At this point, you are probably experienced with shortcodes, even though you might not have known what they were called. A shortcode is an abbreviated phone number.

You might have received the message from a local business or seen something like, “Text ‘Yes to 55755’,” for example. Most of us have seen these shortcodes for many, many years, but the average cell phone user probably never realized what they were called.

We are going to dig into the details about shortcodes, how to use them, how you can get a shortcode text number for yourself or a business, and whether or not the shortcodes are going away anytime soon. So let’s start with the basics.

What does shortcode mean?

This refers to a short digit sequence. While telephone numbers have gotten longer and longer over the years, as more phone numbers have been required for more telephone users, shortcodes keep things simple.

These shortcodes are basically used to address messages in either the short message service (SMS) or the Multimedia Messaging System (MMS). These are used by mobile network operators.

They can also be used to shorten digital sequences to make phone numbers for businesses or some individuals easier to remember. They are unique to each operator at a technological level.

Of course, it is important that those using shortcode and providing them not allow for overlapping, for then some people sending a shortcode message to a certain business or individual doesn’t inadvertently have that message sent to a different one in another country or region.

Shortcodes are commonly used for value-added services. Some of these services may include voting for certain organizations or companies, charity donations, and so forth. Sometimes, messages that are sent to a shortcode number may be billed at a higher rate and some users could be subscribed for monthly service that would be added to the individual’s mobile phone bill.

If that happens, the user would need to text the word ‘STOP’, for example, to terminate the service.

How can I obtain a shortcode?

First, it’s critical to understand that a shortcode is not free. Prices for dedicated shortcode numbers range depending on the provider. There are also one-time setup fees as well as minimum spend amounts that could range from month to month.

That means if you are going to use a shortcode, it has to make fiscal sense to you or your organization. This cost allows you to use a dedicated and specific five or six-digit number that will allow people to send and receive texts to and from you, respectively.

Depending on the type of shortcode you choose, users who text you with the shortcode could pay more for sending those messages. That all depends on the carrier and what they charge to send messages to a shortcode.

Vanity and non-vanity shortcode

There are two different types of shortcodes you may need to be aware of; vanity and non-vanity shortcode. A vanity shortcode could be considered along the lines of a vanity license plate. It is a special number that could be transliterated into a specific word based on a telephone’s keypad and letter designations for each of those numbers. Vanity shortcode pricing comes with a premium fee.

Dedicated shortcode versus a shared shortcode

Once upon a time, you also needed to consider whether you were going to use a shared shortcode or a dedicated one. Today, we don’t have to make that distinction. There is no option other than a dedicated shortcode.

In years past, shared shortcodes were a cost-effective alternative, but most wireless carriers have terminated these shared shortcodes. Even if some shared shortcodes do remain, they are being phased out.

The reason is due to security and the risk of abuse. Phishing scammers had been using shared shortcodes to steal personal data. Spammers were using them to send unsolicited and repeated messages to clients. There were a lot of problems with shared shortcodes that, hopefully, can be ended with the termination of shared shortcodes.

How can I obtain a shortcode?

In the United States, there is an organization called the U.S. Shortcode Administration. This is the only governing body that administers shortcodes. It can lease them to brands. SMSGorilla is an approved shortcode provider.

There are other ways to obtain a shortcode, too, especially through outsourcing. You can outsource to a business that can then apply to receive a shortcode assignment for you. These companies understand the process quite well on how to go about applying for and obtaining a shortcode for a business brand. SMSGorilla handles this service as well.

If the company or brand decides to deal directly with the U.S. Shortcode Administration, it could be a lengthy process. There are many different requirements needed just to set up an account. That’s why so many companies would prefer to just deal with companies like SMSGorilla.

One of the advantages to choosing a company to apply for a shortcode for your brand rather than doing it directly is that the dedicated cost of a shortcode is basically the same. You may have to pay for an administrative fee for the company’s time in making this application request on your behalf, but it could be a lot less than having to learn about all of the regulations and processes, and then the missed time and opportunities you’ll spend waiting for the shortcode to be processed.

How long can it take to get a shortcode?

It can take quite a long time. Just getting a shortcode is only one step in the process. That could take several weeks or even a few months to obtain. Even then, your wireless carrier will need to approve the shortcode.

That requires a separate application process. That can take a considerable amount of time, too, but it all depends on the wireless carrier, how inundated they are with applications for shortcode, and their dedication to customer service and support.

