SMS Marketing Podcast: What you need to know about shared short code obsolescence

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In Left on Read’s inaugural podcast, hosts Drew Davis and Nate Odell discuss the history of shared short codes, why the practice of marketing with them is changing, and how dedicated short codes and 10DLC are allowing marketers to create more robust customer journeys.

 

Drew (00:23):
Hello and welcome to Left on Read, a brand new podcast from the folks over here at Chatitive. My name is Drew and I’m here with my cohost and Chatitive VP of marketing, Nate Odell. Andrew, how’s it going, Nate?


Nate (
00:36):
It’s going pretty good.


Drew (
00:38):
Good, good. Seems like we’ve finally overcome all of the technical difficulties in getting this recorded. So now it just comes down to execution.


Nate (
00:46):
Yeah. who knew that broadcasting was so complex?


Drew (
00:49):
Yeah. Well, I mean, I’m glad that I’m more in uh, the writing space now but hopefully our voices translate well over microphones and over the audio medium and people find this informative.


Nate (
01:05):
Yeah, well that’s what we’re here to do and to you know, and to start the conversation around you know, SMS and text marketing and to enlighten listeners and marketers who are interested in this space.


Drew (
01:21):
Yeah. We’ve been actually talking about doing something like this for a while and I’m really excited that we’re actually putting our feet to the pavement here. I know that sort of as a marketer or, and being in, you know, sales that marketing as an industry as a whole can be incredibly noisy. People love using buzzwords, things like conversation, you know conversational commerce, especially SMS marketing, you know chatbots, NLP, all that stuff goes on and on. It just goes so long. And we could, I feel like I drown sometimes and that’s why I wanted to sort of start this podcast so we, we could talk to you and hopefully some other marketers and we can also you know, sort of demystify the space.


Nate (
02:29):
Yeah. Great. Let’s get into it.


Drew (
02:32):
Yeah, sounds good. I wanted to start today off and the series sort of with like a very high level topic and one that’s pretty relevant right now to the, to the industry and that is a shared short code obsolescence. We’ll get into some more definitional stuff as we move forward. But for the, our first topic, we’re going to be talking about sort of the history of shared short codes eh, what a long code is and sort of what dedicated short codes and the future of business texting as far as as a transport might look like.


Nate (
03:12):
Yeah. Sounds great.


Drew (
03:13):
Um so before we dive into you know shared short codes and in particular, you know, why companies and carriers historically have allowed shared short codes. I think it would be probably a good idea to sort of level set on some definitions that aren’t jargon that are actually real words.


Nate (
03:36):
Um so a short code for those that are new to the space of text marketing and, and SMS marketing. Yeah. Well, sure. Short codes are pretty simple concepts they’re five to six digit phone numbers that companies use, brands use, to send text messages to to human beings every day. Joe’s like us. So I would imagine for most listeners, they’ve probably experienced some type of version of this, whether that is you know, some notification that lets you know that your your plane changed gates or you maybe you got some sort of marketing promotional offer from, from a business. That’s a short code. A shared short code is a is again a five or six digit number where multiple businesses use the same number as a mechanism to engage with customers. Okay. A dedicated short code is the inverse of that, which is a short code that is very specific to a particular company to use for texting with their, with their customers.


Drew (
04:59):
Um so I guess what I wanted to start with then is why were companies, you know, sort of allowed to use shared short codes and why are they becoming obsolete?


Nate (
05:13):
Yeah, great question. Shared short codes were an easy way to reduce the expense of securing a short code for businesses to text with their customers. Traditionally when texting and notification based messaging came to be, it really wasn’t accessible to Mo to, to marketers. It was very much a developer centric feature. And so developers would use you know what are called API APIs to build applications that allowed send notifications over, over texting in the same way that you would sort of automate a process for sending email. Okay. As, as a result of that there’s been a lot of technologies, you know that use and notifications to alert you know, us as human beings about something that has occurred. Some event, whether I use some of the examples before about, you know, an airplane changing in gate as an example or maybe a, an order delivery notification.


Drew (
06:27):
One of my favorites is sort of when you forget your password.


Nate (
06:32):
Yeah. That’s a great example. That’s a perfect example. So that might come over something like a shared shortcut. That’s right. That’s right. Okay. And so


Drew (
06:41):
It’s not really designed to be in, interacted with?


Nate (
06:43):
No, not, not at all. And and so a bunch of technologies were created and software technologies were created that made using short codes and using texting technology easier for marketers. And and so, but the cost of securing your own dedicated short code became rarely who was really out of reach for a lot of businesses. And so so carriers started allowing a shared short code and marketers sort of moved very quickly into this space where they’re using shared short, short codes to send messages to their customers. But a lot of times they’re, they’re sharing that with another brand and sometimes they’re sharing it with upwards of a dozen to hundreds of brands. Um, and so, uh, as, as a result of that, behaviors have changed. Yeah. And now carriers are saying, wait a minute, shared short codes for marketing use cases, um, are going to go away.


