SMS codes [Explained]

Send text messages using short vs long codes

Do you ever wonder how a brand’s name pops up on a text once you’ve opted-in to their SMS service—even if you haven’t received a text from them before?

When it comes to sending bulk SMS online, users are automatically assigned a Virtual Number that the text message comes from. Users can also personalise numbers by obtaining a dedicated number, short code, or Sender ID through a robust and secure gateway.

Some businesses prefer a branded Sender ID instead of using the ten-digit Virtual Number assigned to an account, so recipients can instantly identify who is messaging them. Sender IDs are usually used for marketing and security communications that don’t require a response. For instance, SMS marketing campaigns or 2FA / 2SV (Two-Factor Authentication / Two-Step Verification) via SMS OTP (One-Time Passwords).

Dedicated numbers are an essential component for many functionalities, such as 2 Way SMS. They’re a private number used only by the account holder; it can receive and reply to texts via that specific Virtual Number. Both short and long codes can be used as a dedicated number that recipients can receive SMS from.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to SMS Marketing

What is long code?

Depending on the region, long code can also be known as Response Numbers, Virtual Numbers, or Inbound Numbers. Long codes look like a standard mobile phone number, and they’re designated for a user or business to send online text messages from.

The length of the phone number used to send standard text messages usually comprises ten digits. For example, mobile numbers in Australia begin with ‘04’ and contains ten digits; as would the long code used by online SMS software to send texts within Australia.

Benefits of long codes:

  • Cost-effective: users are charged standard SMS prices.
  • Dedicated Number: there is the option to allocate a private phone number for your brand.
  • International access: if the correct country code is entered with the long code, the number can be accessed from many different locations across the globe.
  • Two way SMS: long code supports two-way conversations and replies from recipients.
  • More choice: there is the option to choose a sequence of memorable numbers within the long code depending on availability and cost.
  • Contact database: it’s easy to gather client information through triggers and keywords, including an opt-out option.
  • Content: the opportunity to send targeted and relevant messages, such as reminders and alerts.

Considerations

  • Not memorable: the longer the number, the less likely recipients will remember it.
  • Spam: long code is more likely to be flagged as spam if the number sends a high volume of messages. This might be because it may be perceived as an unrecognised number or spam marketing content.

What is short code?

Unsurprisingly, a shortcode is a compact number that is shorter than most standard phone numbers and is used to send bulk text messages online. Depending on the country, shortcodes can vary between five and eight digits in length and are specific to the allocated region. You can opt for a shared number or a dedicated service, depending on your SMS needs.

When businesses use shortcode for bulk texting, they also brand their messages with a mobile number that recipients easily remember. Brands can provide SMS marketing and promotions, 2FA and OTP, mobile coupons and discount codes, alert notifications, sweepstakes, contests and mobile voting all using short code.

Benefits of short code

  • Premium service: high tier service means fast, direct delivery to intended recipients.
  • Dedicated Number: there is the option to allocate a private phone number for your brand.
  • Memorable: a shorter number makes it easier for recipients to remember and text-in.
  • Business name: a personalised contact display name ensures your recipients know where the SMS is coming from immediately and identifies who is messaging.
  • Two way SMS: shortcode supports replies, triggers and keywords from recipients.
  • High volume: a high volume of messages is less likely to be flagged as spam even if it contains marketing content as the account is associated with a short code.

Considerations

  • Country-specific: as each country has specific regulations around short code, it does not permit sending bulk-online texts internationally
  • Opt-in: anyone receiving short code messages must opt-in directly to receive SMS
  • Cost: as short code is a premium service, it is more costly than using virtual numbers.

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What is a Dedicated Number?

Using a Dedicated Number is like having your own personalised code that customers and staff can use to communicate with you—a private number that is only associated with one account and can send and receive SMS and MMS. This can be short code, long code or a Sender ID dedicated to a specific account.

Having a dedicated number is more accessible when responding to SMS replies via 2-way SMS and Email to SMS, promoting and marketing your brand and is recognisable to intended recipients, be it customers, clients or employees.

Related: How a Dedicated or Virtual Number can help you build your brand

Two way SMS

2-way texting is supported by an essential component; a unique dedicated number. The ability to communicate directly with customers and employees, and vice versa, is vital when growing and building professional relationships.

Related: Two-way SMS: How it can benefit your business

Email to SMS

Using a dedicated number to send bulk SMS online is easy and efficient. Email to SMS can be utilised by using your email portal of choice, typing your message and sending to designated contacts. It works by accessing the designated contacts’ mobile number through an email address—for example, 0400000000@email.smsglobal.com.

All in one location

One specific number that only your account has access to via a robust SMS platform makes it practical to organise text messages, contacts, and reports to ensure you continue to enhance your SMS marketing campaigns.

How to brand your text messages

Sender ID

In the place of a contact number, businesses can use a Custom Word to send messages. Restricted by ten characters, companies can send SMS with their brand name as the Sender ID.

For example, Australia Post can send messages to recipients, and the contact appears as ‘AusPost’ automatically with short code.

Related: Sender IDs [Explained]

Vanity Number

Whether it be short code or long code, having an easy-to-remember contact number is vital for quick and efficient text messaging. A vanity number is a number that spells out a word or name using a numeric keypad.

For example, 132227 is the number for a cab company and spells out 13CABS, making it easy to remember whenever you need to access a cab service.

But where can we use SMS codes?

Every country has different short code and long code regulations and availability. In particular, short code is restricted to the country you’re sending from and does not support international SMS.

Long codes and short code tend to differ in price and reach — long code can be used internationally and are toll-free. In contrast, short code requires users to pay a premium as they offer fewer options but is limited to national use.

In the U.S.

There are strict regulations in place around how companies interact with end-users via SMS, especially regarding opt-in and opt-out selections, text message structure for advertisements, and what kind of numbers are used for P2P and A2P. In the U.S., both long code and short code are available; however, short code is preferable and more popular.

Long code is reserved for P2P (person to person) communication, including customer service applications and chat applications. This is to reduce spam to recipients, and, if not adhered to, can result in a US$1500 fine per text. It is usually toll-free if it’s not a dedicated number or vanity number, and tied to an area code.

On the other hand, short code is five to six digits long and is used for A2P (application to person) communication. It comes at a premium depending on the type of number (for example, vanity number or custom Sender ID) and is not tied to an area code. Short codes are mostly used for high volume text messaging like alerts and notifications, 2SV via OTP, promotional texts and SMS marketing.

In Australia

Although SMS regulation and restrictions are still prevalent in Australia, distinctions between long code and shortcode are not limited like in the U.S. For example, businesses can use both long code and shortcode for a range of purposes. They’re not limited to using short code for A2P or long code for P2P.

Long code in Australia is ten digits long and start with ‘04’ — not restricted to area codes, and shortcode can range between six and eight digits long and can be used nationally.

Long codes are usually automatically assigned to an account unless the user opts for a dedicated number or a vanity number, or pay for a short code.