SMS Marketing Best Practices · SMS Marketing Industry News

AT&T Policy on Same Industry Shared Short Codes

AT&T Shared Short Code Policy
There’s been some confusion lately about whether new shared short codes are being approved by the wireless carriers for industry specific messaging. Before we answer this question, lets go back in history to figure out how we arrived here today.


AT&T Shared Short Code History

On 10/17/2018, AT&T released a new code of conduct titled, Code of Conduct – AT&T Short Code SMS / MMS, and in it they state the following about shared short codes.

Effective immediately no new shared short codes should be onboarded. The use of a single 10-digit long or short code to be “sub–aggregated” in a manner that allows multiple parties control of content and/or receiving phone numbers is prohibited.

Their statement about shared short codes obviously resulted in a lot of people having a lot of questions. Those questions were compiled and then answered in a new document titled, FAQ for AT&T Short Code SMS / MMS Code of Conduct. This is where the whole confusion about shared short codes for industry specific messaging came from. In the FAQ document, it answers the following questions specifically about shared short codes.

What constitutes a shared short code?

Shared, as intended in the policy, is fundamentally a short code that acts as a sub aggregator or reseller. Typically, there are many message senders on that code and message content varies widely.

Shared codes that are acceptable are codes where there is a Single Message Sender and message content is within the same vertical – message content is consistent.

If a customer sends restaurant coupon alerts but for different restaurants is that considered “shared” short code?

No–not if there is a single message sender and the campaign content is consistent with restaurant coupons.


Shared Short Code Mistake

Many SMS marketing software providers took the above to mean that they could continue to offer shared short codes, they just had to put all restaurants on one short code, all retailers on another, etc. Unfortunately, this is not a correct interpretation of AT&T’s new shared short code policy.

What AT&T was trying to convey was that if a business wanted to run an SMS marketing campaign on a single short code, where that business was in the business of sending out restaurant deals from different restaurants, that would still be allowed. A perfect real-life example of this would be our friends at TapOnIt.

TapOnIt Text Messaging Deals
With that service, consumers are signing up for local deals curated from TapOnIt. Their use 100% complies with the new shared short code policy, for the following two reasons.

  1. Does not allow multiple parties control of content. TapOnIt controls the entire messaging experience, curates what gets sent, when it gets sent, and how often it gets sent. Also, all the messages come from TapOnIt, not individual brands advertising with TapOnIt.
  2. Does not allow multiple parties to receive phone numbers. TapOnIt does not share their customer’s mobile phone numbers with any other businesses. Consumers are opting in for TapOnIt messaging, not to receive direct communications from other businesses using TapOnIt.


SMS Marketing Software Compliance

If an SMS marketing software platform (lets say bestsmsmarketing . com) wanted to offer a business (lets say Joe’s Pizza) the use of a shared short code, based on AT&T’s new shared short code policy, they’d have to make the following changes to their software platform.

  • When a consumer opts-in, they’d have to opt-in to receive messages from the software platform – bestsmsmarketing . com, not the business – Joe’s Pizza.
  • All SMS messages would have to be identified as coming bestsmsmarketing . com, not Joe’s Pizza.
  • All of Joe’s Pizza’s customer’s phone numbers would be owned by bestsmsmarketing . com, and Joe’s Pizza would not have access to those phone numbers.
  • Instead of Joe’s Pizza creating their own SMS message to send to customers, they’d have to give up complete control to bestsmsmarketing . com to generate the content of their messagesa and be in charge of clicking send.

As I’m pretty sure you’re aware by now, the above requirements would never work for Joe’s Pizza. Hence why a shared short code under AT&T’s new shared short code policy wouldn’t work either.


Dedicated Short Codes

The best way to run an SMS marketing campaign is for each short code to have a “Single Message Sender” (AT&T’s words not ours). To do this, you need a dedicated SMS short code. This means that each business has their own 5-6 digit short code number, and that business, and only that business, is permitted to use that phone number.

Jump to Content