Drew (
07:34):
Why would they say something like that?


Nate (
07:50):
Yeah. Great. So it’s always, you know, the there’s always a bad Apple in the bunch, I think is the, the the old, old timey phrase is that, is that, yeah, maybe. I don’t know. But a lot the problem was shared short codes is there are, there are rules in the text messaging world where you have to follow compliance, you have to follow certain regulations. You have to get a mobile customer to opt in to your program. And you have to have explicit permission to send them a text message. Yeah. And if you’re on a shared short code and you’re sharing that across businesses, it only takes one of the many that are sharing that code with you to do something wrong. And if they do something out of compliance or out of best practices or, um, within the bounds of, of guidelines, then uh, then carriers will be Swift to to shut that down.


Drew (
08:45):
That makes sense. I kind of think of, maybe you’re, you’re a perfume brand on a shared short code and nefarious actor sort of gets a hold of that short code and is on it with you and start spamming millions and millions and millions of, of phone numbers that aren’t subscribed to that specific shared short code. So they would actually shut that short code down for all those carriers. I mean, for all those, for the, for all those companies.


Nate (
09:50):
Yeah, that’s right. And, and uh, you know, if you think about email marketing in particular, the reason most of us are so turned off, uh, if you will by email marketing is one, it’s super noisy. Everybody’s doing it. To it, it’s not very personalized. And frankly, like I feel okay saying this because I’m a marketer myself, but in general, marketers have gotten pretty lazy because they’ve been enabled with all these tools to do things at pretty big scale. Yeah. So you get some subscribers, you put them into your email marketing program, you write your copy, you push a button, it blasts out in bulk. Hey, an email and the philosophy and the the, the methodology for doing that has unfortunately creeped into the text messaging space. So you have brands that are just saying, not thinking about personalization, not thinking about the rules, and they’re just blasting in bulk messages out to people whether they’ve opted in or not.


Drew (
10:57):
Yeah, that’s right. And, and uh, you know, if you think about email marketing in particular, the reason most of us are so turned off, uh, if you will by email marketing is one, it’s super noisy.


Nate (
10:58):
Yeah. Right. I mean, you know, I mean, you and I text each other, you know, about business or you know, a meeting or that we’ve got, we have to be at and trying to coordinate, you know, where we should meet up sometimes I’ll text you on the weekends, see what you’re doing, but then we switch gears. But then we switch gears. Yeah. I’ve never like blasting you with like, you know, stuff that is irrelevant. The whole purpose of texting. Yeah. It’s intimate and personal.


Drew (
11:26):
Yeah, totally. I mean, I, I think that there’s this opportunity for like sort of the channel to serve as an incredibly personalized sort of experience at scale so you can individually realize and know the intent and the context of your subscribers at scale, but also on a very personal level.


Nate (
11:50):
That’s right.


Drew (
11:54):
So you’re saying that basically if you’re on a shared short code, that sort of objective or goal would be impossible?


Nate (
12:04):
Yeah, that would be impossible. And honestly, it’s like my advice, if you’re on a shared short code right now, figure out, I plan very quickly to migrate to a dedicated short code. Well first of all, there are carriers that are already not supporting it. AT&T is an example. If you’re using a shared short code right now, you were not reaching at T and T customers. It’s just fact. That’s wild.


Drew (
12:27):
And you’re probably sitting there inside of your SMS platform or whatever you’re using to send text messages and going, my deliverability is shit. Where are these messages going?


Nate (
12:38):
Right. And and there’s a, there’s a, there’s a Canadian telco carrier called Rogers for our Canadian listeners that just announced what, what’s the day to day? It’s February 6th. They just announced this week that they will or maybe it was last week, I can’t recall. But they’re, they’re not gonna support shortcuts. Either. And we’ve heard short codes sorry shared short codes. Correct. and we’ve heard and fully expect that this trend will continue. You’ll see Verizon stop supporting it. In fact, Verizon is moving very, very quickly to do something called 10 DLC, which is 10 stands for 10 digit long code as a as a stop gap to help brands use another phone number. And those are sort of the cheaper of the bonds. That’s correct. And to use it a longer phone number that is dedicated at for marketing purposes.


Drew (
13:51):
Okay, cool. I want to talk about sort of keywords. Yeah. They’re sort of what cause experiences to happen over short codes from businesses to consumers. So obviously sometimes, you know, you can text into and opt in through a keyword. With a shared short code, how many keywords are you allowed to have?


