What are SMS Short Codes?

SMS (Short Message Service) short codes (or shortcode) are essentially a shortened phone numbers that can be used to send a text message. SMS short codes are primarily used for marketing campaigns and mass text messaging as an information service. Short codes are typically 5 or 6 digits in length (this number can vary from country to country) and can be a random set of numbers or can be provisioned as a vanity shortcode like 90210 or numbers that correspond with a word like OBAMA. In this What are SMS Short Codes post we will be taking a look at the basic regulations, provisioning, and other specific details in regards to SMS short codes.

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SMS Short Code Provisioning

Most businesses marketing through a short code (also called Common Short Code or CSC) will not have to worry about provisioning a short code because they will be using a text message marketing service that has already done all the provisioning and setup required to use the short code. Unless the business is planning to send out 100,000 messages or more in a month, using a shared short code provided by a text messaging service will be much more efficient. For those that need their own short code, they will have to have it setup and provisioned before it can be used. Short codes are issued on a lease basis by the Common Short Code Administration and can be leased for 3, 6, or 12 month terms. A random short code costs $500 per month to lease and a premium or “select” short code runs $1,000 per month. There are no refunds and the entire term must be paid within 60 days of the order.

When applying for a common short code you will have to include details about the campaign for which you will be using the short code. This information will be reviewed by the wireless carriers and CTIA monitoring departments to make sure the campaign is in compliance with all short code regulations and legal guidelines. A short code can be used as either a dedicated or shared short code. Any common short code can be used as a dedicated or shared short code, the only difference is that with a dedicated short code the short code can only be used by one organization whereas a shared short code can be used by hundreds of businesses and organizations. On a shared short code messages are routed to individual businesses or organization through the use of a keyword. A keyword is a word selected by each business that will route all messages on that short code back to his or her business platform.

Using SMS Short Codes

Using SMS short codes is relatively simple. The easiest way for a business to use a shared short code is to find a text message marketing service provider that has already provisioned a short code and created a software platform for sending and receiving messages through the SMS shortcode. Most of these services are web based and work by charging the user a monthly fee for a set number of messages that can be sent from the system. Each client will choose one or more keyword relative to the business or campaign and will then be responsible for advertising his/her keyword and short code to get people to “opt-in” to his or her campaign. Advertisements can be done via the internet, TV, billboards, signage, word-of-mouth, email, or any other form of marketing and will say something like “Text keyword to 12345 to receive half off your next purchase”. Along with this call-to-action where you are inviting individuals to receive something by opting-in to your campaign, you must also include text indicating that message and data rates may apply. This does not mean they will be charged anything extra for joining your campaign, it simply makes it clear that their mobile carrier charges the same text messaging rates for texts to and from a short code as they do for a text message to a regular mobile phone number.

Mobile Marketing Statistics

Mobile marketing statistics show that the potential ROI (Return on Investment) associated with marketing through short codes is significantly higher than most other marketing types. Because the end user has complete and immediate control over whether or not they want to receive the messages you are sending, each message that you send out will be going directly into the hands of and interested party, literally. Mobile marketing statistics estimate that 98% of all text marketing messages are opened and read. You don’t see marketing statistics like that with any other type of marketing campaign. The cost of starting and running a mobile marketing campaign is very low with plans starting as low as $10 a month.