Short Codes are network specific access codes used for sending and receiving messages (both SMS and MMS) between consumers and companies. Short Codes are recognized for use around the world in specific countries. Short Codes are shorter than a normal mobile phone number and usually consist of four to six digits, depending on the country. In some countries, Voice Short Codes also exist and can be dialled.
The reason why Short Codes are used is because they are memorable and easy to enter into a phone. They can also spell out memorable brand names (phone words) (e.g. 1-800-468-5865 for 1-800-GOT-JUNK), so the short code could be something like 485865 (GTJUNK).
Short codes are typically country specific i.e. you need a short code per country and they rarely overlap across countries (Ireland and UK and some countries in Latin America for example are the exception). In some cases, short codes are specific per operator, which can be difficult to market across the entire country but this is relatively rare.
In some countries using a Short code Sender ID is mandatory, e.g the USA, many parts of LATAM, so as to ensure the identity of the message sender is known at all times for compliance reasons.
In some countries before a message can be sent to a subscriber, an Opt-in MO message must be sent first.
Similarly, in order to comply with local regulations in some countries certain keywords must be supported e.g. STOP, INFO, HELP
There are a number of different attributes of a short code you need to be aware of:
- Shared vs. Dedicated
A shared short code can be shared with other content providers. Keywords are used to differentiate traffic.
- Random vs. Vanity
- Premium vs. Non-Premium (or Standard Rate)
- Free-to-End User (or FreeText)
- Test vs. Production (or Live)
A Test short code can be used to prove the application works as it should and supports integration activities with the SMS provider. There are messaging caps to how many messages can be sent via this route.
A few things to remember about short codes:
- They will only work on local domestic phones of the country of the Short Code, even while roaming abroad, e.g. a UK subscriber, traveling in Sweden will be able to send a text message to a UK short code, but not a Swedish one and vice versa.
- In general Short Codes are more expensive than Long Codes and take longer to setup and provision, but due to their short length are popular for interactive mobile campaigns.
A few technical bits
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