Should I Use a Shared Short Code in My SMS Marketing Strategy?

Shared Short Codes Are Risky, Limiting & Create Negative Customer Experiences

What is a shared short code? Shared short codes (SSC), are a special category of short codes which are used to send A2P (Application to Person) SMS, text messages from a brand to a consumer. They are called shared because they are used by more than one brand to interact with their customer base.

One Bad Actor Can Shut You Down

Because you are sharing the code with other companies, their decisions on how they handle their SMS messaging can have an impact on your brand reputation, and even result in an abrupt termination of the short code by the carriers.

Shared Codes Can Confuse Customers

Having different brands using the same short code can be pretty confusing for the consumer. On a user’s phone, the short code will appear as one phone number but include messages from different brands. This is just bad UX that can lead to customers mixing up messages and brands.

The Keywords You Want Might Already Be Taken

For SSC, keywords are available either on a first-come-first-serve or may have to be reserved/vetted with the service provider. For example, there may be multiple brands sharing the short code who want to enroll people into a rewards program. If one brand selects JOIN as their keyword, then any other brand using that short code will have to use a different keyword for their rewards sign-up, like REWARD or NEW. Keywords can become important for attribution and segmentation, so it’s important that you choose and use the right keywords for your SMS marketing.

Keyword Confusion Can Create Unintended Opt-Outs

Did you know that when you share short codes, you’re also sharing the opt-outs? When a user texts STOP (or any other mandated stop-keywords, i.e, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE, QUIT, END) the result is that the mobile number is opted-out to receive further text messages from that specific short code. This means that if each brand using the short code lost an opt-in, since the opt-status is maintained at the short code level.

Shared Codes Mean Your Brand Is Not the Main Point of Contact for SMS Support

Because the code is shared among several brands, the HELP and STOP messages cannot contain brand-specific information. Instead, content has to be generalized — and in most cases, the service provider will be the main point of contact for questions or support. This forces brands to rely on the user’s mobile service provider to deliver customer support for any technical issues. In our view, something important as customer experience should not be handed off to a company that’s not as invested in your relationship with customers as you are.

Dedicated Short Codes Reduce Risk & Create Strong Customer Experiences

So what’s a better alternative to shared short codes? Dedicated short codes. As their name indicates, dedicated short codes are SMS codes owned only by one brand and cannot be shared.

It’s Time to Migrate from Shared to Dedicated Short Codes

To sum up: we highly recommend migrating from SSC to dedicated short codes. For more information or any assistance in migrating from a shared to a dedicated short code, please don’t hesitate to reach out.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


Urban Airship is now Airship! Leading brands trust us to help them achieve digital growth. We make mobile moments magic.