A dedicated short code is an SMS short code that is used and paid for exclusively by one brand. A dedicated short code is different from a shared short code, because a shared short code is used and paid for by multiple brands.

When launching an SMS/MMS marketing campaign, one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is whether to use a shared short code, or a dedicated short code.

We find that usually the only reason a brand will use a shared short code is because their budget doesn’t permit the use of a dedicated short code. To lease a short code in the United States, it’s either $1,000/month for a vanity short code, or $500/month for a non-vanity short code.

If a brand decided to go launch their SMS/MMS marketing campaign on a dedicated short code, they’re responsible for covering the full cost of the vanity or non-vanity short code lease. If a brand decides to launch their SMS/MMS marketing campaign on a shared short code, they will be sharing the cost of that short code lease with thousands of other brands.

Shared Short Code Risks

Shared short codes for years have provided a cost-effective alternative to dedicated short codes. Unfortunately due to recent changes enacted by the wireless carriers in their short code auditing procedures, the U.S. Short Code Directory no longer recommends shared short codes for businesses or organizations.

When a wireless carrier performs a short code audit, the wireless carriers are determining if the use of the short code is in compliance with the standards set by both the CTIA and the wireless carriers. When the wireless carriers determine that a business or organization is using a shared short code in violation of their rules, the wireless carriers will suspend all text messaging traffic on the short code.

When a shared short code is suspended, it can take up to a month for the wireless carriers to remove that suspension, depending on the severity of the violation. During the time a shared short code is suspended, no text messages can be sent or received on that shared short code.

With the majority of shared short codes being used by thousands, or even tens of thousands of businesses and organizations, it’s become impossible to guarantee that all users of a shared short code are in compliance with the wireless carrier rules. It’s because of this that the U.S. Short Code Directory can not ensure that when using a shared short code, that text messaging will not be interrupted due to another’s misuse of the shared short code.

An example of this scenario happened on the short code 313131, where T-Mobile blocked all short code traffic for all users of this short code. You can read more about this incident here.

Dedicated Short Code Advantages

There’s many reasons why dedicated short codes are better than shared short codes, which is why the majority of brands that have the budget, opt to use a dedicated short code. Some of the reasons why brands prefer dedicated short codes over shared short codes are below.

Brand Recognition: Just as customers come to recognize a brand’s website address, 1-800 number, or social media handles, so will they with a brand’s SMS short code. Dedicated short codes provide complete exclusivity of the short code number.

Scalability: When it comes to mass text messaging, messaging speed is critical. Dedicated short codes allow your brand to have direct access to wireless carriers.

SMS Keyword Exclusivity: With a dedicated short code, brands are free to use any imaginable SMS keyword, allowing for maximum creativity, and functionality.

Brand Security: Dedicated short codes allow brands the ability to control the entire consumer experience from end to end. Dedicated codes ensure the consumer’s mobile messaging experience is consistent with brand expectations.

Increased Messaging Throughputs: When a brand uses a dedicated short code, they’re getting exclusive access to their own messaging server, ensuring that they get the highest messaging throughputs available, without any slowdown in messaging speeds.

Data Ownership: By utilizing a dedicated SMS short code, a brand will have unfettered access to the SMS messages you and your customer exchange, allowing for them to have complete insight into their communications.

Expanded Functionality: With a dedicated short code, your brand can run certain types of text messaging campaigns, that would not be possible on a shared short code. For example, a dedicated short code would allow your brand to run a text messaging campaign where customers could simply text message you their email addresses. This type of campaign functionality is only available when you have a dedicated short code.

Database Portability: Customers come to know and expect your brand’s messages on a specific short code number. It’s important for brands to own that number in the case of a migration to another SMS provider.

Security: Dedicated short codes provide organization’s in the financial services, healthcare and government sectors a high level of security, and maximum control.

Activity Control: Dedicated short codes allow brands to have complete control of how their short code is used. Control in this instance is critical for any national brand.

When it comes to mobile marketing, most large brands and organizations such as Foot Locker, Home Depot, Chipotle, ESPN, McDonald’s, etc., have their own dedicated SMS short codes. Some of the most popular dedicated short codes are listed below, and you can always search all the dedicated short codes in the directory here.