Short Code vs Long Code: The Basics of Business Texting Explained

Customers want to engage with your brand, right? It’s just a matter of making yourself available — this is where short code texting and long code texting come into play.

If you didn’t already know, we’ll make this loud and clear: you need a business text messaging service. It allows your brand to live at customers’ fingertips and deliver experiences that drive satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue.

SMS and MMS messages rely on ‘short code’ and ‘long code’ telephone numbers to operate. Both short code texting and long code texting transfer information between a business and its customers, but there are some key advantages and disadvantages to be aware of while figuring out which to use.

Learn what short code texting and long code texting are, how they’re different, and which your business should use to engage with customers.

What is Short Code Texting?

Short code texting — also known as ‘SMS short code texting’ — uses an abbreviated, shortened telephone number that’s only able to send and receive text messages. It doesn’t allow outbound calls to be placed or inbound calls to be answered.

Business text messaging with a short code displays a 5- or 6-digit telephone number to customers instead of a traditional, 10-digit telephone number. Customers find it easier to remember how to send a text message to your brand as a result.

How to Use a Short Code Number for Business Text Messaging

Customers regularly interact with brands using short code texting even if they don’t realize it. If they reset a password with two-factor authentication or receive a text message about a promotional offer from their favorite retailer, most likely it came from a short code number.

Since they’re limited to text messaging, short codes also prevent unwanted calls. Short code texting allows a business to assign a dedicated telephone number for specific purposes — such as alerts, notifications, collecting feedback, and sharing promotional offers — that you normally wouldn’t use phone calls for. In turn, this saves both your business and its customers time.

Short code texting supports high throughput, too. Wireless network providers are much less likely to mark text messages as spam if they’re sent by a business using a short code, which means your business can send hundreds of text messages in a single day with confidence that it reached your customers.

Another key advantage for short code texting? It allows a customer to opt-in and subscribe to text messages from a business after sending a keyword. This does, of course, to opting out and unsubscribing as well.

Short code numbers don’t operate internationally, though. If your business is located in the United States, you’ll only be able to send and receive text messages using a U.S. short code. And keep in mind that you lease short code numbers, you don’t own them.

In the event you decide to lease a short code number, it’ll take about 8-12 weeks to receive approval.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Short Code Texting

Here’s a list of the advantages and disadvantages of using a short code number for business text messaging.

Advantages

  • Use an abbreviated, shortened telephone number that’s easy for customers to remember
  • Provide a communication channel only for text messaging, which consumers prefer
  • Send bulk text messages with hundreds of text messages daily with virtually zero risk of being marked as spam
  • Speak only to customers in the telephone number’s originating country, filtering out consumers you don’t (or can’t) serve
  • Stop paying for a telephone number after a lease agreement ends

Disadvantages

  • Cost is significantly more expensive than a long code number
  • International customers can’t use the same telephone number to communicate with a brand
  • Obtaining a telephone number to use can take several weeks or months
  • Lack of ownership since a brand is only leasing the telephone number, not purchasing it
  • Sometimes feels impersonal to customers if automated strictly to respond to keywords and not intent

What is Long Code Texting?

Long code texting — also known as ‘SMS long code texting’ — uses a classic, full-length telephone number capable of sending and receiving text messages. It also allows outbound calls to be placed and inbound calls to be answered.

Business text messaging with a long code displays a 10-digit telephone number, so it uses an area code followed by a series of digits much like the telephone numbers belong to your family and friends.

How to Use a Long Code Number for Business Text Messaging

Long code numbers introduce choice for your customers as it supports both text messaging and calling. If a customer wants to speak to a live agent, they can forgo text messaging and use the same number to call your business. It’s definitely convenient for customers as they don’t need to find separate numbers and instead use the same for either method of communication.

Know this, however: text messages sent in bulk by a long code number are much more susceptible to being marked as spam by wireless network providers and customers. While it may be less expensive to get a long code number, it could be incredibly difficult for your text messages to get in front of customers and thus reduce responses.

With that said, directly interacting with individual customers via text message may not trigger any spam filters. It’ll allow you to provide two-way, real-time communication in customer service.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Long Code Texting

Here’s a list of the advantages and disadvantages of using a long code number for business text messaging:

Advantages

  • Use a classic, full-length telephone number
  • Provide a communication channel for both text messaging and calling, offering consumers more options
  • Cost is significantly less expensive than a short code number
  • Option to stop paying for a telephone number after a lease agreement ends
  • Text messages can be sent and received internationally, not just domestically
  • Obtaining a telephone number to use can take just a few minutes or hours

Disadvantages

  • Customers may not remember a 10-digit telephone number as easily, or they may enter it incorrectly and be unable to contact a business
  • Can only send one text message per second, limiting bulk text messages
  • More easily marked as spam by wireless network providers and even customers

Short Code vs Long Code: Which Type of Business Text Messaging Do I Need?

As you probably expected, deciding to use short code or long code for your business text messaging strategy all depends on what you’d like to do.

Looking to be easily contacted by your customers? Go with a short code number as the 5- or 6-digit telephone number will be easy for customers to remember how to get in touch. But don’t forget that a short code number limits you to text messaging only, whereas a long code number can place and answer calls.

Do some research to determine if your customers would prefer an all-in-one telephone number, though be prepared to rule out a long code number if you typically send bulk text messages due to spam concerns.

Consider what your budget is, too. Short code texting is often vastly pricier, so it may be better to reduce costs and choose long code texting.

In either case, remember that you don’t own the telephone number(s) assigned to your business. Instead, you’re leasing a telephone number and paying a fee for the rights to use it whether for short code texting or long code texting.

The Long & Short of It: You Need a Business Text Messaging Service

Medallia Zingle is a business text messaging service that supports both short code texting and long code texting — the platform lifts the pressure off you and your staff with AI-powered automations to engage with customers efficiently.

Haven’t tried a business text messaging service yet? Get started with a free trial to find out why industry-leading brands in hospitality, property management, healthcare, and beyond all choose Medallia Zingle.

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