What Is a Dedicated Short Code?

A dedicated short code is an SMS short code that’s used and paid for exclusively by one brand. A dedicated short code is different from a shared short code, where the short code is used and paid for by multiple brands. In the past, one of the most important SMS marketing decisions you’d need to make was whether to use a shared short code or a dedicated short code. As of 2020, this decision is no longer necessary. You’re going to be using a dedicated short code.

Leasing a short code in the United States costs either $1,000 per month for a vanity short code, or $500 per month for a non-vanity short code. If a brand launches its SMS/MMS marketing campaign on a dedicated short code, it’s responsible for covering the full cost of the vanity or non-vanity short code lease.

dedicated short code


Dedicated Short Code Advantages

Most brands that can afford it use a dedicated short code. We’ve compiled a quick list of the features and advantages of dedicated short codes below.

Brand recognition: Just as customers come to recognize a brand’s website address, phone number, or social media handle, so too will they recognize a brand’s SMS short code. Dedicated short codes are completely unique.

Scalability: When it comes to mass text messaging, messaging speed is critical. Dedicated short codes allow a brand to have direct access to wireless carriers and finer control over the breadth of its messaging campaign.

SMS keyword exclusivity: With a dedicated short code, brands are free to use any imaginable SMS keyword, allowing for maximum creativity, and functionality. They don’t have to worry about competing with other brands’ keywords on their short code as was the case on older, shared short codes.

Brand security: Dedicated short codes allow brands 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, it’s getting exclusive access to its own messaging server. This ensures the highest messaging throughputs available, without any slowdown in messaging speeds.

Data ownership: Utilizing a dedicated SMS short code grants a brand unfettered access to the SMS messages exchanged, allowing it to have complete insight into its communications.

Expanded functionality: With a dedicated short code, a brand can run certain types of text messaging campaigns that wouldn’t be possible on a shared short code. For example, a dedicated short code would allow a brand to run a text messaging campaign where customers could simply text message the brand their email addresses. This type of campaign functionality is only available with a dedicated short code.

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

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

Activity control: Dedicated short codes allow a brand to have complete control of how its 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, and McDonald’s, have their own dedicated SMS short codes.


So, Why Not Shared Short Codes?

For years, shared short codes have provided a cost-effective alternative to dedicated short codes. Unfortunately, as of 2020, most wireless carriers are terminating their existing shared short codes and will no longer provision new ones. This decision is due to increase security and reduce abuse.

So what prompted this decision? When performing short code audits, wireless carriers discovered thousands of abuses of their legacy shared short codes. Phishing scammers were using it to steal personal data, spammers were abusing the short code’s recipient list, and in general, there were a lot of violations of regulatory guidelines.  Normally, 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. This suspension would normally last about a month, with all messaging restricted—but the level of abuse, and the security risks that poses, makes shared short codes non-viable moving forward.

An example of a suspension scenario happened on the short code 313131, where T-Mobile blocked all short code traffic for all users of this short code.

As it stands, most wireless carriers in the US and Canada are terminating all existing shared short codes at the end of their next lease cycle. If you’re currently operating with a shared short code, we recommend making the transition as soon as possible.

We hope this article was helpful for you. If you have any other questions, visit our Learning Center. We’ve gathered all our resources in one place, and we invited you to take advantage of that.