An SMS short code is a 5-6 digit phone number used by businesses that send and receive SMS to individual customers or prospects. The short code is much like a mobile number in that it can send and receive SMS messages, but the number itself is much shorter in length and easier to remember.

The real value of SMS short codes however, comes from the ability to acquire potential customers by having them voluntarily opt-in to offers, services, or further marketing messages. By advertising your offer and asking consumers to text a message to your short code you invite them to start the dialoge, allowing you to gain potential customers more easily and be sure that they are genuinely interested in your brand.

Short codes should be used when SMS marketing is the appropriate way to complement your brand or offer. If you’re businesses advert will be received when consumers are out and about with their mobiles at hand, it can be a very good idea to incorporate some kind of SMS interaction. SMS short codes are often displayed to consumers online, in-store or through more traditional advertising mediums such as television, radio or newspaper/magazine print.

Shared Short Codes and Using SMS Keywords

SMS keywords are an important part of SMS campaigns where the 5-6 digit short code assigned by an SMS provider is shared between a number of businesses or organisations. When opting into a businesses SMS campaign, a customer will not only need to know the SMS short code but also the key word unique to that specific business or campaign. An SMS keyword aids SMS providers to determine which SMS campaign (or which of the provider’s customers) an individual is opting into. As a user of a shared short code, a business with receive any messages with their specified keyword into their dedicated SMS inbox. This allows businesses to share their SMS short code, without paying the extra cost for their own private number.

Dedicated Short Codes

Dedicated short codes are only in use by one business at any given time. Often, when using SMS marketing, many of the larger, more renowned brands have their own dedicated SMS short codes which customers become familiar with and recognise as theirs. In the United States dedicated SMS short codes can cost in the region of $15,000 to $30,000 per year and can take a couple of months to set up.

Vanity vs. Non-Vanity SMS Short Codes

Vanity short codes are 5-6 digits in length and are a specifically selected set of numbers. Often vanity short codes are preferred by businesses over non-vanity short codes as they can be far more memorable to a customer. The cost of a vanity code in the United States is approximately $1000 per month.

In contrast, non-vanity codes cost approximately half this price and therefore are much more affordable for many businesses. These codes are also 5-6 digits in length, but unlike vanity short codes, these are numbers which are selected at random and therefore aren’t necessarily easy to recall.