Should You Be Using Long Code for SMS?

By Josh Whitaker
We’ve noticed a trend: Companies choosing short code SMS instead of less expensive, more engaging long code.

Long Code vs. Short Code

Short codes are 5- or 6-digit numbers used for one-way, application-to-person communication. Long codes are classic 10-digit phone numbers, with all the features phone numbers include like voice, fax and international capabilities. Long codes are for person-to-person communication but are often application-enabled. Long codes can serve many of the scenarios that businesses might believe require short codes (like notifications and alerts, authentication and marketing campaigns), while providing many more benefits.
The drawbacks of shorts codes are many. They're more expensive, they're constrained by approval and expiration periods and they're more like broadcasts than conversations. They tend to suffer from poorer conversion and engagement than long codes.
On the other hand, long codes have fewer fees, have more telephony features and never expire. Long codes are required to fit some regulations that encourage person-to-person communications, instead of machine messages. But, many scenarios being served by short codes now can be transferred to long code, and others need only minor strategy changes. Because long code communication resembles personal conversations more than short codes’ easily disregarded advertisements or announcements, low performing mass campaigns that require short codes often fare better using more targeted long code strategies.

Long Code: Better for Users, Better for Business

Personal

Long code messages look just like any other text the recipient might receive from a friend or colleague. It’s an opportunity to present a friendly, personal face instead of an anonymous, unresponsive brand.

2-Way

Long codes enable two-way conversations, so recipients feel contacted and engaged, not advertised or announced at.

Multi-Channel

Long codes can be fully functioning phone lines, so your customers can reach back out on other channels in one seamless interaction.

Value-Added

Long codes don’t just disseminate information.They are a channel for value-added interactions that your customers can steer based on their preferences.

From Short Code Broadcasts to Long Code Convos

Already invested in short code? Many existing short code campaigns can be transitioned as is to long code.

Volume Requirements

Long codes do come with volume constraints. Long codes can only send a limited number of messages per second. Transitioning an existing high-volume short code campaign will require dividing it among multiple long codes. Luckily, long codes are very affordable (ours start at $1/month/number), and partitioning out campaigns also helps organize reply monitoring.

Enabling 2-Way

The biggest difference between long and short code is that recipients can respond to long code messages, and your ratio of inbound to outbound messages should be better than 1:3. Your SMS application needs to support inbound messaging, and you need the personnel coverage to monitor it. This may require development time and changes to team members’ responsibilities.

Person-to-Person

As a 2-way means of communicating, long code needs a team member ready to field incoming messages. For most scenarios, there is a logical team member to serve as your end of the person-to-person communication:
  • Marketing and sales promos — Sales agent-to-prospect
  • Appointment reminders — Administrator-to-client
  • Application notifications — Support rep-to-user
  • Two-factor authentication — Onboarding rep-to-user
Implementing the logic that routes messages to the correct person can be developed in the SMS application or implemented in the phone number and routing setup you devise.

About Telnyx
If you think long code sounds right for your business, consider Telnyx as your programmable SMS provider. As a licensed carrier, we have higher deliverability rates and lower costs (including free inbound messages) than other long code providers. Contact our customer success team to plan your short to long code transition.