What is an SMS Short Code?

An SMS short code is a unique 5 or 6-digit number used for Application-to-Person (A2P) messaging. If you look at your text messages, you might notice that you’ve received things like flight updates, verification codes, and appointment reminders from a short code. 

Short codes allow businesses to send out a high volume of text messages in a short amount of time. Because they’re short, they’re also easy to remember, making them a popular choice for businesses looking to engage with their customers in a cost-effective way. 

Let’s take a look at the different types of short codes, what they’re used for, and how you can get a custom SMS short code for your business.

What are SMS Short Codes Used For?

SMS short codes can be used to send one-way updates and alerts, or to engage in conversational, two-way communication with customers. Some common business uses include:

  • Mobile marketing: Sending promotional text messages to customers, such as discounts and special offers
  • Public relations and outreach: Collecting charitable donations, sending out event reminders and updates
  • Security: Two-factor authentication, fraud alerts from financial institutions 

An example of a short code in marketing would be something like: “Text PIZZA to 73592 to get 15% off your next order!” By sending a message to the short code “73592”, the customer not only receives a discount but also has the opportunity to opt-in to receive future marketing texts from that business.

To learn more about SMS short code use cases, check out our blog: “SMS Short Codes & Texting: What You Need to Know”

texting using sms short codes

Types of Short Codes

Shared Short Codes

A shared short code is a type of SMS short code that, as the name suggests, is used by multiple businesses. The cost of using a shared short code is split, making them an economical choice for businesses looking to send out mass text messages. However, they also come with some potential drawbacks.

Problems with Shared Short Codes

  • Confusing for customers: When customers receive a text message from a shared short code, they may not know which brand is marketing to them. This can lead to a less streamlined customer experience and a lack of trust in the brand. 
  • Vanity keyword conflicts: When two or more businesses share a vanity code, it can make it harder for customers to opt out of receiving messages from specific brands.
  • Brand reputation: When multiple businesses share the same short code, one business can inadvertently damage the reputation of all the other brands that share that code. For example, if a business that shares the short code engages in spamming or unethical marketing practices, it can reflect poorly on all of the other businesses that use that code.

Due to these issues and others, the use of shared short codes has been declining and has been largely depreciated as of December 2021. Businesses looking to send SMS messages to customers are now encouraged to use dedicated short codes instead.

Dedicated Short Codes

A dedicated short code is a unique 5 or 6-digit number that is exclusively leased and used by a single brand, offering a more streamlined and personalized experience for customers. Because they’re unique, they’re more memorable, improving customer engagement and brand recognition. And since the code is not shared, there’s less risk of unintentional opt-outs or customer confusion.

Obtaining a dedicated short code is easy, and businesses can select a vanity number that aligns with their brand. While it costs more than a shared one, the benefits make it a valuable investment.

Vanity Short Codes

A vanity number is a number that spells something out—for example, you may be familiar with vanity long codes like 1-800-”SELLER”. Short codes can use vanity numbers, too, giving customers a word that’s easier to remember than a string of random numbers.

Going back to the pizza example, if that company wanted to make their short code more memorable, they could claim a vanity short code that spells out “PIZZA” (74992).

How To Get a Short Code for Your Business

Businesses interested in obtaining a short code phone number can do so through a national directory, such as usshortcodes.com. It’s important to keep in mind that short codes can’t be bought, only leased for a monthly fee. 

Short codes do not work internationally, so foreign or multinational businesses must obtain a short code from their target market’s national registry, such as txt.ca in Canada or short-codes.com in the UK. 

How to Start Sending Messages from a Short Code

Securing a dedicated short code for your business is only the first step—to actually start sending messages, you’ll need the help of an experienced SMS provider to host the short code. Each SMS campaign your business runs will need to be approved and tested before you can launch it and start engaging in two-way communication with your customers.

Partner with a Mobile Messaging Expert

SMS short codes provide a convenient and efficient way for businesses to communicate with their customers. With their short and memorable format, customers are able to engage quickly and easily with businesses and receive information, promotions, verification codes, and more. 

As a top SMS provider with connectivity to over 200 countries, Syniverse helps enterprise companies launch memorable mobile marketing experiences, from idea all the way to implementation. With Syniverse, you’ll get:

  • A top-tier suite of enterprise-grade security features
  • Plug-and-play solutions for faster time to market
  • Seamless integration with your existing systems
  • Unparalleled global reach

To learn more about how partnering with Syniverse can elevate your customer experiences, speak with a mobile messaging expert today!



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