Dedicated vs. Shared short codes?

Before we can compare dedicated short codes to shared short codes we must first learn what a SMS short code is and how it works.

What is a SMS Short Code?

In brief, a short code is a 5 or 6 digit number, like a short telephone number, used by businesses for text message purposes.  A business may purchase their own short code or share a short code with other businesses.  If a business purchases their own short code it is considered a dedicated short code, in that it is dedicated solely for the purpose of that business to be able to text message their contacts.  If that company wishes they may allow other businesses to use the same code.  Sharing a short code is usually done in order to reduce the costs associated with owning a dedicated short code, as it can be very expensive (as you will learn later in this article).

How SMS Short Codes Work -

Dedicated short codes have a number of “KEYWORDS” associated with that particular number.  When sharing a short code the keyword is what would differentiate one user/business from another.  For example:

  • Joe’s Pizza  and Sam’s Spa share the short code 54321
  • Joe’s keyword was “pizza”
  • Sam’s keyword was “spa”
  • Both Sam and Joe send text messages to their customers cell phones
  • All customers get a text message from the short code 54321
  • When customers reply they must type the keyword a space and then their message.
  • The customer message is then sent to the appropriate business based on whether they replied “pizza” or “spa”
  • “pizza” responses are delivered to Joe, and “spa” messages are delivered to Sam.
If a company decides to keep the dedicated short code to themselves they may use all the keywords for themselves.  Now we have an overview of short codes and how they work let’s take compare shared short codes and dedicated short codes.

Shared Short Codes 

As mentioned above, a shared short code is typically owned by one business and that business allows other businesses to use the same short code to send bulk text messages their customers.  Most often the short code is owned by a text message marketing provider.  The provider will then form text message packages that offers their customers the ability to use their short code, have their own keyword, and an allotted amount of text messages a month for a specified fee.  A typical text message package may include a keyword and specific number of messages a month for a set price.  Because dedicated short codes are difficult to obtain and very expensive to get and maintain, a mobile marketing provider would need to be able to sell these packages to a number of people before their expenses would be covered.

Shared short codes are an excellent way for any size of business to save money on group text messages.  Text message providers usually have a variety of text messaging packages to accommodate the needs of a variety of business needs.  By using this type of service, a business can send an instant text message to a single contact and all the way up to millions of contacts.  Sharing a SMS short code is the most cost effective way to send group text messages.

Dedicated Short Codes  

It would be great if every business could afford their own dedicated short code,  and maybe someday it will be like cell phone numbers and every business will have them.  But for now unless you have an extreme marketing budget the chances of being able to afford your own dedicated short code is probably not in your near future.  The process of getting your own dedicated short code is also very time consuming, do not think it’s like picking a telephone number.  It will take a minimum of months before you are able to meet all the requirements and obtain all of the approvals necessary to start using your new short code.  However, that time period will allow you to get everything (including your own platform) ready so when you get approval you may start sending messages.  Generally speaking most businesses are not in a financial position to afford their own dedicated short code, they don’t have the technological skills to build a platform, and cannot take the time work out all the details.

If a large business is set on having their own dedicated short code, has the money but not the time or technical skills they may opt to have a third party provider assist them.  However, it is still going to be costly and take some time.  Here are just a few things you can expect when trying to obtain your own SMS short code through a third party:

  • A random short code costs about $500.00 a month
  • A vanity short code is about $1,000.00 a month
  • A one-time set up fee of about $3,000.00
  • About $500.00 a month for platform use
  • A minimum of about $2,000 a month, in per message costs
  • A minimum 6 month commitment
  • Any charges from cell phone companies billed to the short code (these are fairly rare and not too expensive, but they do happen)
  • Many may also charge a deposit of about $2,000.00

Keep in mind that whether you choose to get your own dedicated short code or have a third party provider do it for you, it is going to take anywhere from 6-12 weeks to get the provisioning of a new short code approved.

As you can see, there are a number of huge differences when comparing using a dedicated vs. shared short code.  Shared short codes are the most common, most cost effective, and by far the easiest to obtain.  When considering whether to choose a shared or dedicated short code do your research and make sure you are aware of all the pros and cons, chances are the comparisons will have you researching SMS shared short code providers.

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