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What are SMS Short Codes, and 4 ways you can use them

Posted by Sophorn Chhay on Dec 09, 2015

54675065_ml.jpgCopyright: gajus / 123RF Stock Photo
You can do a lot with just a few digits.

At least this is true when you’re talking about an SMS short code, which are useful texting tools for companies or non-profits which can make it easy for customers/clients to communicate with them or take action.

Short codes can help people make donations, express opinions, vote on something or otherwise provide feedback to the sender – and all without having to say anything or email anyone.

You may have seen them used in commercials, TV shows, or even formal business presentations—anytime when someone asks you to text a certain number or sometimes a number and a few words.

But as cool as they sound, and as useful as they can be to someone proficient with SMS short code options, there is still confusion on exactly what they are and how they work. Let’s take a quick look.

Short codes are a five- or six-number digit which companies can lease for a particular promotion. Then they ask their customers or clients to text it back to their messaging server, or through their texting provider, which allows senders to respond quickly and easily.

If you’re on the receiving end, you don’t have to weed through multiple texts – instead, you will receive basic data such as: “4,200 people texted this code back.” Or if you’re using multiple codes for a campaign, you can see how many texted back each number.

According to the Common Short Code Administration, which  provides short codes to businesses or texting providers, they are designed to work with most wireless phone carriers.

Costs for an SMS smart code vary by type of code, quantity, and other services through a provider – a basic lease costs $500-$1,000 a month. Companies can lease up to 20 at a time.

Types of codes:

  • Dedicated codes. These codes are leased by one specific company for a specific use, which means no one else can use that combination of digits during the lease period.  The company can even choose the number, such as a sequence that’s easy to remember or significant to the company in some way. Like a web domain, if someone else is currently using the code you want, you’ll have to wait until they’re done with it.

  • Shared short code. It may cost less but the numbers will be random and may also be used by others. So in this case, the sender may require a couple of keywords or hashtags to be included along with the number to ensure the info for the specific promotion and make sure the info goes to the correct place.  It could even be something simple like your company’s name or “Go” plus the number.

Once you, and your budget, have decided on what type of code you want, and its duration, you can figure out some ways to make the code work for you and your message.

  • Electronic voting. Choosing something via a smart code could make it simple to sort results. It also likely could see more participation, since all people would have to do is text a couple of numbers, vs. go to a site with their browser, call a number, post on a social network or send an email. You can seek customer input on anything from a new logo to a non-binding survey about current topics.

  • Donations. A business that has designated a specific charity to support can ask their supporters to pledge to it as well, or suggest that “we’ll make a donation for everyone who submits this short code.”  Pledging a donation may not directly deduct money from individual accounts, but could be configured to automatically send that person a follow-up notification asking them how they would like to pay or how much they want to give.

  • Opt-ins. One of the trickiest parts of online marketing is getting a potential customer/client to give permission for you to start sending them regular information and promotions. If they haven’t done so, you simply won’t be able to share your info with them or else face financial or legal penalties. But a short code can make it easy to provide this consent. All they have to do is text the code and their information can be entered into your database.

  • Opt-outs. The other side of inviting people to receive info about your company and promotions is allowing them to say “no more, thanks,” and you legally have to comply. Just like they could send a code to be automatically enrolled or join your mailing list, you could also let them send a code to automatically remove themselves.

There’s plenty of potential for creative ways to use an SMS short code  to better spread the word about your business and interact well with your clients. For more suggestions and strategies, visit Trumpia.com.


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