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SMS Long Code Vs. Short Code Marketing: The Big Decision

Aug 19, 2020
5 MINS READ

Has your business decided to start using SMS or MMS marketing? Studies show that the average text message open rate is 98%, ensuring a solid return on your marketing investment. 

If you’re just getting started with text marketing, you may be wondering about the merits of SMS long code vs. short code.

Before you decide which one is right for your business, let’s learn more about long code and short code messaging: what they are, why they’re used and when to use them. 

What Is an SMS Short Code?

An SMS short code (also known as Common Short Code or CSC) is a 5 or 6-digit number used to send SMS or MMS text marketing campaigns to a mobile device. Short code messaging is ideal for one-way, non-personal communication and mass texting. There are two ways to use short code marketing:

1. Messages originated by the business and sent to the consumer.

If a customer has opted in to receive texts from your business, you can use short codes to send bulk messages, communicate sales promotions, ask survey questions and more.

2. Messages originated by the consumer and sent to the business.

Some marketing campaigns on the internet, radio or other media ask consumers to text a keyword to a code number (example: "text WINNER to 12345") to request information, vote or opt-in to marketing communications. 

SMS Short Code Example

Types of Short Codes

There are two types of short codes: shared and dedicated. 

A shared short code is a number that can be used by multiple businesses simultaneously, primarily to save on marketing costs. While short codes can be shared, keywords cannot. Keywords separate shared short code traffic, so keywords cannot be replicated between businesses.

For example: a bank, a florist and a bakery share short code 24243. The phone carrier distributes responses to each business by their keywords, which could be MONEY (for the bank), ROSES (for the florist) and CAKE (for the bakery). In this scenario, the bakery could not use the keyword MONEY, nor could the florist use the keyword CAKE. 

A dedicated short code is a number that only one business can use. There are two types of dedicated short codes: random codes and vanity codes. 

  • Random short codes are randomly generated, like a license plate. You have no control over the number you receive.
  • Vanity short codes are customized numbers you can choose. You can select a “phone word,” which involves spelling a name in numbers (like 73774 for PEPSI), or opt for an easy-to-remember combination, like 800800 or 54321. Large companies commonly use vanity short codes for their unique branding abilities.

The biggest advantage of using dedicated short codes is that there are no limitations on keywords. Even if another company uses the keyword you want, you can still use it if you have a dedicated short code. For example, if Company A’s code is 65432, and Company B’s code is 23456, they can both use PASTA as their campaign keyword.

You can segment marketing campaigns with dedicated short codes to customize what messages your customers receive. Dedicated short codes provide faster message processing and greater detail reporting than shared short codes. 

When to Use a Short Code

Short code messaging has a wide variety of applications and is commonly used by businesses for:

Advantages of Short Codes

  • Short codes are memorable. Since they are shorter than phone numbers, short codes (especially vanity codes) are easier for customers to memorize, garnering higher response rates.
  • Short codes are spam-resistant. Texts from 5 or 6-digit numbers are less likely to be flagged as spam since wireless carriers pre-approve their content during the code’s set-up phase.  
  • Shared short codes are cost-effective. While still considered a premium service, shared short codes are used between thousands of different businesses, making the monthly cost per user more affordable.
  • Shared short codes can be set up in minutes and have no setup fees.

Disadvantages of Short Codes

  • Short codes are highly regulated and state-specific. Each state has regulations managing 5 and 6-digit numbers.
  • Recipients must opt in. You can only send short code SMS texts to customers who have specifically opted in to receive text messages.
  • Shared short codes have lower sending speeds due to their high-volume capabilities.
  • Shared short codes can be risky. Businesses sharing short codes can be at the mercy of other companies who violate the wireless carrier’s rules. If violations occur, all usage of a particular short code can be suspended for up to a month.  
  • Dedicated short codes take time to set up, usually two to three weeks.
  • Dedicated short codes are expensive. Costs vary from $750 to $1500 per month, depending on which type you want. Note: Qualified non-profit organizations can receive a discount on short code prices.

What Is an SMS Long Code?

An SMS long code is a standard 10-digit phone number used to send SMS messages. Unlike short codes, these numbers can also be used to make and receive calls. 

SMS Long Code Example

Types of Long Codes

There are three types of long code SMS: P2P (Person-to-Person), A2P (Application-to-Person) and toll-free texting

P2P Long Code: P2P long codes are 10-digit phone numbers you can use for one-on-one conversations and texts with your customers. People send P2P messages between individual cell phones or other mobile devices. 

A2P Long Code: A2P long codes are also 10-digit phone numbers, used to send one-way mass marketing messages. Customers are not expected to reply to A2P messages. They work similarly to dedicated short codes, but at a fraction of the cost. 

Toll-Free Texting: While P2P long codes can incur text charges for your customers, toll-free texting does not. For customer convenience and flexibility in your marketing campaigns, you can use toll-free texting for SMS and MMS messaging.

When to Use a Long Code SMS

Long codes are well suited for two-way interpersonal communication, like phone calls and standard texts. Service businesses most often use ten-digit numbers for communicating rather than for marketing campaigns. Some common uses for long code SMS include:

Advantages of Long Codes

  • Easy to set up. A long code can be operational within hours. 
  • Cost-effective. Long codes are less expensive than short codes. Since short codes are considered a premium service, they cost more than either A2P or P2P long codes.
  • Offer multi-use capabilities. You can use one number to send SMS messages, make and receive calls and send faxes, creating consistency across all your communication channels.
  • Provide a human touch. Ten-digit numbers look like they come from real people, not autodialers or bots, forging a better personal experience.  
  • Offer two-way text communication. Improve customer service and build your brand.

Disadvantages of Long Codes

  • Slow SMS delivery speed. Long codes aren’t ideal for bulk messaging, since it takes about a second to send each text. Large text blasts using a 10-digit number could take hours. 
  • Numbers are hard to identify. If your business number isn’t in your customer’s contact list, they may not recognize you and ignore your call or text.
  • Message costs are high. Although monthly fees are lower, the cost of long code SMS messages can be higher than short code SMS.
  • Cannot send MMS messages via A2P or P2P. These long codes can only accommodate SMS messages. 

Long Code Vs. Short Code: Still Deciding?

Does your business thrive on bulk text campaigns, or is two-way customer communication more important? Choosing the right SMS option for your business can make or break your text marketing campaigns. 

If you need a hand deciding on the right SMS code method, Textedly is here to help. We provide robust text message marketing services for every size organization that are easy to set up. 

Textedly offers short code, long code and toll-free texting to suit your business needs. See why Textedly is the easiest way to instantly send 10 or 100,000 bulk SMS and MMS mobile text messages.

Start your free trial today!

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