If you want to use SMS text messaging to communicate with your customers, you have plenty of options available to you. One of those options is to use SMS short code texting. For some businesses, SMS short codes are a great solution because they're convenient, versatile and best of all, short.

Swift SMS Gateway has extensive experience and knowledge using SMS short codes, so we're going to give you the full details on the world of short codes, including what they are, how they're used and how you can set up your own.

What Is Short Code?

A short code is an abbreviated phone number that is five or six digits long. You can use it to send MMS or SMS marketing messages to customers with promotions, useful information, passwords, discount codes or any other short message without bothering them with emails or phone calls.

The great thing about using SMS short code is that, by definition, it's short. This means it's easy to remember when sending a quick and simple message out to thousands of people at once. They're also ideal for giving people the opportunity to opt in to a marketing campaign because they can send a single word prompt to the short code number and be ready to go.

You're able to send and receive multiple SMS short code messages much quicker than its long code counterpart, making it ideal for high volume messaging. Plus, since the number is shorter there's a lower chance of a mistype hindering a connection.

One significant distinction to make when talking about short code SMS, however, is the difference between shared and dedicated short code. In a nutshell; shared short code is a text message number that is operated by a telecommunications provider and can be used by multiple companies. A dedicated short code is one owned by the business itself, meaning only your customers will receive messages from just you. Shared short codes are no longer available in the U.S., while in Canada the long code 10DLC format is being strongly encouraged. For either country, dedicated short code SMS messaging is a recommended way to go for higher budgeted SMS broadcasting.

How To Use a Short Code SMS

Short code SMS messaging is a mobile-friendly marketing strategy that offers plenty of advantages for businesses looking to communicate directly and swiftly with customers. Thanks to its universality, text messaging remains one of the highest used forms of written communication in the world, with around 2.2 trillion texts sent and received in the U.S. in 2020 alone, according to Statista research. Combined with an impressive open rate of over 90%, it's no surprise Forbes has dubbed text messaging "the future of e-commerce".

SMS marketing is easily scalable and direct. Short code texting allows you to reach out to large groups of customers from a short, easily remembered number that will increase engagement through its accessibility.

There are three main use cases where short code SMS can be of great benefit:

  1. Marketing promotions with offers, coupons and limited-time deals or sales events can reach thousands of recipients quickly, with a high throughput and likelihood of them being read.
  2. Automated alert notifications — order confirmations and shipping updates, for example — allow you to update customers easily and unobtrusively while still giving them the opportunity to respond should they need to.
  3. Single-use messages, like two-step authentication codes and password reset short code messages provide a simple way for you to offer reliable, prompt services to customers without the need for overly complicated processes.

Types of Short Code Text

There are two types of short code SMS: shared short code and dedicated short code. Here are the differences between the two.

Shared Short Code SMS

Shared short code (SSC) is a specific category of short code used to send Application-to-Person (A2P) text messages from a brand to a consumer. They are used by more than one brand to interact with their customer base, hence the name shared, and this means that not all keywords can be used as other brands may have them already.

SSCs are no longer used in the U.S., but currently are in Canada. This is now being replaced entirely by 10DLC long code, though. So if you want to use short code SMS to communicate with your customers it's advisable to consider dedicated short code, whichever country you're in.

Dedicated Short Code SMS

In contrast to SSC, a dedicated short code (DSC) is owned wholly by one business or organization. This means that any keyword you wish to use, you can, because another company won't already be using it. It also means that you're not reliant on other companies using the number to stick within the rules so the short code number remains in service. No to mention, of course, that SSCs are no longer available in the U.S. and are being superseded by 10DLC in Canada.

Vanity vs. Random Short Code

Another element to consider when purchasing a dedicated short code is whether you should choose a vanity or random code. Functionally there isn't any difference in these types of code, it's purely about aesthetic and simplicity.

Vanity short codes are ones that you specifically request or choose at an extra cost. Usually a company would select a vanity code that somehow represents the business — 7-Eleven has 711711, for example — or for its convenience if it's a number you want customers to be able to type easily — 121212, for instance. These codes have their benefits for the right types of campaign. If you'd like customers to text SMS keywords to a short code, it helps to have an easily recognizable and memorable code.

A random short code is, rather self-explanatorily, a randomized six digit code provided by the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA). This number is entirely random and you're not able to make any requests regarding what it starts with or if it should contain a specific number, nor are you able to request a different number if you don't like the code you're assigned. You get what you're given. This may mean a random short code isn't as ideal for SMS marketing campaigns requiring customers to text you, but they're great for one-way communications, like alerts, appointment reminders or single-use codes.

Man opening text message on his phone.Vanity codes can make your texts recognizable as coming from your business.

SMS Short Code Rules and Regulations

Before registering for an SMS short code, it's important to know what rules you need to adhere to and what guidelines it's recommended that you follow.

There are specific regulations laid out in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) about the conduct companies must follow when making telemarketing calls, auto-dialed calls, prerecorded calls, text messages, and unsolicited faxes. The TCPA rules are implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Additionally, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) publishes a Messaging Principles and Best Practices guideline that provides useful information on how to conduct text message marketing legally and considerately.

These rules and guidelines stipulate the types of communications a company can send and detail the very important issues of opt-in consent (you need permission from a customer before you can text them) and readily available opt-out features.

How To Set Up Short Code Text For Your Business

To begin with an SMS short code, you'll first need to register with the CSCA to request a code. The application process requires details of the campaign you wish to run, so it's advisable to plan it out in advance. Bear in mind that the application fee is non-refundable, so you don't want to waste it if you can't answer all the questions. Once your application is submitted, you'll just need to sit back and wait for approval.

Depending on what type of code you want, this could take anything from a few days to a few weeks. Usually, vanity codes are quicker to be activated, whereas random codes can take longer to be assigned.

Random short codes are leased at $1,000 per month, while vanity codes cost $1,500 per month. You can lease a short code for three, six or 12 months at a time.

Are you ready to get started on your SMS short code marketing campaigns? We're experts in registering and managing SMS short code campaigns, so get in touch to discuss what we can do to help your business enhance its marketing through text messaging.