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What Are Text or SMS Short Codes?

Are you curious about how to use text or SMS short codes for text marketing campaigns? Find out what your business needs to know about short codes.

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You have a lot of options when it comes to texting your customers. 

Which is great news ー and also pretty confusing. To start with, which type of number should you pick? 

For some businesses, SMS short codes are the answer. Furthermore, we bet you’ve gotten a text from a short code in the last six months. 

They’re convenient, versatile, and best of all, short. 

We’ll give you the full details on the world of short codes, including how they’re used and how you can get set up with one of your own.

What Is an SMS Short Code?

A short code, or an SMS short code, is an abbreviated phone number that is 5 or 6 digits in length. 

Short codes are usually used to send SMS and MMS messages with product discounts, passwords, text-to-win sweepstakes, and more. 

These numbers are “short” by definition, so they’re easy to remember when sending a text message.

SMS short codes allow easy communication with customers ー most of whom prefer getting texts from businesses rather than emails or calls.

What Are Short Codes Used For?

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

  • Sending product discounts to contacts
  • Sharing one-time passwords or reset links
  • Allowing viewers to vote on TV programs with their phones
  • Hosting Text to Win sweepstakes or giveaways
  • Collecting feedback via a Text to Vote Survey

Looking at your texts, have you received any promotional SMS messages from 5 or 6-digit numbers? There’s a good chance they’re from short codes! 

The biggest draw for short codes is that they’re easier to remember and quickly enter into a text message than a 10-digit number, so you could potentially get more opt ins to your SMS campaign.

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How To Subscribe To Short Code Texts

Signing up for messages from a short code is easyーall your customers will need to do is text in the keyword you give them or have them complete a web form.

Let’s take a look at a keyword example:

SMS short code advertising

In this case, the keyword is “Burger” and the short code is “711711.” 

When you set up a keyword for your business, contacts who text in the word will receive your specific offer or confirmation message.

Today 1:25 PM
Thank you for signing up for weekly discounts from Burger Bistro! Show this text to your server for a free side of fries. 🍟

Brands almost always need express consent to send text messages, but there’s one exception: transactional messages. 

Transactional messages include:

  • Order confirmations with tracking numbers
  • Password reset requests
  • Two-factor authentication

There’s a fine line between transactional and promotional messages. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and get consent before sending messages.

How To Unsubscribe From Short Code Messages

If your contacts no longer want to get texts from the SMS short code, they can stop receiving messages by replying with the word STOP. 

The sender will then have to stop texting to them, just like unsubscribing from emails.

Today 1:25 PM
You have been unsubscribed from keyword BURGER.

What Does a Short Code Cost?

Dedicated SMS short codes start at $1,000 per month (billed annually), plus hosting fees.

Beyond that initial cost, you’ll have a one-time setup fee and a minimum of $500/month in messaging costs (20,000 messages).

Basically, you’re paying for the exclusive right to use your specific short code to send and receive texts, plus the cost of sending messages.

Another example of SMS short code marketing

Are There SMS Short Code Alternatives?

Toll-free numbers provide many of the same benefits as short codes. You can use them to send mass messages and for two-way messaging.

You can start sending mass texts even without a short code. We’ll help you get set up with a toll-free number that has all the capabilities you need.

How To Get a Short Code

In the wireless communications industry, dedicated short codes are leased, not sold. You’re paying for the exclusive right to use the number. 

Dedicated short codes take about four weeks to be approved by the governing body and the various telecom carriers. 

You can choose between two types of short codes: vanity short codes that you customize and random short codes that you can’t. Which one you choose depends on your business’ needs.

Vanity Short Codes

This is a number that you’ve chosen (if available). For example, a dance studio may choose the code 32623 which spells out DANCE.

Random Short Codes

Random short codes are the same as vanity codes, except that the number is randomly generated and costs less to lease.

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’re here for you every step of the way.

Examples of Companies Who Use Short Codes

Businesses of all sizes use short codes to reach their customers. Here are a few short codes you may have come across:

  • Airbnb sends reservation reminders with the short code 247262.
  • If you get suspicious activity text alerts from your bank, they likely send them with a short codeーWells Fargo uses 93733.
  • 40404 is the short code you use to communicate with Twitter. You must have a Twitter account with your phone number linked.
Example of companies using SMS short codes

Short Codes and Geography

Short codes are not universal to every country. For example, text short codes acquired in the U.S. need to be acquired separately from short codes in Canada. 

The CSCA (Common Short Code Administration) governs short codes in the United States. In Canada, it’s the CWTA (Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association). 

If you’re located outside of either of these countries, you’ll work with another organization.

Who Can Use Dedicated Short Codes?

Dedicated short codes for businesses who want to keep in close contact with their customers as they scale. 

Check out some of the industries who use them:

Accountants & Tax FirmsDoctors & Dental OfficesE-commerce CompaniesEntertainment Venues
NonprofitsPolitical CampaignsReal EstateReligious Organizations
RestaurantsRetailSchoolsSpas & Salons

The Wrap on SMS Short Codes

Short codes have a lot of attractive potential for businesses. 

They’re easy to remember and can be customized for your brand. You can use them for large campaigns or individual conversations, and they are ideal for keyword setup.

Getting started with a short code might initially seem more complicated than other number types. 

Don’t worry, though. The SimpleTexting platform, along with our support team, makes the whole process smooth and easy. 

Step oneーgive SimpleTexting a free 14-day test drive.

Alfredo Salked
Alfredo Salked

Alfredo leads the marketing team at SimpleTexting. In addition to writing about SMS, he also talks about it—literally. Our how-to videos are narrated by him.

More Posts from Alfredo Salked
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