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Our guide to Short Code messaging for businesses

A short code is a unique 5 or 6 digit number ideal for SMS marketing campaigns, lead generation, and promotions where you want people to remember your number easily. This blog post provides you with a detailed definition of short codes, the different and most common ways they are used, and benefits for your business.

Short Code messaging for businesses

When creating or even revising your business bulk SMS & MMS messaging strategy, it's essential you understand the basics: the options and methods available for business messaging, and how to identify and utilise the right option to exceed your messaging and communication goals.

What is a Short Code?

Short Codes, also known as Short Numbers, are specialised 5 to 6 digit telephone numbers. Short Codes are often compared to their alternative, Long Numbers (not currently available in South Africa).

Short Codes are recognisably shorter than standard full-length phone numbers (even without country code) that are used to address Text Message/SMS (Short Message Service) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging System) systems of mobile network operators.

In some countries, some classes of short code numbers are *inter-operator, also known as Shared or Common Short Codes vs Dedicated Short Codes, which are more commonly used today. 

What Are Inter-Operator Numbers (Shared/Common Short Codes)?

Unlike Dedicated Short Codes, Shared Short Codes (AKA Common Short Codes) are used and "shared" between multiple providers or carriers and distributed across multiple businesses. While the purpose of this type of short code is no different from the standard 5-6 digit "dedicated" short code, these numbers are priced significantly lower because multiple businesses use them at once. Because of these numbers' "shared" nature, companies must use their unique keyword/s to identify themselves from other companies also using that code.

Who uses Short Codes?

Short codes are most often utilised by various businesses and organisations that need customer communications. Short Codes, specifically, support these operations in sending and receiving Text/SMS Messages and MMS messages to and from their customers/users' mobile phones (AKA "cell phones").

Short codes, or short numbers, are uniquely assigned to or even shared among businesses and appear to companies and customers as a dedicated 5-6 digit sequence of numbers.

What are the risks of using a Short Code?

Businesses that don't or haven't started using short codes typically use a single long phone number to send over a hundred messages per day. When using a single, long phone number for mass communications, you put your business' messages at high risk of being marked as spam.

When should I use a Short Code?

Short codes have a variety of use cases that are used across many businesses in a variety of ways, including:

  • Mobile Marketing
  • Voting & Polling 
  • Subscriber Opt-Ins
  • Newsletter or Content Subscriptions
  • Promotions & Limited Offers
  • Contests & Giveaways
  • Alerts & Notifications
  • Surveys & Submissions
  • And much more!

What are the benefits of using Short Codes?

Short Codes, on the other hand, are pre-approved by carriers to have a high *throughput. This makes Short Codes an excellent solution for sending high-volume or time-sensitive messages and campaigns.

Short codes are designed to make identifying and remembering the number easier and faster than standard telephone numbers. Because each short code is unique to each operator at the technological level, there is minimal overlap. Even so, providers most often also have agreements that prevent and avoid overlaps as well.

Short Codes and automation technology

Short codes are commonly associated with various services that operate and handle Short Code Messages using automation. These programs are often designed to automate a specific action or command after an inbound message with a specific command, keyword, or prefix response is received. The automation service then connects the unique response with the designated short code to deliver the appropriate response back to the user.

What are some best practices for using Short Codes?

  • Offer the recipient a free method to opt out of your list.
  • Identify your company name in the body of your message.
  • For insurance-driven marketing programs, a reverse billed the Insurance Ombudsman recommends short code since the mobile subscriber needs a free, opt-out message.

How much does a Short Code cost?

There are two costs to consider when your business is planning to use a short code:

  1. The cost to lease a short code
  2. The volume-based cost of messages you sent from a short code.

Messages sent to a short code can be billed at a higher rate than a standard SMS. They may even subscribe a customer to a recurring monthly service added to the customer's mobile phone bill until the user texts, for example, the word "STOP" to terminate the service. 

Where do I get my short code?

CM.com has direct connections to hundreds of networks worldwide which makes the approval process for you from facilitating, managing it, and securing it, super quick and simple - maximum of 2 days.

For the differences between short codes and long numbers, read our blog.

*Throughput is defined as the amount of material or items passing through a system or process.

Get in touch with us to get started

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Get in touch with us to get started

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connects tens of thousands of companies with millions of consumers via their mobile phone each day. Behind the scenes, from our innovative platform, CM makes sure companies can use these millions of messages, phone calls and payments to become part of people’s lives.

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