Keywords and Short Codes

What Is a Short Code? 

Keywords and short codes are usually used to generate leads or subscribers to your texting list. Not sure you've seen them before? You probably have! If you've seen a sign saying "Text SUBSCRIBE to 313131 to get a 10% off coupon." The Keyword in the advertisement is "SUBSCRIBE"  and 313131 is the short code. By texting SUBSCRIBE, your audience is opting in to your text list. It's very important to only send messages to opted-in subscribers. Using Keywords and short codes make it easy!

Short codes and Keywords can also help sort your contacts into groups according to their interests, geographical locations, or whatever category you choose. You could ask customers to text in their favorite flavor of ice creams, and make CHOCOLATE, VANILLA, and STRAWBERRY your Keywords. When customers text one of these Keywords to your shared short code, they would join a specific list in your account.

In this way, shared short code Keywords can make management of your database much easier. They can save you money by eliminating “wasted” text messages — those sent to contacts who have no interest in their content — and can help prevent the scenario in which contacts opt out of your SMS short code service because they are receiving too many irrelevant text messages.

See how commercial real estate firm Lee & Associates West L.A. uses custom Keywords to get new sales leads and drive more business.



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See how BEF's text campaign restored 32 million gallons of water using custom Keywords.



You do not need a deep understanding of shared short codes and Keywords in order to use them or to benefit from them. However, in order to maximize the effectiveness of your SMS short code service, it is a good idea to know the difference between shared short codes and dedicated short codes, and how you can make maximum use of your Keywords by using Sub-Keywords.

The Difference between Shared Short Codes and Dedicated Short Codes

A “short code” is a five- or six-digit number that people typically send a text message to in order to join an SMS short code service or to take part in a survey. Most people will have seen an advertisement inviting them to (for example) “text JOIN to 313131”. The Keyword in the advertisement is JOIN, while 313131 is the “short code” - an easy-to-remember number that saves people having to write down a full ten digit number.

There are two types of short codes used by texting services: shared short codes and dedicated short codes. Shared short codes are ones that are shared among the clients of an SMS marketing service provider. For example, if a store, a realtor and a bar were using EZ Texting's text messaging service, all three businesses' shared short code would be 313131 or another on our SMS short code list. Shared short codes are usually free to use, and we´ll explain how we distinguish one business's contacts from another's a little later in this article.

By comparison, dedicated short codes are unique to each individual business but expensive to rent. There are two types of dedicated short codes: “random” and “vanity.” “Random” dedicated short codes are a random combination of numbers (for example 468591), whereas “vanity” short codes are those which are easiest to remember (for example 112233). You could also use a vanity short code if your business had a six-letter name that could be spelled on a keypad (for example Costco = 267826).

How Does a Shared Short Code Service Work?

We gave the example above that a store, a realtor and a bar are using EZ Texting's text messaging service and the same shared short code of 313131. So, how do we distinguish the store's shared short code service from the realtor's and the bar's? The answer is Keywords. We monitor which business is using which Keyword so that when the shared short code 313131 receives a text message, we transfer the message to the correct database according to the Keyword in the text message.

Obviously this means that all three business cannot be using the same Keyword at the same time, but this is not usually a problem. Furthermore there are ways in which potential demand issues can be resolved with a little creative thinking. For example, if you were the owner of the bar and you wanted to use your shared short code service to promote a two-for-one drinks offer, but the keyword “2FOR1” was already being used, we would suggest that you use the keyword “BOGOF” (Buy One Get One Free).

As you will see in the next section, potential demand issues can also be overcome with the use of sub-Keywords if you do not want to wait until your preferred Keyword becomes available and want start your marketing campaign ASAP. The only other alternative is to rent a dedicated short code — which can be costly — or enable your landline for texting or get a 10-digit textable number. A random dedicated short code will cost about $6,000 per year, while vanity dedicated short codes start at $12,000 per year.

Tips for Using Keywords with Short Codes for Text Marketing 

Whether you use a shared short code service or pay for a dedicated short code, sub-Keywords are a fantastic way to maximize the effectiveness of your business's SMS short code service. Sub-Keywords are basically “second word” Keywords and, once you have rented a Keyword, you can have as many sub-Keywords as you wish. You simply use your (paid for) Keyword, leave a space, and then add your sub-Keyword. Here is an example:

A real estate company called “Nice Homes” uses its SMS short code service as an inquiry service for potential homeowners who have seen a For Sale sign outside of a property. The company has rented the Keyword NICE and uses a different sub-Keyword on every For Sale sign (HOME1, HOME2, HOME3, etc.). When a potential homeowner wants more information about a specific property, they simply text NICE HOME1 to 313131. They receive just the property information they requested, while their details are added to the real estate company's database automatically.

At the beginning of this article we mentioned that shared short code and Keywords can be used to conduct surveys or sort a database into groups. Sub-Keywords can also be used for these purposes. For example, a bar called “Macs” could survey its customers on what beers they would like to see stocked in the bar (text MACS BUD, MACS COORS, or MACS MILLER to 313131), or a nationwide chain store called “Bonus Buys” could sort its database by location (text BONUS NY, BONUS FL, or BONUS TX to 313131).

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At the beginning of this article we also mentioned that the possible uses for shared short code and Keywords are practically limitless. This article barely scratches the surface of how you can easily and inexpensively attract contacts to your text messaging service by using short codes for SMS, Keywords, and sub-Keywords.

However, every business has its own goals in operating a SMS short code service, so rather than fill the page with dozens and dozens of examples that may not be relevant to your particular circumstances, the best way to get a feel for it is to give it a try yourself!

To find out more about EZ Texting, or to ask any questions about shared short code Keywords do not hesitate to contact our team of Client Success Managers. Our team will be happy to guide you through the procedure for setting up an account and provide you with free website signup widgets so you can start building your database of contacts right away.

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