You hopefully know that SMS marketing is a crucial part of your overall advertising strategy. Customers prefer to text over other communication methods, and texting has an incredibly high open rate of 98%.

However, figuring out your SMS strategy requires numerous elements, including choosing between different messaging types and whether to use long codes or shortcodes. Learn what long code SMS is and when you should use it. 

What are long codes for SMS messages?

The definition of a long code is simple: It’s just a standard telephone number. This is a 10-digit number in the US, although some countries have longer or shorter numbers.

While long codes are 10-digit phone numbers, a shortcode is just a five- or six-digit phone number. We’ll go into more detail about the difference between the two later. 

When looking at long vs. short code numbers, it’s also essential to mention shared and dedicated shortcodes. A dedicated shortcode is one that just belongs to your business. You could also get a shared short code, which you will share with other companies. With a shared short code, you differentiate yourself with a unique keyword. 

When should I use a long code number? 

Long codes are incredibly useful for text marketing, both for direct person-to-person communications and bulk texting. Your long code can be a toll-free number or a standard local number.

When it comes down to it, you can use long codes for nearly every type of texting with clients. Remember that because long codes are the standard length, they let you use your business number for texting, as long as you make the number text-enabled. This is possible for local and toll-free numbers.

As mentioned, you can use long codes for pretty much any part of your SMS marketing. That includes the following:

  • Providing customer support
  • Announcing promotions
  • Accepting reservations and orders
  • Rescheduling reservations or appointments
  • Appointment and reservation reminders
  • Order updates
  • Tracking information for orders
  • Announcing promotions, including coupons and sales
  • Announcing new products
  • Text-to-win sweepstakes
  • Survey requests
  • Review requests
  • Loyalty program updates
  • Soliciting payments or payment reminders
  • Business updates, such as hours of operation
  • Urgent alerts for customers
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Internal communications
  • And more 

woman texting outside

How do I get a long code number for my business?

Long codes are usually local numbers, although they can also be toll-free numbers or vanity numbers. While your long code numbers can be the same as your business number, you need to remember that your landline is not automatically text-enabled.

This means that you need to use a service provider like Podium to get a text-enabled number or long code number. The process is incredibly straightforward, and your chosen provider will give you step-by-step instructions for the small handful of steps you have to complete.

Your long code service provider will do more than just give you the number. They will also offer a dashboard that lets you send messages in one-on-one communication and bulk SMS. They should also have other features to let you make the most of business texting, such as templates and autoresponders. 

Long codes vs. shortcodes

While shortcodes are incredibly popular, most businesses will find that long codes tend to be a better option for them. Take a closer look at the pros and cons of each type of phone number to get a better idea of why long codes are usually the way to go. 

Pros of long codes 

  • You can use the same number for both your SMS long code for texting and your business phone for voice calls, marketing, and customer service. Keeping your number consistent streamlines your sender ID, reduces opt-in forms, and makes it easier for a large audience to recognize your business. 
  • The number becomes associated with your brand identity.
  • Vanity numbers are available to spell a word to make the number easier to remember.
  • Because they look like regular phone numbers, it makes the message feel like it is coming from a person instead of a bot or automated system. This is true even if you use an automated system. That sense that the text comes from a person increases the chances that recipients will engage with your message.
  • They are available as toll-free numbers. This can help you appeal to a broader target audience, something that is especially important if you sell items online and in person. Toll-free texting can also increase trust and make your business seem more credible.
  • You can use a local area code, which increases trust in your brand. This is especially important for small, local businesses.
  • They support two-way messaging.
  • All mobile carriers will support your SMS long code, as it is the same as any other number. 
  • SMS long codes are never shared, but a shortcode can be.
  • Recipients can save your long phone number in their phone. In the future, this will ensure that your business’s name comes up whenever you call or text. It also makes it easier for them to reach you.
  • You can use them internationally. This lets you broaden your reach, especially for online sales. It also allows you to easily contact international customers who temporarily live in your area but haven’t bothered to get a local cellphone number.
  • They are more likely to support multi-party chat functionality.
  • The best providers, like Podium, will give you analytics and reports to track your results.
  • They are usually cheaper than buying shortcodes.
  • They are compatible with other platforms so that you can incorporate marketing on WhatsApp into your strategy. 

Cons of long codes 

  • They can be harder to remember, but you can overcome this with vanity numbers.
  • Because they are longer, there is a higher risk of a typo when users enter them.
  • You can’t expect someone to remember your number if they see it on TV or hear it on the radio. Print and digital ads will be necessary for opt-ins.
  • It takes a little longer to send bulk texts. 

man typing on mobile phone while on a walk

Pros of shortcodes

  • They are easier to remember, especially if you opt for vanity shortcodes that spell something relevant to your business.
  • They are shorter, so there are fewer opportunities for typos.
  • Like SMS long codes, they support two-way messaging.
  • They have a lower chance of being flagged as spam after sending, as mobile carriers have to pre-approve them during set-up.
  • You can send bulk texts more quickly because of their higher throughput rate. 

Cons of shortcodes 

  • They feel less personal and increase the chances that recipients feel the text comes from a bot or autoresponder.
  • Not all mobile carriers may support your SMS shortcode, which can lead to undelivered messages or other problems. This has become an even more significant issue in the last year or so. Now, most companies will have to overcome extra hurdles to make sure people receive their messages from shortcodes.
  • If you choose a shared short code, keywords are first come, first serve, so you may not be able to get one of your top choices.
  • Buying a dedicated shortcode is frequently expensive. That increases the chances that you will have to use a shared one where your ideal keyword mayl be taken.
  • Vanity shortcodes are also expensive, so you are likely to use random shortcodes. Those can be harder to remember. 
  • You cannot use the same number for calls. As such, customers need to remember or save multiple numbers.
  • They usually take longer to set up, so you will have to wait to start your marketing campaigns to do so. 

Conclusion: Why you should care about long codes

Every business needs to use text message marketing, as customers prefer to have person-to-person communications via text instead of over voice calls. Using long codes for your SMS marketing will give your messages a more personal touch. They also offer the benefit of letting you call and text from the same number, reducing the confusion for your customers. They are also easier to set up and won’t be automatically blocked by any mobile carrier.

When you use the right service provider, you get as much functionality with long codes as you do with short ones. This means that you can use them to send marketing messages and one-on-one communications such as customer support. It also gives you the ability to gain insights via reports, so you can adjust your strategy for future marketing campaigns as needed. 

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

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