One of the first decisions to make when developing a text marketing campaign is whether to use short codes or long codes. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, largely dependent on what type of business you have.
Long codes are attractive to small businesses with limited marketing budgets. Easy and affordable to set up, long codes allow for multiple messages to be sent internationally from one number. For companies outside the United States who need to watch every penny, the long code is an understandably appealing option.
Trouble is, this ease of use can spell disaster when used for commercial purposes. Using long codes over a U.S. carrier network is actually illegal, and organizations that send unsolicited messages to consumers violate the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act). A number of companies are currently facing litigation for such violations.
Legal ramifications notwithstanding, the marketing benefits of long codes are questionable. For one thing, they don’t support videos or pictures and there are severe restrictions on the number of messages that can be sent per second. The bottom line is, long codes are intended for communication between individuals, not businesses and consumers.
Which brings us to short codes. Yes, they can take weeks to be vetted, and they are undoubtedly expensive (with monthly costs averaging around $500), but that’s the price of an effective, legitimate service. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) have implemented rules to protect consumers, namely an obligation to gain permission from each recipient before sending a text message.
Instead of viewing this regulation as inconvenient red tape, look at it from the consumer’s point of view – they don’t want to be hassled with unsolicited commercial messages. Why do something that alienates people from your business? Gaining explicit permission will vastly improve your relationship with users – not to mention keeping you within the bounds of the law!
From a purely marketing perspective, short codes are more memorable, and allow you to send thousands of messages in a second. They can also be used for handling payment services, which will save your business resources in the long run.
Customers prefer them. So do law courts. So do commercial enterprises with an eye for the long-term strategy. With few exceptions, the legitimate, accountable business uses short codes.