Shared vs. Dedicated Short Codes: Your Best Option

In this article, we discuss a frequently asked text message marketing question, which is: Should I use a shared or a dedicated short code for SMS marketing?


What Is a Short Code

Before we dive into that question, let us first explain the meaning of a short code. Short codes are phone numbers with five to six digits. Brands use these phone numbers to communicate with consumers via text messages.


What Is a Shared Short Code

Now lets look at the meaning of a shared short code (non-vanity short code). When brands use a shared short code for SMS marketing purposes, it means that they share that phone number with other users. The number of users can be in the tens of thousands for some shared short codes.

Short code owners are able to distribute the same phone number to all of these brands, because they work with keywords to differentiate them from each other. For example, the keyword “PIZZA” is given to a pizza restaurant that uses the shared short code, and a retailer uses the keyword “DISCOUNT” for its marketing campaign. This is done so that, when a consumer texts a specific keyword to a brand, it is clear to which company the message needs to go.


What Is a Dedicated Short Code

A dedicated short code (vanity short code) is different from a shared short code in the sense that only one single brand uses it. For that reason, dedicated short codes are more expensive then shared ones. They can cost as much as $1.000 per month, and that is why smaller brands with small budgets prefer to use the much cheaper shared short codes.


Why Are Shared Short Codes Cheaper Then Dedicated Short Codes

A shared short code still technically costs $1.000 per month. However, many brands are using it, so the owner of that shared short code is able to split the costs over the thousands of brands.

This makes shared short codes a cheap solution for all the parties involved. However, brands need to keep in mind that a cheap solution is not necessary the best solution.


The Issues with Shared Short Codes

Shared short codes bring along some serious problems, and that is why we never recommends them to our clients, and we definitely do not support them.

One of the most important reasons why we do not recommend or support them is because thousands of organizations, groups and brands are not only sharing the same short code, but they also share the responsibility.

If one brand makes improper use of a short code, then that can result in a short code shut down for all of its users. None of those users will be able to receive or send messages because of the bad marketing practices of one brand.

Therefore, if text messaging is a critical part of your brand’s marketing strategy, you should always go for dedicate short code so that you will be the sole owner and user of a phone number.

Another good reason why you might want to consider using a dedicated over a shared short code is because you do not want to give the idea that your brand has an association or affiliation with competitors or certain organizations.

If consumers see that you use the same phone number as an organization that they resent, then they might no longer want to receive your messages, and it could hurt the good reputation of your brand.

There is also a technical reason why your brand should not use a shared short code. If someone mistypes an opt-in keyword, then that person can accidentally subscribe to the SMS campaign from a different business, or the person receives an error message that is not from the brand but from the actual shared shored code owner.

Such an error message would say something like, “Sorry, you typed an invalid keyword. Please contact this SMS software provider.” This would obviously be very confusing for someone who, for example, tries to opt-in to the campaign of a pizza restaurant.

The last shared short code issue we want to address is the keyword availability. Since you share the short code with many other users, there is a good chance that they already claimed all the good keywords.

If you choose to use a dedicated short code, then your brand can choose every keyword, because you are the single owner of that short code.


Don’t Sacrifice the Security of Your Messaging Campaign

So those are the issues with shared short codes that we wanted to address. Although we fully understand that some small businesses simply cannot afford the $1.000 a month for a dedicated short code, we still advice those businesses to think carefully if they really want to sacrifice the security of their text messaging campaigns by using a shared short code.

If brands do have the budget to use a dedicated short code, then we highly recommend that they use a dedicated short code for their text message marketing campaigns.


Learn More About Short Codes and Text Message Marketing

If you want to learn more about shared short codes, dedicated short codes, and other text message marketing topics, then get in contact with the Tatango team or check out some of our SMS Marketing resources below:

Download: Selecting SMS Keywords (free eBook)
Watch: This Will Make You an Expert on Short Codes & Keywords
Watch: Selecting SMS Keywords (free webinar)
Watch: AT&T Bans Shared Short Codes – Now What?

Subscribe by Email

Subscribe to Tatango's SMS Marketing Blog to receive great SMS marketing content delivered right to your inbox.