Blog Post

Case Study: SMS for Business – Short Codes vs Long Codes

We’ve all gotten texts like this before.

Shortcode text: Win a brand new Porsche! Text VROOM to 27272!

Even if you’re into the idea of driving around in your new Porsche, you probably don’t look forward to getting these texts.

Companies tell us again and again: We tried text messaging and it doesn’t work!

But, most of the time, they’ve tried short-code text messaging — mass, impersonal, one-way communication — like the text above.

Long-code text: Hey Michelle, we are scheduling interviews for the CNO position. Would 9, 12, or 3 work best for you on Friday?”


There’s a better way. Long-code text messaging is personalized, directed, two-way communication.

Long code is the ideal form of business texting for your sales team.

Thinking of adding texting to your business communication strategy? Long codes and short codes are as different as cell phones and pagers. Let’s break it down.

What is short-code text messaging?

  • Five- or six-digit numbers used for texting in high volume
  • Good for sending promotions, alerts, and offers
  • Customers can’t communicate back in any meaningful way
  • Automated keywords only option for response

Shortcode text: Want $10,000? Text WINWIN to 85558.

Response: “STOP”

Shortcode automated response: You have been unsubscribed from I Like 2 Win.”

No wonder your text messaging campaign didn’t get results!

Mass marketing is dead. Impersonal, generalized communication simply doesn’t work anymore. Today’s customers expect valuable content with a personal touch.

What is long code text messaging?

  • 10-digit number that looks like a traditional phone number
  • Tied to a text-enabled phone line, routed through a phone or an app on your computer
  • Use it for texting, voice calls, and more

Firms use long-code texting to connect with their clients in a meaningful way.


Long Code vs. Short Code

Feature Long-Code Texting Short-Code Texting
Communication  Two-way personalized communication One-way mass communication
Phone number 10-digit number, similar to a traditional phone number

Regular business phone number can be text-enabled

5- or 6-digit number

Regular business phone number cannot be text-enabled

Set-up Set up is quick and easy, and you may up and running with a long code number in as little as four hours Set up to run a short code campaign is lengthy, usually four months, and requires approval from multiple carriers
Price Usually less than $100 per month $500 – $1000 monthly leasing fee, plus additional messaging fees and monthly keyword fees
Recipient fees End user charged only their standard messaging fees End user may incur additional fees, including recurring monthly charges
Reach Usable across wireless carriers

International capabilities

Approval at the discretion of individual wireless carriers; approval process lengthy

Use limited to the country of origin; each country in a campaign requires a unique number

Capabilities Use the same phone number for voice calls, fax, and text No voice or fax capabilities
Convenience Clients can call the number you text them from Clients cannot call the number you text them from
Longevity Purchased for the long term and owned in the same way a company owns any telephone number Leased for at most 12 months before renewal is required; shared short codes can simultaneously be used by other companies, such as your competition 


Setting up a short code: Notoriously difficult

  • Request a short code from Common Short Code Association (CSCA).
  • Commit to paying a leasing fee for three, six, or 12 months,  just to register your short code number, regardless of whether any wireless carriers approve your campaign
  • Submit your campaign proposal to each wireless carrier, who may accept or reject your proposal, it’s up to them
  • Can’t text any clients whose wireless carrier rejects your plan
  • Get campaign itself vetted by the CSCA
  • Process usually takes four months

Setting up a long code: Super easy

  • Fill out a form online or make a call
  • Be texting in as little as four hours


Short codes: Expensive

  • $1000/month for a dedicated short code number
  • $500/month for a shared short code you might share with your competitor
  • Often additional per-message and keyword fees

Long codes: Affordable

  • $20/month – $200/month
  • Usually unlimited texting

Leasing and running a three-month short-code campaign can cost more than an entire year of unlimited long-code service.


Short codes: Mass blasts. Opt-in required.

  • Promotions and deals
  • Bill reminders
  • Emergency notifications
  • Weather updates
  • Traffic updates
  • Security notifications
  • Sweepstakes and contests
  • Voting

Long codes: Personalized communication. No opt-in required.

  • Sending appointment reminders
  • Confirming appointment times
  • Gathering customer information
  • Providing targeted, valuable content
  • Informing clients of opportunities
  • Troubleshooting product or service problems
  • Customer service chats

Clients can use long code to:

  • Ask product questions
  • Update contact information
  • Inquire about service changes
  • Confirm appointments
  • Notify of late arrivals
  • Solicit sales advice

Two-way texting is what customers and clients are used to. It’s as convenient as personal text and provides the professionalism of email.

Short codes: old school communication.

In our recent study of staffing and recruiting firms, we found that slow-growth firms use text messaging in a short code way: for mass, impersonal blasts.

Long codes: business communication of the future.

Fast-growth firms use business text messaging in the long code style: personalized, one-to-one, value-added business communication.

Want more on business texting? Check out our Definitive Guide to Business Texting.

2022 State of Texting

We gathered data from TextUs users and outside sources to bring this insightful look at how texting will shape better business results in 2022.  We covered industry trends across many verticals and shed light on texting insights that you can use to establish best practices across your organization.

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