We’ve noticed a trend: companies are choosing short code SMS instead of less expensive, more engaging long code SMS. While a shorter number may seem more appealing on the surface, there's data to suggest that fewer numbers may not be right for your business. Here's what you need to know.
Long code vs. short code: what's the difference
The debate surrounding long code vs. short code SMS centers around the number of digits used when sending a text. On the surface, you can probably get a good idea of what both long code and short code SMS refers to, but let's take a deeper dive to gain better insights.
What are short codes?
Short codes are 5- or 6-digit numbers used for one-way, application-to-person communication. In reality, there are actually two types of short codes:
- Shared codes: Used simultaneously by different companies.
- Dedicated codes: Can only be used by one company, and can either be randomly selected or custom selected.
What are long codes?
Long code SMS refers to classic 10-digit phone numbers beginning with an area code, 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 use short codes for (like notifications and alerts, authentication and marketing campaigns), while providing additional benefits.
There are two types of long code. Person-to-person (P2P) long codes are typically used for low volume exchanges between individuals, although AI chatbots can be used to facilitate this communication. Application-to-person (A2P) long codes work similarly to short codes to send mass marketing messages, and tend to be used between companies and individuals.
Drawbacks of short codes
There are many drawbacks of shorts codes. They're more expensive, they're constrained by approval and expiration periods and they're more like broadcasts than conversations. One study by Marketo found that SMS campaign opt-ins were 20% lower than that of MMS.
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 P2P communications, instead of machine messages. For example, carrier regulations do not allow P2P long codes to be used for SMS broadcasting.
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 cusiness
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.
Long codes enable two-way conversations, so recipients feel contacted and engaged, not advertised or announced at.
Long codes can be fully functioning phone lines, so your customers can reach back out on other channels in one seamless interaction.
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.
Long codes do come with volume constraints. Long codes can only send a limited number of messages per second; while the default base for short code is 50 SMS per second, for long codes the rate is 5 SMS per second. Transitioning an existing high-volume short code campaign will require dividing it among multiple long codes. Luckily, long codes are very affordable, and partitioning out campaigns also helps organize reply monitoring.
The biggest difference between long and short code is that recipients can respond to long code messages. 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.
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.
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. Search and buy long code numbers on our Mission Control Portal, or contact our customer success team to plan your short to long code transition.
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