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short and long codes explored

SMS text messaging, short and long codes explored

There’s a lot of discussion about which of the two opt-in choices is better—shortcodes or longcodes.

Just in case you are new to all this… Members and visitors must opt-in to be able to receive text messages sent by service providers. To do this, most service providers use what are called ‘shortcodes’ or ‘longcodes’.

Shortcodes, by nature, are short—usually five or six digits in length. For example, a shortcode could be 54321. A shortcode may be specific to one mobile operator or “common” and supported by all major mobile operators.

A long code is a 10-digit telephone number. In other words, a ‘regular’ telephone number.

Much of the answer lies in the formats of the codes themselves.

Shortcodes (being shorter) seem easier to say and remember. You can also send millions of messages in a shorter time without getting flagged by the cell phone carriers. So, shortcodes are great for sending a large number of messages quickly in a short time. This is typically called ‘text marketing’ aka ‘blasting’.

Long codes are regular phone numbers with local area codes—hence, more familiar and more human. Since the long codes look more familiar, people are less hesitant about using them. As it’s a phone number, people feel that there is a ‘human at the other end’ and are encouraged to communicate. Also, people feel that long codes rarely send spam. Lastly, for your church, building contact lists is usually easier with long codes and you can manually add names.

OK, but what about shortcodes being easier to remember?

Are they really? This is a format which many of us have learned and used for quite a bit of our lives. And I’m sure lots of you can remember storing these 10-digit phone numbers in your heads. Then, from memory, you either dialed or pushed the buttons to make your calls. To make it even easier, churches have bought vanity numbers, e.g. 844mychurch or ‘stick in your head’ number sequences, e.g. 8441114445, etc.

Well, right, but every so often, our church needs to send large numbers of text messages in a short time.

No problem. PastorsLine has fixed the issue of sending large numbers of text messages without using a spammy-looking shortcode. We have allowed you to add secondary numbers.

And there’s more… Two major drawbacks to shortcodes are cost and lack of exclusivity. Shortcode costs of over $12k / year can put a big dent in a ministry’s budget and the question is, “Is this the best way to shepherd your resources?” If you are using a shortcode service, you are likely paying to “rent” or share access to the code and the cost. So the short code you are going to be using is a shared shortcode. This means that hundreds of other businesses and organizations (companies, concert halls, pubs, shops, other churches, etc.) can be using the same shortcode as you—but you have no control over how they are using it or for which purposes.

We have had several instances of feedback from clients who left PastorsLine and returned or left another shortcode service to use ours. Why did they return or switch to us? Their church members got messages from local bars or other ministries. And when the church member replied, if they didn’t do it correctly, their message might have ended up in some else’s Inbox.

Another main issue with shortcodes are that the keywords (words used to trigger autoreplies or other campaigns) are of a limited quality. E.g. If you want to use GIVE to 23232 or GUEST to 23232, you will be competing with other churches and non-profits. Once that organization uses this keyword, you would never be able to access it until that other company releases that keyword to the pool.

To solve this issue, we have done things like KIDZ (for kids) or Konnect (for connect). But it’s not always easy—or quick—to tweak keywords.

With a unique local number, this whole issue vanished. You will have a ‘dictionary-full’ number of keywords included as part of your account. Here’s why: Since your number is unique, your keywords don’t have to be.


Church A will use GIVE to 888-111-2222

Church B will use Give to 777-000-3333

From our over X-year experience working in church communications with all sizes of churches from mega to mini, as well as the tweaks we have added (secondary send option) we believe that your best option is to use only local numbers.

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  1. […] Coming from a local, 10-digit number (not a short code). […]

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