Blog Post

Today’s customers, fans, donors, constituents and community members have high expectations for information and communication.

If there’s an update in a service, program or schedule, they want to know right away. If they seek a status update or quick response to a question, they want a simple, immediate answer, even on the go. And if they want to participate in a poll, promotion or philanthropic campaign, they want the tools for doing so at their fingertips, and be easy to use.

How can you make sure your message cuts through the clutter? On the flip side, how can you ensure that the messages you send are trusted—not deleted, delegated to junk folders or reported as spam?

Chances are, your organization is already using many tools and channels to reach out: websites, emails, social media, and more. Here’s another one to consider adding to the mix, one that works with the smartphones people carry with them every day.

Enter short codes

Short codes are textable five- or six-digit numbers that organizations use to communicate with people like customers, donors, voters, or members of a community, like students. They use the text messaging capabilities native to every smartphone for notifications, promotions, two-way communications like surveys and polls, and more. 

Here’s how they work: To get information, access a service, or start communications, a user texts a specific keyword to an easy-to-remember number, say a code with six digits like “333333”: “ALERT to track a package in the mail, “BAL” to check a bank account balance or “JOIN” to sign up for prescription refill alerts and other health information from a retail pharmacy

Brief codes, big benefits 

Why would an organization use a vanity short code to connect with key audiences, use a short code marketing campaign to promote a new product, or incorporate a short code advertising campaign into its communications mix?

For end users, short codes’ brevity—only five or six digits to remember, sometimes connected to letters that spell a catchy word—makes them easy to remember. But that’s not the only benefit.

Wireless carriers created short codes with reliability, deliverability, and trust in mind. They’re not easily spoofable like traditional 10-digit phone numbers, and they’re controlled and monitored at every step, with the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA) as the governing body. An organization has to successfully undergo a comprehensive application and vetting process to be able to use a short code. Furthermore, short code campaigns are carefully monitored against detailed codes of conduct.

These are all steps to protect smartphone users from unwanted messaging.

For organizations looking for new ways to reach out, short codes offer several advantages. They are easy to remember, support two-way communications and accommodate both text and multimedia (photos, video) messages.

How many text messages are sent a day? Short codes are not subject to the throughput constraints of 10-digit long codes, which means that organizations can send their messages out to more people. Furthermore, messaging speeds are faster.

Rules that build trust

The United States has a defined range of short codes: 20000-99999 (five-digit) and 200000-999999 (six-digit) outlined in the U.S. Short Code Registry , which CTIA administers along with service provider iconectiv.

Organizations apply for, then lease  these codes. Often they work with a partner like a short code aggregator who is knowledgeable in the processes and paperwork.

Because wireless carriers are the conduits for these communications, short code campaigns must adhere to wireless carriers’ best practices outlined in the CTIA Short Codes Monitoring Handbook.

The Handbook’s code of conduct governs things like:

  • Opt-in/opt-out and unsolicited messages
  • Accuracy/deceptive content and other unacceptable content
  • Privacy terms
  • Special guidelines for sweepstakes, donation and political campaigns
  • Harmful code or bots

Ready to start adding short codes to your messaging mix? Read on for how to apply for and lease a short code, what to look for in a short codes partner and steps for setting up a campaign.  


Find a Code

The first step is finding a random or select code.

Get Started