A long code is similar in length to a regular telephone number – upwards of 16 digits – and was originally intended for single, person to person contact.
Their regulatory status is in somewhat of a gray area, because marketers do not need the permission of a carrier, but carriers still do not like them being used on their networks. This is because unscrupulous marketers have utilized long codes for sending unsolicited spam, creating the perception that they are only used for underhanded purposes. Long codes do however still have some benefits over short codes that may be overlooked in this context.
- Low Cost:
The main positive of using long codes is that they generally cost less to use. Even though the actual per message cost is higher, when factoring in the one-off set-up fee or monthly plan, it is still a cheaper investment, and therefore more practical for small businesses or new marketers.
- Quick setup:
Another benefit is that long codes can be set up within one day because they do not go through the same approval process as short codes. If a campaign needs to be launched quickly then a long code might be worth considering.
- Worldwide delivery:
Long code providers can offer codes for use domestically or internationally, whereas short codes are usually limited. The ability to reach a worldwide consumer base is very beneficial for certain businesses.
- No opt-in requirement:
The way long codes are setup means marketers do not technically need to have consumers opt-in before sending them messages. However if a carrier recognizes that this is going on they will quickly put a stop to it, so its benefit is only really within a technical context.
- Phone call ready:
One key difference is that long codes can also operate as a regular telephone number, and can make and receive calls. They cannot, however, use picture or video messages.
- High shut down potential:
Because US carriers do not approve of the use of long codes for mobile marketing, marketers run the risk of being shut down if discovered, even if they do not do anything unethical. If they are found to be sending spam they can also be sued by the recipient. These repercussions may not be worth the hassle and may lead to a negative public image and financial losses for the user.
- Low volume:
Long codes cannot send the same volume of messages per second as short codes (as low as 1 message per second in some cases). This is therefore impractical for larger campaigns.
- No billing options:
Since long codes are not officially recognized by carriers there is no option for billing the recipient or allowing them to engage with a campaign free of charge. They will always be charged their standard rate. Marketers will also obviously not be offered any added features or perks, because the carrier is not making money off the campaign.
- Less user-friendly:
The length of long codes makes them less user-friendly. Keying in 16 digits is simply more of a hassle than 6 digits.
- Associated with spam:
While there may be some genuine applications, long codes carry the stigma of being a spamming tool, and those banned from using short codes will invariably end up using long codes. Carriers are increasingly trying to prevent their use altogether in the US, so their long term usefulness is in doubt.