Shared Short Codes: Buyer Beware.

shared short codes

Whether you are new to SMS Marketing or a veteran, the information in this post will be helpful in understanding and navigating the pitfalls of shared short codes. Before we begin let’s review some definitions. A short code is a five or six digit phone number companies use to send text messages to. These messages take the form of short message service (SMS) and/or multimedia message service (MMS). A dedicated short code is a number provided to your organization and is only usable by your organization. A shared short code is a five or six digit phone number shared by multiple organizations for marketing and/or notification purposes. 

Should I use a shared short code in my SMS marketing strategy?

If you are  curious about whether or not you should use shared short codes in your text marketing program, you’re not alone. For many years sharing short codes across different organizations was an accepted practice. Many brands and companies today have built marketing and notification based text messaging solutions on using the same short code. There’s a massive opportunity to communicate, engage and transact with customers using SMS and MMS but sharing a short code comes with risk!

If you’re using a shared short code today or being sold one from an SMS marketing here are a few reasons why you should consider a dedicated short code instead.

Share short codes are risky and create poor end user experiences

Shared short codes are a special category of short codes which are used to send Application to Person (A2P) text messages from a brand to a consumer. They are called shared because they are used by more than one brand or company to interact with customers through the mobile messaging channel. There can be dozens or even hundreds of companies sharing the same short code. Historically sharing a short code provided cost savings benefits because the the monthly lease for a short code is distributed across companies and brands that use it. Today, more carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile) are either not supporting shared short codes or have plans to phase them out. The reason for this is simple. SPAM. 

If a company is using a shared short code and another company on that shared short code does not follow best practices and remain compliant, they can abuse the usage of the short code and force the carriers to shut it down permanently. Effectively, one bad actor can shut down your communications to your customers because you are sharing the code with other companies. This will happen without any notice to you or your business and all text communications with your customers will stop. This has a direct impact on your business and brand reputation and as mentioned can result in an abrupt termination of the short code by the carriers. 

Is confusing your customers worth the cost savings?

Shared codes confuse customers. On an end user’s phone, a shared short code will appear as one phone number but includes messages from all the brands that use the same shared short code. Would you be ok with a competitor or company in a different industry using your logo? How about your web address? The answer is likely no. So, why share a short code with other companies muddying your communication channel with your customers? 

What about keywords? 

Most companies utilize keywords for their SMS marketing and text message marketing campaigns. Keywords are often used to trigger messages from brands. In more sophisticated SMS marketing software platforms keywords can be utilized to build out customer profiles as well as orchestrate highly personalized conversations between your brand and your customers. If you share a short code, the keywords you might want to use can be taken by one of the other businesses sharing the short code. Keywords are generally available on a first come-first-serve basis or may be reserved with the service provider. For example, there may be multiple brands sharing the short code who want to enroll people into a VIP program. If one brand uses the keyword VIP then no other brand using that short code can use VIP. As a consequence, your content has to be generalized or watered down making it impossible for you to apply your own brand tone and programs to your SMS marketing strategy.

Did you know?

Keywords are an important element for attribution and segmentation. Choosing the right keywords for your SMS marketing campaigns is worth thinking through carefully. Did you know when you share a short code, you’re also sharing the opt-outs? When a user texts STOP (or any other mandated stop-keywords CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE, QUIT, END) the result is the end user mobile number is opted-out to receive further text messages from that short code. Each brand using the short code lost an opt-in. 

Dedicated short codes reduce risk

A dedicated short code is a five or six digit phone number dedicated to your business or brand only, enabling you to send text messages to your customers. With dedicated short codes, your brand can set up as many keywords as you wish. In addition, the customer experience is far superior.  A dedicated short code eliminates confusion about which brand a customer is interacting with and there is no risk of unintentional opt-outs or bad actor shutdowns. This virtually guarantees a more reliable channel for your SMS marketing campaigns. Additionally, a dedicated short code can also be a vanity code which is a personalized code for your brand. For example, you could use a sequence of numbers to spell the name of your brand in the telephone keypad. Target’s vanity short code for example is 827538.

Now is the time to migrate to a dedicated short code

Chatitive has always had a policy to always use a dedicated short code due to the poor customer experience and the risks to your business mentioned above. We highly recommend migrating your existing shared short code to a dedicated short code immediately and Chatitive can help you do this. Contact us today to get help migrating away from your shared short code. 

Conversational Messaging Evangelist at Chatitive