What Is A Shared Short Code?

A shared short code is an SMS short code used and paid for by multiple brands. It’s different from a dedicated short code, which is used and paid for by only one brand. Choosing between a shared or dedicated short code used to be one of the most important SMS marketing decisions—but that’s no longer the case, as we’ll discuss in a moment. 

Many brands previously used a shared short code because of the relatively low cost compared to the cost of a dedicated short code. With a dedicated short code, the owner is responsible for the entire lease amount, which can be anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per month. With a shared short code, a business or organization could have access to a short code at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated short code by splitting the lease payments with other brands. 

When using a shared short code, all text messages, no what business or organization sends them, arrive on a consumer’s mobile device from the same 5-6 digit phone number. This means if you’re receiving text messages from Joe’s Dry Cleaning and Bill’s Pizza, and they’re both using the same shared short code, both of their text messages will appear on your mobile device from the same phone number. Unique brands on the same short code differentiate themselves with SMS keywords on that short code. Each SMS keyword is unique to each business or organization, so when a consumer sends the SMS keyword “JOES” to the shared short code number, the short code owner routes that message to the corresponding business.


The Problem with Shared Short Codes

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—disrupting all campaigns using that code.

This means that if brand A and B are using the same shared short code, and brand B is found to have violated the rules, both brand A and B will not be allowed to send or receive text messages on that shared short code. It can take up to a month (or more) to resolve violations. During that period, the business sharing that short code can’t send or receive any messages. 

Most shared short codes are used by thousands or even tens of thousands of businesses and organizations. Therefore, it’s impossible to guarantee that all users of a shared short code are in compliance with the wireless carrier rules. This has led to security issues, which is why the US Short Code Directory no longer recommends shared short codes for any reason. Text message spammers and phishing scammers have figured out how to access and abuse shared short codes, and this has prompted wireless carriers in the United States and Canada to cease ongoing support and provisioning of shared short codes entirely. 

Most current shared short codes will be terminated at the end of their current lease, and we highly recommend switching over to a dedicated short code as soon as possible. 

If you have other short code related questions, check out our Learning Center, best resource available.