SMS Marketing Best Practices

Understanding SMS Keywords and Short Codes

At the heart of every SMS marketing campaign is an SMS short code and SMS keyword. In this post, Tatango CEO, Derek Johnson discusses the differences in SMS keywords and short codes and how they function together.

Let’s take a closer look at both SMS keywords and SMS short codes individually below.


What Is an SMS Keyword?

In order to understand how an SMS keyword works, let’s take a step back and look at the consumer opt-in process. There are three ways that a consumer can opt into an SMS marketing campaign, the options are:

  1. On a mobile phone. The consumer texts a keyword to a short code.
  2. On a website. The consumer fills out a web form.
  3. In a store. The consumer signs up at a point-of-sale system when making a purchase.

When a customer opts into an SMS marketing campaign through their mobile device, they have to text an SMS keyword in order to be added to the subscriber list. A keyword is a word or a combination of a word and number that a consumer texts to a short code in order to receive automated marketing messages. Keep scrolling to learn all about short codes.

A brand will typically advertise a variety of company initiatives through their SMS marketing and can use numerous mediums to grow their subscriber list. For example, brands will advertise via print, television, radio, their website, or on social media. A brand might say “Text ‘Hello’ to 1-2-3-4-5, to get the best deals directly to your phone.” In this example, the word “Hello” would be the SMS keyword that will prompt the system to add that consumer to the SMS subscriber list.


What Is an SMS Short Code?

A short code is a five- or a six-digit phone number (e.g. 12345 or 123456) that a brand uses to send automated text marketing messages to its customers. A brand can choose to send a transactional message, a flight alert, a package reminder, a marketing message, or a text to download an app (the possibilities are endless). A short code can be any combination of numbers and fall into the following categories:

  • A vanity short code. A vanity short code is a phone number that is five to six digits and is selected specifically by the brand, usually because it is easy for the consumer to remember and type into the mobile phone. To lease a vanity short code a brand will have to pay $1,000 per month.
  • A generic short code. A genetic short code is also known as a non-vanity or random short code. This is a five- to six-digit phone number that is randomly assigned to a brand. A generic short code costs $500 per month to lease.
  • A shared short code. A shared short code is when a phone number is used by thousands of brands for SMS marketing.
  • A dedicated short code. A dedicated short code means that one brand owns the phone number and is running the only SMS campaign on that phone number.

Although there is a $500 difference in the price of a generic or vanity short code, we at Tatango recommend the vanity short code option, as it creates a better user experience for the customer. The easier you can make it on the consumer, the easier it will be for you to grow your SMS subscriber list.

SMS marketing short codes and SMS keywords can be tough to navigate, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions. Click here to chat with an SMS marketing professional.

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