Nate (
14:16):
Yeah, no, that’s a great it’s a great point. Because you’re on a shared short code, not everybody can have the same keyword because he didn’t have, you know, a whole bunch of conflicting triggered messages from brands and, and frankly, we’ve seen this. I’ve, I’ve texted companies that are on a shared short code stop or go or start and I get responses from like five or six different brands all within the same threat. So those types of keywords are, are pretty, pretty standard. They’re like, they’re the, you know, the, the message and data rates apply sort of footnote on every message. Those are the things that allow you to subscribe or unsubscribe and those, so those are pretty standard. But if you want to like build you know, a campaign, for example, around a keyword, maybe you’re in the, you know, we’ll use your example, the perfume company. Maybe you want a keyword that is you know, I dunno. Rosie, Rosie, something like that. Great. thanks true.


Drew (
15:29):
No problem. I’m, I’m thinking about going into fragrances actually. So that’s going to be my next endeavor.


Nate (
15:36):
So, uh, so yeah, so if you were a perfume brand, they wanted to use Rosie and you’re on a shared short code and somebody, another company wanted to use the keyword Rosie. They couldn’t. Yeah. So it puts, you know, yeah, you might be saving a little, but really think about what the end impact is to your, to your business as a brand. You’re sharing a brand experience with some other brand that you don’t have control over. You don’t get the flexibility of having you know, the keywords that you want for your campaigns. You’re not touching the total addressable market that you have for subscribers from carriers who are not going to support it. And so then it becomes like, well, you know, is it worth it to your business to, to do texting at all if you’re on a shared short code. I’m of the opinion that it’s a waste of money because you’re, you’re sending the wrong communication to your customers.


Transition (16:38):


Drew (
16:39):
Nate, I kind of wanted to touch on sort of a, or just tug on that string of like what a shared shortcode sort of nightmare might look like to a consumer. What, what exactly that shitty experience could look like. And I’ll throw out an example, a real life example of something that happened to me last week as I’m prospecting or just going throughout my day to day life in a, on a personal level, you know, if I want a consumer that it’s on Instagram or I’m getting a, I’m, I’m shopping for whatever could be whatever on the internet. And I see that they have a text, a text to sign up for promotional offers on their website. I usually do now. So I signed up for a consumer electronics company and realized that they were on a shared short code. This was last week. I got a welcome message from them and then I texted back their promotional code that they offered me in the channel inside that native text channel. And I got a, an offer or a welcome message back from a tire distributor. So I went from, I went from consumer electronics to a tire distributor in two messages. And then two days later I received a message from that tire distributor. And here’s what happened is I texted back the name of that tire distributor and I got back a message from the consumer electronics company. The name of that company took me to a, another company’s uh, sort of experience if, if you could even call it an experience.


Nate (
18:24):
Now you’re opted into a tire company and you had no interest in that, in the marketing from this tire company. No. And the inverse of that is what happens when there’s a bad actor. Like when they shut down, it shuts down for everybody. So and you know, and so you’re, you’re cut off from your subscribers but you’re also opting out you, you risk consumers opting out of your program because they’re trying to opt out of somebody else’s. Yeah.


Drew (
19:01):
That’s insane to me to think that, uh, you would risk sort of that like you wouldn’t, I don’t feel like you would put your email list at risk like that.


Nate (
19:07):
No. Well, and that’s the weird thing is we’re just so accustomed, we’re so accustomed to the easiness of email because it’s just the thing that everybody does. Yeah. From a brand perspective. But the problem is, is consumers are tuning out from it. And so yeah, you have to, when you’re thinking about texting, you have to change your mindset to think of it differently from email because it’s a whole other animal and it’s a better, it’s a way better experience if done correctly. Yeah. I wanted to add onto your example. I had a similar experience, but but almost well certainly equally confusing. I was texting a wine business. Okay. And I opted in and I, the call to action was, you know, to, to reply with the letter Y for yes. To opt in. And I did and they confirmed. And then just to see what happened since they’re a wine business, I texted the word wine. Yeah. And I got a response for opting into a separate wine business, um, that I apparently am now a VIP for because that’s good because I texted the word wine. Uh, but again it just illustrates the point that um, there are lots of vendors out there that continued to sup. Uh, there are a lot of SMS marketing vendors out there that continue to support and sell customers shared short codes and um, I would caution brands to not go down that path because ultimately you’re going to have to undo all the work that you started to do to, to build out your texting channel wise words.


Transition (21:06):


Drew (
21:06):
Today’s topic was about shared short code obsolescence, sort of what the pitfalls are, where you can go from here, how you can create better experiences over dedicated short codes and even 10 digit long codes. You can read more about those terms and how they are and how marketers are using those at our blog. It’s chatitive.com/blog And I’d like to give a special thanks and shout out to Chatitive’s CTO Daniel Pirone for figuring out the room noise and hopefully that won’t be a problem. Moving forward next week we are going to talk about creating conversations over the text channel that are deep and meaningful to your customers. Thanks.


Nate (
21:52):
Awesome. Thank you Drew.


Drew (
21:54):
Yeah, no problem.


Outro (22:11):

 

Conversational Messaging Evangelist at Chatitive