makes long codes perfect for providing a personalized customer service experience.

Disadvantage of long codes

The biggest disadvantage of long codes is… that they’re longer. This makes it more likely that a user may enter the number wrong on their phone. 

When should I use a long code?

Even with that downside, a long code is still the right choice for many businesses looking to bring SMS into their communication strategy. Here are a few instances in which a long code comes in handy:

  • If you want to communicate 1-on-1 with customers
  • If you want to provide SMS customer service
  • If you want to set up texting network for your internal staff
  • If you want to keep your number consistent across all channels

Local numbers: the best of both worlds

We know what you’re thinking. What if you want to get started in minutes and send mass campaigns and have a 10-digit number? Don’t panic. There is an option we haven’t touched on yet.

Local number texting

With our local number texting service, you can text-enable your existing local number or register a new one. There are many benefits, including:

  • You can send out mass campaigns and one-to-one texts. 
  • The setup cost is low.

Decisions, decisions

By now you should have a solid understanding of the difference between short codes and long codes. The good news is we offer both these number types.

You can try our text messaging service for free for 14-days. We don’t even ask for your credit card.

If you still have questions, our team of SMS marketing experts would love to help. We’re available 7 days a week. Give us a call at (888) 992-8418 or use the chat at the bottom of your screen.

Alfredo Salkeld
Alfredo Salkeld

Alfredo is SimpleTexting's brand manager. He's passionate about using his 10+ years of marketing experience to help small businesses grow.

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