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SMS Shortcodes, What You Need to Know

April 20, 2017 Published by

Any cell phone user has become familiar with promotional SMS messages from five or six-digit numbers during the past few years. These numbers are shorter than standard phone numbers because they’re designed for application to person (A2P) communications.

If your business requires marketing to mobile phone users or sending them messages to get them to access your application or service, then you likely need SMS shortcodes as well.

But before you go out and purchase a shortcode, review the essential information below to help you make an informed decision.

What are SMS shortcodes?

SMS shortcodes are five- to six-digit numbers (i.e. 54513) that have been specified by the cell phone carriers for use in A2P messaging. Aside from being easy to remember, shortcodes have no message volume limit. This makes them ideal for high-volume SMS messaging involving marketing campaigns and transactional messages.

Types of shortcodes

In order to meet the diverse needs of global businesses, shortcodes are offered in two different formats: shared and dedicated.

Shared shortcodes

Shared shortcodes are individual numbers that multiple businesses share. In order for these shortcodes to function, each business is assigned a unique keyword that helps the SMS provider determine which program a consumer is trying to opt-in to when they receive his or her response.

Unlike dedicated codes, shared numbers generally don’t carry a monthly cost. Instead, users pay per message. These numbers can be provisioned in a couple of days, plus they don’t require long-term contracts

Preapproved shortcodes can be used only for marketing, two-factor authentication (2FA), and general notifications/alerts.

Dedicated shortcodes

Dedicated shortcodes are assigned to a single entity. Unlike shared shortcodes, they typically have a 8-12 week approval cycle (sometimes it only takes 4-6 weeks) and cost upwards of $1,000 a month.They also require companies to process and comply with a few complex regulations.

Dedicated shortcodes can be used for virtually any legitimate purpose, but each code approval is valid for a single purpose. For example, if a company receives approval to use a shortcode for 2FA, it can’t suddenly use the number for marketing notifications.

Common SMS shortcode application mistakes

A few common mistakes users make when applying for shortcodes include:

  • Not providing a functional SMS terms and conditions URL for carrier review
  • Not providing a minimum of two forms of customer support information
  • Missing required language in confirmation replies such as “Reply STOP” to cancel, or “HELP” for help
  • Not having a consistent message frequency between SMS message flow and the web page

Review the New CTIA messaging guidelines for further information on current best practices surrounding shortcodes.

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