Shared Short Code Ban: What This Means for SMS Marketers

Shared Short Code Ban SMS Marketing

Note: If you’re already a Tone customer, you don’t need to worry about the shared short code ban as we already supply our customers with long codes or dedicated short codes. If you’d like to avoid the hassle and become a Tone customer, you can do so here. At Tone, we work with our brands 1-on-1 to determine when it’s appropriate to create a dedicated short code. These short codes are not shared.

If you’ve ever participated in an SMS contest, voted on American Idol, or texted a keyword to a business, you’ve probably seen a short code. A short code is a six-digit number like the one below and is used by businesses for marketing campaigns and automation.

Shared Short Code Ban SMS Marketing Guide

While shared short codes were an excellent solution for businesses to send many automated messages to customers, they are difficult for cell carriers to moderate and, therefore, led to excessive spam and a poor user experience.

In response to this, AT&T stopped producing short codes, and many other carriers followed suit.

It’s no surprise that as of March 2021, major US cell carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and New T-Mobile have now implemented a shared short code ban.

Why Shared Shorts Codes Are Banned

Shared short codes were previously the prime option for small businesses as they are cheap and easy to access.

Here’s how it works:

A provider purchases the shared SMS short code for say $1,000 per month. They can then resell that single number to thousands of businesses to use. For example, if there is a contest to text a code to a number (such as SMILE), that code redirects the customer to the appropriate business using that short code.

As a result, the short code owner only has to charge a few dollars per month if they have numerous businesses using the code.

However, the drawback is that the low cost also makes them easy to spam. Unfortunately, if one of the hundreds or thousands of businesses uses the shared short code messaging number for spam, the entire number could be banned, ultimately disrupting your business.

Due to the high volume of spam and the lack of quality control, carriers chose to stop creating them and ultimately blocked them.

So if shared short codes are banned, what should your business do?

What Do I Need to Do?

Now that shared short codes are no longer being used, your first step should be to talk to your current provider. If you’re a Tone customer, you don’t need to do anything as you already have a long code or dedicated short code.

If not, here’s a checklist you should follow to ensure that you remain compliant with regulations.

Am I Using a Shared or Dedicated Short Code?

If you’re currently using a dedicated short code, you will still be able to use that code in 2021. If you are using a shared short code, ask your provider how they are managing the situation and how you can transition to a different number.

What Kind of Number Should I Transition To?

If you have a shared short code, the next question you should ask is how they will transition your brand. The most common options are toll-free long codes and dedicated short codes.

Unlike a shared short code, a dedicated short code is used by just one business rather than several different businesses. This means it’s easier to track and therefore still accepted by cell carriers.

For most businesses, using a long code is sufficient, but if you are sending a high enough message volume to justify the cost of of a dedicated short code, there are deliverability benefits. 

How to Avoid The Shared Short Code Ban Entirely

If this made your head spin and you don’t want to have to think about changing to a different number, there is a solution!

At Tone, we only use only long codes and dedicated short codes. This means you don’t ever have to worry about your number being affected by the short code ban.

To learn more about how we can help you smoothly transition to a long code or dedicated short code, sign up for a demo or start a free trial today.

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