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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What Is a SMS Short Code?

A short code, or a SMS short code is an abbreviated phone number that is 5 or 6 digits in length. Short codes are commonly used to send SMS and MMS messages with product discounts, passwords, text-to-win sweepstakes, and more. These numbers are “short” by definition as they are designed to be easily remembered when sending a text message.

SMS short codes offer many benefits to companies that use them. The main one? They allow an easy way to communicate directly with customers. Short codes are also beneficial for consumers as many people prefer receiving texts from businesses over email.

What Are Short Codes Used For?

Short codes are designed for instances when a business or organization needs to send or receive a high volume of text messages in a short amount of time. Short code numbers are generally pre-approved by wireless carriers to send more messages than a long code phone number would be able to in a similar period.

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 subscribers
  • Sharing one-time passwords or reset linkings
  • 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

Take a quick scroll through your messages. Have you received any promotional SMS messages from 5 or 6-digit numbers? There’s a good chance they’re from short codes! In the last decade, text or SMS short codes have become more and more popular.

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How To Subscribe to Text Short Codes

To subscribe to a short code message or distribution list, you have to text in an SMS keyword, or sign-up using a web form.

Think of a keyword as the secret word you need when you knock on a door. Let’s take a look at an example:

In this case, the keyword is “Burger” and the short code is “711711.” When someone texts the keyword to the short code, it’s routed through SMS marketing software. The software validates the code and responds with 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 side of free fries. 🍟

There is one exception to this rule. If your company wants to send a transactional message, they don’t need consent first. In other words, there’s no need for a keyword. 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 Codes

If you no longer want to receive communications from an SMS short code, you can stop all future messages by replying with the word STOP. The sender is then obligated to cease all communications with you, just as a newsletter opt-out removes you from receiving any email communications that are unwanted.

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

What Is the Cost of a Short Code?

The cost of a dedicated SMS short code begins at $500 per month.

That cost is in addition to a one-time setup fee as well as a minimum spend of $500/month in messaging costs (~40,000 messages).

What you’re paying for is the exclusive right to use a specific 5 or 6-digit number to send and receive texts. (The cost of sending messages isn’t included).

Are There SMS Short Code Alternatives?

Toll-free numbers provide many of the same benefits as short codes. They have a high throughput, meaning they can be used to send many messages at once. Plus, you can use them for two-way messaging.

That’s why every new SimpleTexting account comes with a dedicated toll-free number.

[Read: How to Pick the Right Number for Your SMS Marketing Efforts]

The point is that you can start sending mass texts, even without a short code. Sign up for a 14-day free trial and we’ll set you up with a toll-free number that has all the same capabilities as a short code.

How To Get a Short Code

We can help you lease a dedicated short code. Yes—in the wireless communications industry, text short codes are leased, not sold. What you’re paying for is the exclusive right to use the number. Dedicated short codes take about 4 weeks to be approved by the governing body and the various telecom carriers. 

Two types of dedicated short codes are available: a vanity short code with a customized number and a random short code with a predetermined number that you cannot request or change. A company like SimpleTexting can help you select the right type of short code for your specific use case. 

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 exactly the same as vanity codes. The only difference is that the number is randomly generated, and costs half as much 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’ll be there for you every step of the way.

Examples of Companies Who Use Short Codes

Businesses small and large use short codes to reach their customers. Here are a few short codes you may have come across:

  • When Airbnb sends reservation reminders, they use the short code 247262.
  • If you choose to receive suspicious activity text alerts from your bank, they likely send them via a short code. For example, Wells Fargo’s is 93733.
  • 40404 is the short code you can use to communicate with Twitter. You must have a Twitter account and ensure it’s associated with your phone number.
  • If you are on a public computer, want to log in to Facebook, and don’t want to type your password on a shared machine, you can request a temporary password by texting “otp” to 32665. You’ll receive an 8-character passcode that is only valid for the next 20 minutes.

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 of short codes in Canada. The CSCA (Common Short Code Administration) is the national body that governs short codes in the United States. In Canada, this is the CWTA (Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association). If you’re located outside of either of these countries, you will be working with another governing body.

Who Can Use Dedicated Short Codes?

Dedicated short codes work like a charm and help your business scale. They’re the perfect solution if you want to keep in close contact with your growing customer base.

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

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