SMS and Short Codes – Something I Whipped Up Last Week

In my endeavor to remember everything I used to do, when a colleague asked about short codes, I did a whole write up on SMS in general.  So, because it’s very generic and doesn’t reference any clients, I thought I’d share. 🙂

Overview of Short Codes for Mobile

What is SMS?

  • Short Message Service (SMS) is a service allowing the interchange of short text messages between mobile telephone devices. Messages can be no longer than 160 characters, including spaces.
  • SMS text messaging is the most widely used data application on the planet. According to Nielsen’s Customer Value Metrics 2012, among all US mobile users, they send/receive an average of 764 texts per month.


Why use it?

  • Receptive Audience: Users almost never delete mobile messages without opening them and reading at least parts of the content. They have opted-in to your message.
  • Engaging Advertising: Messaging ads can engage users directly in various ways, such as interactive message reply/forward, click-to-Mobile Web and click to call.
  • Viral and Social: Messages can reach beyond initial receipts as they are forwarded between friends. Friends buy the same products and services.
  • Tracking: SMS can easily be measured for ROI with appropriate POS tracking


Different Levels of Texting

  • Buying mobile numbers and pushing texts to the list: Partner with an Opt-in SMS database company to reach out to people that meet your target demographics. You can target by geography, as well.  With the text push, you create a landing page that is adaptive to mobile browsers where people then opt-in to continue to receive your texts, or you can collect any other information.  Costs start at about $100 CPM depending on the target and geography and most minimums are $10-20,000 per contract.
    • Then you have your own list! If you’ve chosen to collect phone numbers, you can then work with another company who has the software to push out your own SMS texts. Costs start at $0.06 per text.
  • Using a short code in other media to drive list creation.
  • Buying a short code. This is a very expensive approach.  You have to go through several clearances to secure the short code, which can take sometimes around six weeks.  Non-vanity short codes can start at $500 per month and vanity short codes start at $1,000.
  • Leasing/renting a short code. This is the less expensive and simpler approach to utilizing short codes.  You work with a company that has their own list that they rent out to companies to use in specified areas and during specified times.  Companies out there are available to hold your hand to secure and build a marketing campaign correctly and others are very self-serve where you log-in yourself to rent and manage the short code.  Some companies can do the first in the beginning while you’re learning and then move you to the self-serve model the more comfortable you get.
    • If the short code isn’t unique, how do I know people are opting in for me? It’s really the keywords that make the campaign trackable. Example: “text COCONUT to 76542 to win a tropical island getaway vacation.”  And, you can use different keywords for different media in order to measure effectiveness.  Word of caution, though, if you want the call to action to be to text a keyword to a shortcode, make sure that you’re telling your consumers to do that.  Make the keyword and shortcode BIG on the ad or mention it MULTIPLE times during the spot.  Frequency is key.

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