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What is a Short Code?

What is a Short Code?
What is a Short Code?

A short code is five or six digit number that businesses or organizations use as a key element of a successful text message marketing campaign. When paired with a Keyword (a short word or phrase), text message marketing recipients are given all the tools they need to opt-in, interact, and receive ongoing text marketing communications.

Example: Text TICKETS to 858585 to receive 50% off for this evening’s basketball game.

Choosing the right short code for your business is important. It needs to be easy to remember so that people can memorize if they hear it on the radio or see it quickly as they pass by.

It helps if it’s easy to type and recognizable for your brand. For example — 7 Eleven uses the short code 711711.

But how do you know which type of code is going to work best for you? Keep reading to find out.

What is a Short Code? Your Guide to Text Message Marketing

Before you can really understand the different types of short codes that are available and which one's going to work best for your business, you have to understand the relationship between short codes and Keywords.


In another example, let's say that Susan owns a restaurant and she wants to over a free appetizer to get someone to subscribe to her list. She might tell people to “Text SIGNUP to 858585 to get a free appetizer”

In this example, SIGNUP is the Keyword and 858585 is the short code.

There are different types of short codes that work best for different businesses in different scenarios. They also give you different types of access to Keywords depending on which one you pick.

3 Types of Short Codes:

1. Shared Short Codes

Shared short codes are exactly what the name suggests. They are codes that are shared by multiple different people within the same text message service provider.

For example, one of EZ Texting’s shared short codes is 858585. It is one of the top 10 in the United States.

These shared codes can be ideal for a small to medium business as a limited budget. They are usually provided free as part of the subscription package with the texting service provider.

It can also have some advantages if multiple people are using the same code because people can get used to hearing it and it will be easier to remember. These numbers are usually already pretty easy to remember, but obviously seeing it or hearing it more frequently is going to make it even more memorable.

The disadvantage with shared short codes is that different companies have to use different Keywords, so that the leads can be distinguished in the system.

For example, let's say that two different florists are both using the shared short code provided by EZ Texting. They want to run a Mother's Day campaign where they have people text the Keyword “flowers” to 858585.

They would not both be able to use the same Keyword because then the system could not tell which leads belong to Florist A and which leads belong to Florist B. Instead, they would have to do something like:

Florist A says “text the word flowers to 858585” Florist B says “text the word flowers4mom to 858585”

Because of limitation on what Keywords are available, some companies prefer to use dedicated or vanity short codes. Dedicated and vanity codes allow you to have unlimited access to any Keyword that you want whenever you want it.

2. Dedicated Short Codes

Just like shared codes, these are typically 5 to 6 digit numbers. However, instead of being chosen by the service provider, they are randomly generated.

The process for applying for one is pretty quick and easy, but your application also has to be put through an approval process with the cell service providers.

The cost is also going to be higher for a dedicated code. Dedicated codes can usually cost around $500 per month. Despite this additional cost, plenty of businesses such as Google, Amazon, and Capital One choose this option because it gives them any more opportunities to use Keywords that are relevant to their campaigns without having to worry if someone else has already reserved it.

Many marketing agencies will choose to go with dedicated codes as well. Agencies want to use one for their customers so they have a better selection of Keywords that they can use while still keeping the price more affordable.

The only disadvantage to dedicated codes is that they are randomly generated and therefore may not be as memorable. Because of this, many businesses will choose to use vanity short codes that they can customize.

3. Vanity Short Codes

Vanity short codes function similar to a dedicated code. Vanity codes are still going to be five or six numbers and will give the ability to use any Keywords that you would like.

However, they are not randomly generated. You are able to choose any combination of numbers that you would like (provided that it's not already taken).

Some companies choose to spell out a word related to their name or one of their products.

Toys “R” Us used the vanity short code 78697 (RTOYS) Old Navy had to drop the A from their name and uses 653689 (OLDNVY) 7-Eleven uses 711711

Other companies will simply use combinations of numbers that are simple to remember.

Walmart uses 40303 Twitter uses 40404

Vanity codes typically start at around $1,000 per month to lease. They go through an approval process similar to the one that dedicated codes go through before you are able to use them.

How do I Get a Short Code?

The approval process is going to be a little different depending on which type of short code that you want to use.

Shared short codes are going to be available free of charge by most solution providers and will be accessible after you create your account.

Dedicated and vanity short codes will have to go through an approval process that works like this:

  1. You will begin by filling out a service approval form. It will contain the details about your campaign and sent to each of the cellular networks who deliver your messages to make sure that it's compliant with each network's individual regulations.
  2. Your application will be reviewed by the cell providers. The approval process can take several weeks. It's pretty common to be rejected the first time, but after the revisions, you will typically be approved pretty quickly. It’s important to make sure that you look at what words your short code might spell. Your application wouldn’t be approved if your number spelled out a prohibited word on a keypad. For example, the number 37847 can spell both “FRUIT” and “DRUGS”
  3. After your campaign is approved, each network will provision the dedicated short code number for testing. This means that the networks will be looking for the legally required “HELP” and “STOP” options that enable the contact’s next steps. This provisioning and testing can last up to 6 weeks.
  4. The networks will issue final approval after they have verified that your campaign meets their regulations. Then you'll be able to launch a campaign.

Unless you have a considerable amount of expertise and applying for, leasing, and getting approval for dedicated short codes this process can be a little overwhelming.

At EZ Texting, we have years of experience helping our clients launch these dedicated numbers and can assist you every step of the way. Our support team is here to guide you through every step and help you avoid delays or headaches in receiving your short code.

We are there with you every step of the way to help you:

  • Check what numbers are available and select the appropriate short code type for you.
  • Help you fill out your application to increase your chances of being approved the first time.
  • Reduce the revision time by leveraging our experience to know what it takes to get approved.
  • Help you get your campaign up as quickly as possible.

Next Steps

By now, you should have a better understanding of what short codes are and which one will be the right fit for you.

A short code and Keyword are integral components of any successful text message marketing campaign. In fact, the right Keyword and short code combination can unlock boundless text message marketing growth for your business.

Many of the world's leading businesses and organizations have already unlocked the power of Keywords and short codes to craft highly targeted and super engaging text marketing communications.

We get it — starting your text message marketing journey and joining the ranks of high-profile text marketing superstars might feel a bit overwhelming.

Fortunately, EZ Texting customer support teams are here to answer all of your questions. From Keywords to short codes and everything in between, EZ Texting is an experienced text message marketing provider. EZ Texting has helped thousands of businesses just like yours to create deeply engaging text messaging campaigns to prospects and customers.

EZ Texting doesn't claim to have all the text message marketing secrets, but we can certainly point you towards rapid text marketing success.

To kickstart your path towards success, start by downloading our free guide: 9 Step Roadmap to Mastering Text Message Marketing. In the guide, learn how to use one of the fastest-growing and most effective ways to connect with your customers. We’ll show you how to promote your goods and services, increase engagement with customers, quickly send alerts to subscribers, and even automate appointment reminders.

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