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How to Pick the Right Number for Your SMS Marketing Efforts

How to Pick the Right Number for Your SMS Marketing Efforts

Should your business use a dedicated short code, toll-free number or a 10-digit long code? In this article, we'll walk you through how to make a decision.

Text messages are an easy, cost-effective way to get in touch with your customers, employees, fans, or any other group of people. But hang on! Before you send your first message, it’s worthwhile to take the time to figure out what type of number is right for you.

You have four options: a toll-free number, a long code, a shared short code, or a dedicated short code. All of these can send and receive messages, but they differ in a few key ways. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before you select a number:

  • How often do I plan to send messages?
  • What type of messages do I plan to send?
  • How will people sign up for my messages?
  • Do I want to send MMS messages?

Your answers to these questions will help guide your decision. Let’s start by talking about the most common choice—toll-free numbers.

Toll-Free Numbers

By default, every SimpleTexting account comes with a dedicated toll-free number. This is because it’s the most versatile type of number. They’re approved for mass messaging and 2-way communication. Toll-free numbers have a high throughput, meaning they can be used to send many messages at once.

If you’d prefer to use a toll-free number you already own, we can text-enable it! This can usually be done in under 48 hours.

Let’s talk about keywords. These are short words or phrases people can text to your number to join your list. With a dedicated toll-free number, you don’t have to share keywords with anyone!

Because toll-free numbers are long, many businesses prefer to have their customers subscribe to messages with online web form—as opposed to keywords. However, there are two easy workarounds if you plan to use keywords often.

  1. You can purchase a number that includes your business name from a third-party site such as (starts at $23/month). For example, you could get a vanity number like 1-800-MY-PIZZA. You’ll also have the ability to pick between a 1-800 number or 1-833, 844, 855, 866, 877, or 888. Another benefit that offers is the ability to forward calls to another number.
  2. You can make it easy for visitors to your site to sign up for your text messages with our free mobile sign-up widget. When they click a button, their native text app opens with the keyword and number prefilled. All they have to do is tap send.

📌 Key info about toll-free numbers:

  • Useful for mass messaging and 2-way communication
  • Perfect for promotions, alerts, customer service or support
  • You can import your existing contact list
  • Quick, easy setup
  • Can be used for sending/receiving SMS and MMS

Long Codes/Local Phone Numbers

Another inexpensive option is to use a long code. These are standard 10-digit numbers. Yes, just like your landline or VoIP number. If you already have one that you’d like to use, we can text enable it! Calls will go through as usual, and texts will be routed directly to our platform.

Many businesses choose this option because they’re able to send texts from a recognizable area code. Long codes are perfect for 1-on-1 customer service, support, and sales conversations. They can also be used to send small text blasts. You can reliably text groups of 200 contacts once per day. For larger groups, consider a toll-free number or short code.

📌Key info about 10-digit long codes:

  • You can select a local area code for added familiarity
  • Good for customer service, support or appointment reminders
  • Not ideal for texting groups over 200 contacts once per day
  • No MMS (picture messaging)
  • Quick, easy setup

Dedicated Short Codes

A dedicated short code is a 5- to 6-digit long number that only your business can use. Because of their cost and set up time, few companies choose to use a dedicated short code. Dedicated short codes require a one-time set-up fee plus a $1,000 per month leasing fee. This cost is set by the Common Short Code Administration, which oversees all short codes in the U.S. If you plan on sending a significant amount of messages, it may be worth the investment.

We have years of experience provisioning short codes and can help make the process as smooth as possible. From completing your service approval form to testing your short code, we’ll be there for you every step of the way.

📌 Key info about dedicated short codes:

  • Most expensive option
  • Mass messaging and 2-way communication
  • Short, easy-to-remember number
  • Ideal for keyword opt-in
  • Can be used for sending/receiving SMS and MMS

Shared Short Codes

Shared short codes are also 5- to 6-digit long numbers, but they are significantly cheaper than dedicated short codes because many companies share them. They don’t involve any of the setup or recurring costs–you only pay for credits to be able to send texts.

In October of 2018, AT&T announced its decision to discontinue most shared short codes. However, they will continue to allow some shared short codes, as long as all the businesses and organizations that use them are in one industry, sending similar types of messages.

  • Churches can use 94090 to send messages such as prayer requests and event reminders.
  • Real estate companies and independent agents can use 41404 for lead generation, open house check-in, follow-up, and more.
  • E-commerce and retail stores can use 900900 to alert customers of new promotions, send shipping updates, and other marketing purposes.
  • Businesses in the service industry, such as dry cleaners and HVAC companies, can use 47177 to send appointment reminders and more.
  • Nonprofits can use 56525 to send reminders to volunteers, keep donors up-to-date, and communicate with staff.

One bad apple can shut down a shared short code for everyone who uses it. That’s why we go to great lengths to ensure everyone on our short codes follow TCPA guidelines. We also restrict imports on short codes so that not a single text is sent to a contact without their express written consent.

You can request access to one of these short codes under your account settings.

📌Key info about shared short codes:

  • Mass messaging and 2-way communication
  • Short, easy-to-remember number
  • You cannot initiate a 1-on-1 conversation with someone who hasn’t subscribed yet
  • Ideal for keyword opt-in
  • Can be used for sending/receiving SMS and MMS
  • Imports are not permitted
  • No access to our API

Comparing Your Options at a Glance

In the end, your choice will come down to your budget, intended use, and whether you plan on using mass texts, 1-on-1 messaging for sales and support, or both. The chart below will give you a quick overview of your options.

  Toll-free     Dedicated short code Shared short code Long code
Format  10 digits     5-6 digits 5-6 digits 10 digits
Primary Use Hybrid Mass texting Mass texting 1-on-1 comms, limited group texting
Throughput Medium High High Low
Setup Cost Low High Low Low
Setup Time Minutes Weeks Minutes Minutes


FAQ About Switching Phone Numbers

We get asked a lot of questions about switching numbers. While it’s easy to change the number associated with your SimpleTexting account, the implications differ depending on what number you were using, and what number you plan on switching to. It’s essential to be aware of what they are before you make any decision.

No. The only number that involves additional fees is a dedicated short code. 

If you switch from a shared short code number to a toll-free or local number your keywords carry over. There’s also a 2-month transition period where people can still subscribe by texting your existing keywords to your short code. However, they will get the auto-confirmation message from your new number. This transition period is only for the keyword opt-in, so you have a set timeline to update your marketing materials.

If you switch from a toll-free or local number to a shared short code, the system removes all of your keywords to avoid multiple people using the same keyword. You can reach out to our support team to find out if your keyword is available on a short shared code before making a decision. If it is, when you switch, you’ll need to reclaim your keywords by creating them again.

Switching numbers does not disrupt your current lists at all. However, some of our customers decide to send a campaign to their contacts to let them know that they recently changed their number.
After text enabling your number, you’ll still receive voice calls from customers just as you always have. Texts from customers will go straight to SimpleTexting.
It is not possible yet, but we’re actively working on this feature. Keep an eye on our changelog for more updates! For now, you can sign up for two different accounts.

Still Not Sure What Number Type Is Right for You?

If you’re still not sure what number type is right for you, then maybe this handy flowchart will help.

Ready to Pick a Number?

Whether you’re just getting started with texting, or are already using our shared short code and want your own number—we’re here to help. Get in touch with our support team by clicking the chat bubble at the corner of your screen. We’re happy to answer any questions you have, and get you up-and-running with the right number in no time.

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