After that, once your application has been approved by your wireless carrier and you already have the shortcode number, you will need to host that shortcode. That means you will need to determine what software is going to work best for it. Then, you will need to pay for the software as well as the messages.

So, you can see that obtaining a shortcode number is only the beginning of the process. This is why it is so valuable to have an SMS aggregator to help you navigate these processes, like SMSGorilla. 

How do SMS shortcodes work?

They work in much of the same way as your traditional SMS messaging does. The key difference, though, is in the cost and some other hosting factors. While many of those details will go beyond the purview of this article, let’s provide a quick overview of some key distinctions.

When you have a shortcode, you will be able to receive and send messages using this shortcode number. Of course, it will be imperative that you have permission to send a shortcode message to a recipient, otherwise you run the risk of violating certain terms of agreement regarding the shortcode number, especially with the wireless carrier and local, state, or federal laws.

So, if you choose to get a shortcode, make sure you or anyone else messaging using the shortcode is adhering to all of those laws, agreements, and regulations.

You also want to make sure that if your users are going to be charged an extra amount by their wireless carrier, they understand those (potential) costs. It might be a few cents or a bit more, depending on the carrier the user has.

One of the key factors to understand about shortcode with SMS messaging is you cannot use an existing database to send messages to. You would need to have each person manually opt-in for every single campaign and they have to do this from their direct mobile number.

Even if you have an existing marketing campaign with SMS numbers, you would need to contact every one of them individually and have them opt-in, providing their consent, for this newest campaign.

Even if you have a database of existing customers who have already opted in, you’ll want to take this seriously and not abuse the system inadvertently.

Are shortcodes going away?

This is a vital question to ask, especially for those who may be considering a shortcode for their business or brand.

At the moment, there are some serious challenges for those who want to use shortcode, the least of which involves violating content or messaging requirements that could lead to shortcode losses. You could lose your short code number, even if the violation was inadvertent.

Also, we need to consider how rapidly the world of online and phone messaging is changing. With other types of communication options coming online, and with RCS (Rich Communication Service) changing the landscape, allowing people to use even traditional SMS and MMS services to send files, video chat, and so forth, shortcode SMS could become a thing of the past.

Think about it. If you have to pay a fee per month for a shortcode, but new apps and messaging services allow you to designate a short name or even abbreviated numbers directly through those apps and services, then the need for shortcode will begin to wane.

There is a growing desire to protect phone users from phishing and other scams, including spammers. That’s why shared shortcodes could be phased out. However, even with dedicated shortcodes, there have been numerous obstacles companies and brands have had to overcome, which can be eliminated with the use of some select third-party platforms and RCS.

How do I convert a shortcode to a link in WordPress?

The easiest way to convert a shortcode into a link for WordPress would be to use an effective third-party plug-in. If you have an experienced coder who understands HTML and the WordPress platform, you can wrap the shortcode in a DIV and provide it in an ID that will be used as a target, especially in a pop-up.

In order to get into something like this, we would need to become more technical, and that falls outside of the specs of this article. If you have specific questions about how to create a link in WordPress or any other website platform, it would be best to seek out the technical expertise of an individual who has knowledge about coding and shortcode.

Can any business get an SMS shortcode?

In theory, yes. However, due to the nature of the application process and the requirements there would need to be a specific set of conditions met in order to qualify for a shortcode. That’s why not all businesses have a shortcode.

It isn’t just the monthly expense and other fees associated with shortcodes that prevent every business, but from being able to get one, but remember, there is only a limited quantity of shortcode numbers available, to begin with.

Not every business is going to qualify for a shortcode. If you believe your business may want a shortcode, seek an aggregator or contact the U.S. Shortcode Administration to find out what requirements they have in place for a business to qualify for one before you spend the time by filling out an application.

There are plenty of alternatives to shortcode you may want to consider, especially if you are a relatively small business or brand with limited financial resources. Yes, shortcodes can be effective, especially with certain campaigns intended to raise funds or increase sales, but the cost-effectiveness may not pertain to your specific business.

The more you know and understand about the history of shortcode, why they are used, and how they can benefit certain businesses, you may begin to realize there are limitations and that other new messaging apps are coming online each year, so there are wonderful alternatives that can help you save money while still reaching your target audience, your market, clients, or customers with effective messaging that can increase sales more naturally and more cost-effectively.

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