Understanding the Differences: Short Code vs Long Code Texting

Business-to-customer texting only continues to grow in popularity and importance. Texting is much quicker than emails and text messages have significantly higher open rates. But you should not simply start texting people from your personal phone number. You first need to carefully consider the sort of messages you want to send and then obtain a separate SMS short code or SMS long code number.

Each have distinct purposes and advantages in marketing and communication. So your choice really depends on how you see your business texting needs.

We’ll walk you through the key differences between short and long code texting so that you can make an informed decision.

Short Code SMS

SMS short code’s 5- to 6-digit numbers make “mass texting” and “blast texting” possible. If you see yourself texting a lot of people at once and sending them the exact same messages without ever wanting a response, choose one of these numbers.

Short code is one-way communication at its finest, and for some businesses that’s all they need.

You’ve most likely received marketing messages from this type of number. They tend to feel more generic because they get sent to such a wide audience. Despite their general nature, they still serve a very specific purpose and shouldn’t be discounted.

If you haven’t received one, you’ve probably seen them advertised, often with a keyword like we mentioned before. If someone texts in the keyword, they then receive regular promotional messages from that business.

Text HELLO to 12345 to start receiving weekly promos.

With short code, you previously had to choose between sharing a number or getting a dedicated number. With a shared number, you share the number with other businesses. Each business designates a keyword (or multiple) and people who text in your keyword get added to your specific list. With a dedicated number, that’s your number and your number alone.

A vanity short code is a dedicated short code number with a specific 5- to 6-digit number that you choose the numbers for. Some businesses choose a dedicated short code because it is easier to remember (12345) or because it has some relevance to the business (the SMS short code matches the numbers of a business address).

As of 2021, shared short code numbers are no longer available to lease.

Carriers approve all short code numbers, so messages a business sends via this method aren’t blocked for being spam and the number isn’t subject to suspension or carrier violations. That is, they aren’t if you follow the CTIA regulations.

Ultimately, short code works great when you want to send marketing messages only and aren’t worried about personalizing messages to individual contacts. This might be the best option if you’re planning a large scale SMS marketing campaign like a major promotion or a text to vote survey.

These advantages of short code messaging, however, are also its disadvantages. When we receive a message from a 5- or 6-digit number, we know it’s not from a real person. So we tend to ignore it and move on. There’s no real engagement between the sender and the recipient. If your goal is to create a real customer relationship beyond a simple SMS campaign, then using real phone numbers with SMS long code capabilities will better meet your needs.

Long Code SMS

If you see yourself engaging in individual, person-to-person communication, choose SMS long code, which is what Skipio offers. You get a local 10-digit number for people to text or call. These phone numbers typically have local area codes and are registered to the business, which can help prevent carrier filtering of messages. Having a local number helps strengthen business ties to the community and makes the message feel more like a conversation with a friend than a marketing message.

Keep in mind that long code is not built for high-volume texting in the same way that short code is. So even though an unlimited number of people can text in keywords to a phone number like you get with Skipio, long code is limited to sending one message per second (compared to the 100 messages per second afforded to short code).

Now, this doesn’t mean you can only send one message at a time with Skipio. It simply means you need to send unique messages. Yes, long code messages go out at a slower rate, but the personalized nature of those messages increases responses and engagement. And what business doesn’t want to talk more with prospects and customers?

Imagine the impact of starting individual and personalized conversations with, say, 50 customers at one time. That’s the reality with a long code number and Skipio. Every single message can include information specific to each customer’s history with your business!

Here are a few examples.

  • Hi [First Name], it’s been a while since you ordered [Product 1]. I wanted to check in to make sure you weren’t running low. Let me know if you need me to set any aside.
  • Just checking in to let you know that we last saw you on [Last Visit] for [Last Service]. To schedule your next appointment, follow this link: (link)
  • Hey [First Name]! How did you like [Fitness Class Name] class today? I can’t wait to see you on [Next Scheduled Class Date] for another workout. Do you have any song suggestions?

So if you sent any of the above messages with Skipio, anything in the brackets would be automatically added to a message depending on what information is saved for each contact. It then appears like you’re messaging every person individually, which you technically are.

And the alternative when you don’t personalize messages or blast the same exact message? Carriers may filter the messages, meaning they block delivery, and suspend numbers to protect recipients from spam and “unwanted” communication.

You can of course successfully send marketing messages with long code, but you’ll want to carefully curate the content and personalize the messages as much as possible. It will also help if you familiarize yourself with the TCPA.

Choosing Between Short Code and Long Code

Short code and Long code are variations of SMS message phone numbers that businesses adopt to meet the needs of their existing customers or generate new customers through SMS marketing. Short codes are often used in large-scale SMS marketing campaigns where mass texting all at once is preferred. This might be for text in giveaway promotions, like ‘text WEWON to 12345 for a free sandwich’ after a local sports team wins. Businesses might also use short code for quick text surveys, such as:

We hope you enjoyed our service. Your feedback is important to us. Please rank the quality of the service you received by responding with a number between 1-10, 1 being poor quality and 10 being the best quality. 

Beyond basic short code marketing campaigns, which are often impersonal, long code provides personalized customer interactions. A common uses of long code includes conversational customer service responses. Long code texting can also be used to build relationships with customers by reminding them of upcoming appointments, checking in on goal progress, asking for questions or feedback after a recent service, and generating ideas for new products or services. When deciding between short code vs long code for your business, make sure you know what you want to get from customer interactions.

Both short code and long code help businesses in very distinct ways, so there’s not necessarily one answer for your needs. Overall, just remember that short code is great for one-way marketing and promotions and long code helps you have real conversations surrounding sales, marketing, and customer service.

If you want to explore long code texting and see how beneficial conversational business texting can be, try out Skipio’s short product tour.