You can find plenty of articles on the differences of long code vs short code. Those ranking on the first page of search pretty much come out with shortcode as the victor, on top. Why? Is it that shortcode better? Actually no. Shortcode comes out the winner because the articles are written by companies that sell short code services. Great. As a company that sells both short codes and long codes in the same package we align with both. You can use both. Platform technologies means you don’t have to decide who wins the battle. You can send both from the same platform to the same customer. So let’s look plainly at the real differences and when is a good time to send with each.
You don’t have to choose between long code vs short code when you’re purchasing an SMS marketing software. It’s when you use each is what counts.
Short codes are easier to remember. Think quick display situations like on billboards or tv commercials or radio ads. Places where speed is critical. When you’re driving there’s not a lot of time to read a billboard, to see the call to action, and make a note of the number. It’s all too fast. A short code is good here because it’s quick to jot down. Same as with a radio ad. Radio is mostly listened to on the go so you’re already doing something else (like driving), so it needs to be actionable quickly by the listener. TV is so expensive that you had better be quick and you still have a limited amount of time.
A shortcode is not necessary if you’re posting your campaign to places like facebook/ instagram/twitter or on to printed flyers or stickers. You have a direct & captive audience. They are looking straight at it, it’s a direct placement so they can easily type it straight into their device. Sometimes using a shortcode in these places can actually be a disadvantage. People know that there is generally a large company behind a shortcode. It’s not perceived as being in play at the local level. Using a long code for customer acquisition in situations like this can also appear more personal.
When long code vs short code on who's the most personal it’s hands down long code.
For example when you write on your flyers, ads, signs “Text us on 313.288.9911 to get back a 14 day gym pass you are signalling you are local and a person will get back to the person with the information they are requesting.
Now that feels like there is somebody - a real person - on the other side of the text, even though this can all be totally automated. Using a long code has and will always have a more local and personal feel to it.
Big tip: Always be using the area code that your business is in. An area code that is (408) when you're in Florida will not make sense to your potential buyers or existing customers. Beware of companies that will use rotating long numbers to avoid spam regulations. You want the one number that is the same as your businesses area code. This gives a very non threatening non spammy vibe, ads legitimacy and builds trust. If you’re in San Antonio and you see a flyer that says – “Text (210) 365-3764 to get more information” you already know that it is a local long number and there’s more likely to be a real person on the other end of it.
Below is an example we recently used at a job fair and we chose to use long code.
Using a long code for sending automated information gives you much greater flexibility and lower costs than using a short code. Because you own the entire number you can have unlimited hotwords to create endless campaigns.
This can be for different purposes and give you much more granualar data on what locations, partner channels and media are working the best for your conversions.
Generally long codes let you 2 Way Text with your audience (providing your supplier has this functionality) which can be a massive advantage for businesses. Think of when you are nurturing people from a cold lead to closing them on your product or business. They want to be able to chat with you on the go, and you want that capability to engage at the right time especially if you see they clicked on a link or engaged with your message.
Nobody thinks to text back a short code that is really expecting a conversation. When they do they generally get a message STOP or HELP. Other times you do text a shortcode back your question/ comment, it replies with something like “You have texted an invalid response”. Everyone knows that’s a machine that said that. Not that helpful and definitely not relationship building.
Long codes allow you to have 2 way conversations with people that seem to your audience as if you're personally on your cell phone.
TIP: A good provider will store all of your conversations in your database so you can bring up any of your conversations at a later time for reference or analysis.
Shortcodes allow you to send in large numbers very quickly - much faster than longcodes. Shortcodes allow you to legally and technically send thousands of messages in seconds.
This is because all aggregators or message providers have deals with the carriers that allow them to send a large number of messages all at the same time. Longcodes do not. A shortcode has no limit to the number of messages you can send at one time. You can send as as many as you like in rapid fire.
The legal maximum number of sms that the carriers will allow one number to send in long code is 200 per day. This goes back to early days when carriers were not concerned about mobile and didn’t see the revenue potential. They (regrettably for them) allowed other third party companies to build the infrastructure to rout the mobile traffic.
Technically it works like this:
These agreements were made so long ago when nobody, (well at least the carriers) could see a profit. Essentially the carriers gave away the business not wanting to build the infrastructure as they figured it wouldn’t pay off. Because of this decision they make zero money off each text that goes out via long codes.
Short codes on the other they make a bundle. Short codes arrived on the scene much later and by this time carriers knew there was money to be made. Having been suckered once before they made it very clear and that this “shortcode thing” would not be free. It was the Godfather offer. The one you can’t refuse. They would be clipping the ticket each time a text is routed through their service. That’s why there they limit heavily the volume of the long code and the short code you can send as much as you like.
At the end of the day it’s always money that rules commercial enterprises. That’s why most things get built. It’s an interesting artifact in how an industry takes shape.
Well let's use an example of great long code use. Let's say you have a day care. A parent calls up to find out your curriculum. They always want more information. That’s why people are calling you, for more information. During the conversation you’ll ask them if they would like you to send more information (creating a permission moment). They will say yes 9 plus times out of 10.
In response you then ask them; “What would you prefer text or email?” Know we know from surveying the daycare market that parents inquiring will say they would prefer text about 90% of the time. For a business - in any industry - this is an extraordinary way to build audiences for your SMS campaign. A truly great way.
Yes, the long code has it’s advantage here as it appears extremely personal. Most of the time the recipient actually believes it is the personal phone number of the business. That’s never going to happen with a short code. A short code is quite clearly coming from a corporation through automation.
It’s hard to imagine them as people but what if long and short codes were people and they had personalities, what type of person would they be?
Clearly this is all made up but I imagine the shortcode would be the corporate business type and the longcode would be the friendly neighbourly type. Both are good in different situations.
If you would like to talk through which of these methods fit your needs then reach out. In some cases both are a good fit and having the capability to switch between the two depending on the situation works great.