Whatever you have heard about shortcodes, at least as it pertains to shared shortcodes, understand first and foremost that they are coming to an end. Shortcodes have been an asset to text messages for years, using abbreviated phone numbers for texting purposes. Now, keep in mind that these shared numbers are ending. Shared shortcodes. Not dedicated shortcodes, or dedicated SMS shortcodes.

Shared shortcodes will be ending completely by June of this year (2021), even though they’ve already been mostly phased out. That is true for the U.S., Canada, and throughout the world. There’s not going to be an opt-in option any longer and it also means pricing for shortcodes will be firmer. Now, that being said, it’s time to turn our attention to the process of acquiring a shortcode using a service.

The process of acquiring a shortcode can be incredibly intense. It can also be lengthy. You don’t need a shortcode service in order to obtain a short code, though. You can do the process yourself by leasing the code from the U.S. shortcode Administration.
Make note, however, that when you do this, you are not purchasing a shortcode. They are all leased. So, one of the first things to ask a service that advertises their ability to obtain you a shortcode is to find out whether you will own the shortcode or not. When you dive into SMS marketing, this is a vital component to understand.

If they claim that you will own that shortcode, run as fast as you can away from them. They obviously either don’t know what they are doing or are trying to pull a fast one. Either way, you want nothing to do with those types of services.

Why is the process complicated?

Basically, there are several components to obtaining and utilizing a shortcode, but it is powerful for SMS messages. It’s also a great asset for adding subscribers to a companies list.
The first thing is to obtain the number or the shortcode. That could take many weeks or even months. In some cases, if you fill out the application wrong, don’t submit the proper requirements, it could take longer than a year. (Some companies have waited years to obtain a shortcode because of one mistake after another, and this has slowed their text messaging and marketing efforts.)

Then, once you have the shortcode in hand and are leasing it, it is still idle. It isn’t doing anything. Once you obtain the shortcode, you will need to make sure it is provisioned with all other cellular carriers operating in your home country.
That takes another length of time. That’s because you have to submit an application to every single cellphone carrier separately. In this application, you are asking them, or requesting, that they activate the code on their network.

If they don’t do this, their customers who are on their network will be unable to use the shortcode for your fundraising, sales pitch, or other purposes. This process can take anywhere between eight and 12 weeks, on average.
Make no mistake, though, it will take the same length of time no matter what shortcode service you choose.

What do shortcode services offer?

A shortcode service is not quite the same as a messaging service. It is a company that does the legwork for you. They understand how to fill out the application, what requirements are necessary to receive or lease the shortcode, how to submit applications properly to all cellular carriers in your region or country, and make sure you get the shortcode up and running as quickly as possible.

Once all of the mobile phone carriers have approved the common shortcode application you submit (or the shortcode service submits), then the shortcode can finally be activated. Of course, you need the shortcode to be working with a designated account in order to send and receive SMS or MMS messages.
A shortcode service will also help you determine what type of shortcode you want. This isn’t referring to shared or dedicated shortcodes, but rather random or vanity shortcodes. We will explain this a little bit later in this article.

A shortcode service will also acquire a shortcode from the U.S. shortcode Administration on your behalf. Then, a quality shortcode service will select the best SMS service for you to use it with. It may not be with your current cellular provider or SMS carrier. You may want to choose to switch service providers or it can be integrated outside of your current phone system.
The shortcode service should also submit all of the shortcode applications to the appropriate cellular carriers. Remember, in order for the shortcodes to work and be activated properly, you need to submit an application to each and every cellular carrier in your home country. Failure to do that could mean your shortcode will be delayed in activating.

If there are any discrepancies, questions, or concerns with regard to the applications the shortcode service submitted to any cellular carrier, then the shortcode service should intervene on your behalf. They may contact you for questions, to obtain more detailed information from you about the purpose of this shortcode, what you plan to do with it, and so forth.

A cellular service may deny an application if they deem certain factors are going to violate their terms and conditions. For example, there is an acronym call SHAFT that basically means ‘sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco.’ If the shortcode you are obtaining or have leased or seek to lease is going to be utilized for any of these topics, cellular carriers will likely refuse to approve the application.
Finally, once all applications have been reviewed and approved, the shortcode service will connect your shortcode to the SMS service it chose on your behalf.

How much do shortcode services cost?

Shortcode Services

There are essentially two main fees you will need to understand with regard to shortcodes, whether it is random or vanity. You will have the CSCA fee, which is basically the leasing fee to utilize that shortcode and it runs $500 per month for random shortcodes and $1,000 per month for vanity shortcodes.
Then, you will have a connectivity fee, which is the fee you will pay to have it connected to all cellular carriers. This is generally $50 a month for random shortcodes and $100 per month for vanity shortcodes (or somewhere in that range).

There is an important note to add here. You may find some shortcode services do not charge for this connectivity fee. Don’t fall for the trap and assume there is no fee associated with this at all. These services may very well hide their fees.
They might charge a significant initial setup fee or increase their cost per message fee to cover the difference. In either case, there will be some type of connectivity fee, whether it is outlined and detailed upfront or not.

What is the difference between a random and vanity shortcode?

Both of these shortcodes work the same in their basic functionality and capabilities. The difference is the number itself.
A random shortcode may also be referred to as a non-vanity shortcode.
Basically, when you apply for a new shortcode, you will have no say whatsoever in the type of number you would receive. It will be any random five or six-digit text number. The overwhelming majority of shortcodes that are being used today are random. Not only is this the cheaper option, there are only a limited supply of vanity shortcodes.

A vanity shortcode, on the other hand, gives you some flexibility in the type of 5 or 6 digit phone number you will have. You will also be able to choose between a five and six-digit number, but there should likely be some kind of benefit you gain from the vanity number. For example, an easier to remember the number, like 111555 is a lot more beneficial in some cases than something like 628513.

Remember, too, that vanity shortcodes are twice the price because they could offer high-volume messaging. So, that means whatever you will be using the shortcode for, you need to make sure it will be worth the investment. That’s not always the case, though, especially for smaller businesses that don’t generate significant revenue to warrant the added expense.
For marketing campaigns, shortcode messaging can be invaluable. It is the epitome of mobile marketing. A shortcode number is easier to remember than long codes.

How effective are shortcode services?

As the proverbial saying goes, “This isn’t rocket science.” While the process to obtain and lease a shortcode, apply to cellular carriers, and connect to an SMS service is not overwhelmingly complicated, if you have never done this before, you will likely lose a tremendous amount of time before actually being able to utilize the shortcode.

That’s what makes shortcode services so valuable. Time.
If you can cut the time to acquire a shortcode from 18 months, for example, for a company that tries to do it on their own and has a significant learning curve to just eight months (with a shortcode service), that’s a lot of time when you can actually be using your shortcode to generate revenue, sales, fundraisers, and so on.
Another benefit to a shortcode service is knowing exactly the best SMS service you should be using for your specific needs at this stage in your game.

There is a learning curve when it comes to obtaining a shortcode. Most people have never done this before. Most people, even when they begin looking into it for the first time, have no idea where to start. A shortcode service can provide a buffer between that learning curve and getting up and running and utilizing the shortcode as quickly as possible.
Make sure you choose a quality shortcode service, though. Focus on the things we highlighted in this article, including their transparency when it comes to connectivity fees and other expenses.
Don’t overpay, but be diligent when you begin searching for a reliable and dedicated shortcode service.

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