The Truth Behind US and Canadian Short Codes

In the video above, Tatango CEO Derek Johnson explains how to use short codes in the US and Canada. Prefer to read instead? No problem, see the post below. You can also find answers to all your SMS marketing questions in our Q&A video library.

When brands first start communicating with customers using SMS and MMS messages, navigating the industry can be very confusing due to how little accurate information is available. Because there isn’t much information, SMS providers can say whatever they want, and brands often can’t confirm whether something is true or false. This is particularly evident when a brand contacts multiple SMS providers for information, and each provider tells them something different. The brand is left completely confused and frustrated by SMS marketing—and rightfully so.

In 2011, we were thinking about expanding Tatango’s SMS marketing platform to Canada. We reached out to another SMS provider we’d seen running SMS campaigns in the United States and Canada on the same short code. We asked how they were able to do it, and they said, “It’s really hard. I think we’re the only SMS provider with a short code that’s approved by both US and Canadian wireless carriers.” After receiving that response, it didn’t seem like expansion into Canada was worth the hassle, so we shelved that plan.

Then in 2012, we revisited the idea of expanding into Canada and did a little more research about getting a short code our clients could use to run SMS marketing campaigns in both the United States and Canada. After a lot of research and numerous calls and emails, we discovered that the SMS provider we had spoken to in 2011 had given us inaccurate information.

How to Use a Short Code in Both the US and Canada

The truth is, no short codes are approved for messaging in both the US and Canada. So how was that SMS software provider able to run their text message marketing campaign in both the US and Canada? That provider made it work by using two different but identical short codes. One was approved by US messaging traffic, and the other was approved by Canadian messaging traffic. How is it possible to have two short codes with the same digits? We discovered that each country operates short codes separate from other countries, so a company can lease a short code in the US and lease the same short code in Canada.

What the provider we originally spoke to had done was leased the same 5-6 digit short code in both the US and Canada, which made it seem like they were using one short code and running SMS marketing campaigns in both the United States and Canada with it. This makes it incredibly easy for the marketing team and helps eliminate confusion for customers.

Unfortunately with so little information freely available about the SMS marketing ecosystem, SMS providers keep getting away with disseminating false information to confuse brands in an effort to increase their value. This is why we love to blog at Tatango. Because a blog is public for all to read, the information and advice we publish have to be honest and truthful. If it isn’t, the comments below act as a checks and balances system.

If you have any other questions on SMS marketing topics that we haven’t covered yet, reach out to one of our SMS marketing experts.


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