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SMS Short Codes vs SMS Long Codes: Which One Is Right for You?

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Learn about the difference between SMS long codes and SMS short codes with this simple guide. Find out what to do if you need the best of both worlds.

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. Texts can be sent through either a short code or a long code. The difference between the two can seem confusing at first, but is actually pretty easy. Let’s walk through the advantages and disadvantages of both to help you understand 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. Ours is 555888. Users text a keyword to this number to opt-in for messages.

Illustration of Phone With Shared Short Code

If you own a pizza restaurant, for example, you may have customers text “CHEESE” to 555888 to receive discounts.

Learn more about SMS short codes and how they work.

When Should I Use a Short Code?

The best time to use a short code is when you want to reach a large audience quickly. Short codes let you send thousands of messages at once, making them ideal for mass texting.

Two Types of Short Codes

There are two types of short codes: shared and dedicated. They work in almost exactly the same way, but there’s one important difference.

Shared Short Codes

A shared short code, like 555888, is a number used by multiple businesses. If you use a shared short code, you’ll be limited in what keywords you can use. If another entity has already claimed a keyword, you won’t be able to use the same one.

There are several reasons why thousands of companies opt for a shared short code. First off, it’s more affordable. Dedicated short codes are leased monthly and require a one-time setup fee. On the other hand, with a shared short code there’s no overhead. you to only pay for the messages you send and incoming messages are completely free.

Another advantage of shared short codes is that they only takes minutes to set up. A long code or dedicated short code can take up to a few weeks to provision.

Dedicated Short Code

A dedicated short code is a number that only you can use. 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.”

Dedicated short codes have several advantages. Perhaps the most important is that they provide you with creative freedom. Because you’re not sharing your number with anyone else, you can pick any keyword you want—even if another company is using it. With a dedicated short code, you also have more control over your brand image. Unlike a shared short code, you’ll know exactly what messages your customers are receiving from your number.

Disadvantages of Short Codes

The main disadvantage of short codes is that receiving a text from a 5 or 6-digit number can feel impersonal, especially if it isn’t a dedicated short code. The good news is our threaded conversations features still allows you to have 1 on 1 conversations with your customers.

When Should I Use a Short Code?

What Is an SMS Long Code?

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

Illustration of Benefits of SMS Long Code

Advantages of Long Codes

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

Disadvantages of Long Codes

With a long code, you can only send one message per second. If you need to send text blasts to large volumes of people instantly, it’s best to go with a short code. Also, unlike short codes, long codes are limited to SMS messages. You cannot send picture messages using a long code.

The most obvious disadvantage of long codes is that they’re, you know, longer. This makes it more likely that a user may enter the number wrong on their phone. Short codes are easier to remember.

When Should I Use a Long Code?

Even though there are a few disadvantages, 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 long code comes in handy:

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

Toll-Free Texting Is 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’s one option we haven’t touched on yet that many text marketing platforms don’t offer, but we do: toll-free texting.

Illustration of The Benefits of Toll Free Messaging

With our toll-free texting service, you can text-enable your existing toll-free number or get a new one. It only takes a few minutes to get up and running. The throughput rate of toll-free numbers is significantly higher than long code numbers, meaning it’s a good option if you need to send out mass campaigns. Plus, the setup cost is low and you can send personal 1-on-1 texts just like you could with a long code. Think of a toll-free number as a hybrid between a long code and short code.

Decisions, Decisions

By now you should have a solid understanding of the difference between short codes, long codes and toll-free numbers. The good news is we offer all of the above. Try our shared short code service for free for 14-days. Keep your credit card in your wallet, you don’t need it for our 14-day trial. If you need a toll-free number, long code, or dedicated short code, we’re happy to set you up with one of those, too.

Still need help deciding whether a long code, short code or toll-free number is right for you? 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.

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