A short code is what allows a company to send text messages to consumers. It’s a five or six digit number that people see or use in place of a phone number. Examples of short codes are 55155 and 55755.
There are two main reasons why a brand needs to use a short code:
- Sending mobile messages to mass amounts of people requires the use of a short code since messaging can be passed through higher speed binds and delivered more efficiently to a vast audience. For example, MTV sends out millions of messages in minutes during the MTV Video Music Awards.
- In order to obtain a short code, brands have to go through a rigorous audit process that takes 8-10 weeks in the US. In this audit process, brands have to verify that they will not spam users with unwanted text messages and agree that they will adhere to the Mobile Marketing Association best practices and carrier guidelines.
Within mobile marketing, there are two types of short codes: dedicated short codes and shared short codes. A dedicated short code is owned by a single company to use for its campaigns only. A shared short code is one used by multiple companies to run various mobile marketing campaigns. Campaigns are guaranteed unique on a shared short code because of the use of keywords.
There has been a lot of discussion in the mobile marketing industry around the use of short codes that “spell” a certain word (e.g. Text <keyword> to OBAMA). The issue with these types of short codes is that smartphone users don’t have the normal T9 guides on their keyboards, making it difficult for them to type in the short code as a phone number into a text messaging application. As a result, many companies are finding success using easy to remember short codes, e.g. those that take a XXYXX format like 44144 or 22322.
Short codes rules are country-specific. As a result, you cannot automatically use the same short code in any country you want. You have to make sure your short code is approved according to a country’s specific laws and regulations. For example, in the US, several different types of campaigns can be run on a single shared short code (e.g. polls, sweepstakes, trivia, alerts, etc), whereas in Canada a shared short code can only be approved for one type of campaign.