SMS Short Codes 101

September 14, 2021 Bri Mullally

Implementing SMS short codes can be a great way to optimize your SMS marketing strategy. Below is an overview of what every marketer should know about SMS short codes.
 

What is an SMS Short Code?

An SMS short code is a 5- to 6-digit phone number used by brands to run their text message marketing campaigns. Consumers can opt-in to these campaigns by texting a keyword to a company’s short code. Businesses then send SMS messages to these opted-in subscribers, typically containing coupons, offers, company communications, and promotions.
 
In order for a consumer to interact with an SMS short code, the consumer would simply compose a new text message on their cell phone and address it to a brand’s SMS short code. 
 
There are two types of short codes: vanity or random/generic. A vanity short code is 5 to 6 digits specifically chosen by a business. Vanity short codes are usually a number pattern that is easy to remember or relates to the brand. Random short codes are 5 to 6 digits selected at random. For example, random short codes would be numbers like 39752, 958372, or 14930. 

A vanity short code costs more to lease than a random short code. For some brands and businesses, the extra investment in securing a vanity code may not significantly increase SMS sign ups.

Especially for POS, print, and direct mail, using a QR code is an effective way for consumers to enroll in SMS campaigns. If you’re considering a vanity code, use the US Short Code Directory to see what is currently available. 


SMS Short Code Advertising 

Effectively advertising your short code is essential, as it allows more people to opt in to hear from your business. Advertising your SMS short code helps you grow your SMS lists faster, which results in more revenue for your business.

Ways to advertise your SMS short code:

  • In-store/physical locations: Signage/posters, POS transactions/receipts, 
  • Online channels: Website/pop-ups, paid and organic social media, display, promotional emails
  • Traditional advertising channels: TV, radio, print, direct mail
  • Emerging advertising channels: Streaming TV, streaming radio, podcasts


SMS Keywords

An SMS keyword is a word or phrase that pairs with a company’s SMS short code. The combination of an SMS short code and a keyword allows customers to communicate with a brand and opt-in to receive specific SMS campaigns.

SMS keywords helps SMS providers determine which SMS campaign a consumer is trying to opt-in to. For example, Chipotle uses the SMS short code 888-222 with the SMS keyword is “RAINCHECK”. If Chipotle used a different SMS keyword like “BURRITO” in another SMS campaign, that would keep subscribers separate between the two campaigns. 

This is helpful if you are a retailer selling different kinds of products, such as men’s and women’s clothing, and you want to target different lists with different text messages.

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