As the name suggests short codes are smaller than long codes at between 3 and 7 digits, and are intended for marketing, competitions and other large scale texting requirements. They are regulated by both The Wireless Association and the Mobile Marketing Association, which aims to ensure marketing campaigns meet high standards.
In practice this means users have to offer the consumer some kind of product, information or service (i.e. Not spam,) and are expected to get the recipient’s permission before sending them any messages.
Adhering to these rules ensures the consumer’s rights are protected, but also that the campaign is engaging and worthwhile. This benefits both parties in the long run.
The nature of short codes means they are simple for consumers to remember and easy to key in to a phone.
- Industry Approved:
Short codes are welcomed by carriers and will be individually approved if their requirements are met. This keeps everything above board from the beginning, meaning marketers won’t run into trouble midway through a campaign because they were unaware of the rules.
- High Volume:
Because there are strong ties between short code messaging providers and cell carriers, short code users have the ability to send thousands of messages at any given time. This will vary from carrier to carrier and might be dependent on the deal signed with the messaging provider, but the potential volume is much higher than with long codes.
- Different business models:
Short code campaigns can send or receive texts that both bill the recipient or allow them to engage with the campaign free of charge. This is accomplished by paying the carrier a fee in advance. Depending on their goals, marketers may use either method, or a combination of them both.
- Positive image:
Carriers closely monitor short code users for spam and unethical practices. While each company will have their own set of repercussions, generally speaking spammers are shut down pretty quickly. Therefore consumers are reassured when they see a short code and the brand image of those using them is not negatively affected.
- Relationship building:
Because the cost of short codes factor in the carriers themselves, they see mobile marketing as an important revenue stream. Thus if a campaign is successful a close relationship can be built between the two parties, resulting in added features and other perks. The better a campaign does, the better the carrier does, and the more willing they will be to help a campaign along.
Short codes do not have the ability to double as a standard phone number, so they do not make or receive phone calls.
Short codes tend to only be available for use in their country of origin unless specifically approved, making them impractical for those with global campaigns. Further more each individual carrier must vet and approve campaigns before going live.
High startup cost:
Short codes require thousands worth of investment in the beginning, with at least a quarterly commitment from the user. Small businesses or those unfamiliar with mobile marketing, may deem this too much of a financial risk.
Purchasing a short code and getting it approved by the major carriers can take many weeks to complete, which is not ideal if a campaign needs to be up and running quickly.
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