Learn About The Dangers Of Using Shared Short Codes And Save Your Business’ Reputation

Txtra
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The usage of shared short codes is a controversial practice in the business texting world. The texting industry has finally frowned upon them for many reasons. Unfortunately, most business owners don’t know enough to avoid the irreversible damage they can cause to your business.

If you’re learning this just now or unfamiliar with this, read on.

What Are Shared Short Codes?

SMS short codes are memorable five to six-digit numbers designed for easy reading and to be remembered. Businesses use them for marketing campaigns to help increase response rates.

These short codes are an excellent mechanism by which your customers can request more information, a callback, donate to charity, and more in a few flicks and taps without having to go online. Your customers will only need to send keywords like Chipotle’s “RAINCHECK” to their designated short code number to make a specific request. 

Short codes become shared short codes when thousands of businesses simultaneously use a single five to six-digit phone number. 

Before we go any further, let’s set the stage.  When it comes to using texting to help your business, there are a few options to send and receive text messages. At the highest level, there are short codes and there are long codes.  Short codes are 5 or 6 digit numbers and long codes look like regular local or toll-free numbers with 10 or 11 digits also known as 10DLC or A2P.

There are two types of short codes; dedicated and shared.

We’re focusing on shared short codes in this post to help you avoid doing irreparable harm to your business.

Dedicated short codes typically cost $1,000 – $1,500 per month – just to have the short code dedicated to your business and prevent any other business from using them. Typically a text marketing platform company like Simple TExting, Mobiniti, EZ Texting, Textedly, etc will purchase a dedicated short code and then resell it to thousands of businesses with the only thing separating them is the keyword that people use to subscribe to them.  If you’ve signed up with SMS platform companies and you have a 5 or 6 digit number and you’re NOT paying at least a thousand bucks a month, we have bad news for you….. you’re using a SHARED SHORT CODE.


Shared short codes are used by T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D-S of businesses.  Would you let thousands of businesses use your web site domain, your email address, or your business phone number?  Of course not!

Short codes have their palace in the texting world, but shared short codes should be avoided at all costs.

So, why use short codes in the first place if you have a business?

If your business needs to send or receive SMS /text messages frequently, short codes are one way of doing this. Organizations typically use them to facilitate a quick and direct response from a broad audience. You can see some examples on television, radio, or advertisements in public spaces.

How Do Shared Short Codes Work? 

Short codes function like usernames, so businesses require approval from mobile carriers before using short codes. They will verify if another company has not yet taken your desired short code. The mobile carrier will also analyze if your business will profit from using it before approving. It is because a short code can cost up to $1,000 a month.

Once the carrier approves the short code, your business is free to use unlimited keywords for your customers to use. Shared short codes happen when the owner decides to let other companies “rent” the short code but with a limited amount of keywords. When your business is a part of a shared short code phone number, you will be given specific keywords to identify your marketing traffic from the other people inside that shared short code.

Look at it this way: the mobile carrier is the landowner, and the short code is one of the buildings within that place. A business will own the short code by renting the building, with access to unlimited rooms. This owner then decides to lease the spaces to several companies, making the building represent a shared short code.

When the short code owner decides not to share it, The short code becomes dedicated. This business can enjoy using unlimited keywords without interference. However, shared short codes face prohibitions because of the issues mentioned below. Keep reading…..

Why Are Shared Short Codes Being Prohibited?

More and more mobile carriers such as AT&T already announced their plan to prohibit businesses from using shared short codes for SMS marketing back in 2017. They didn’t tell the public when the decision would take place back then, but in 2020, AT&T is moving forward on with their plans to ban the usage of shared short codes along with other carriers such as T-Mobile and Verizon.

Their goal is to protect customers from receiving spam and phishing messages. So if you’re still using shared short codes in your marketing, it’s time to stop before your marketing efforts crashes.

There have been plenty of instances in which business owners, who trusted an SMS marketing company, used a shared short code, only to have it completely turned off, because another business using that same shared short code, did not comply with text messaging compliance and regulations.  

Before this issue started, mobile carriers already ban specific short codes because of reported violations. 

However, more and more businesses discover and utilize the power of SMS marketing. That is why the particular blocking method became tedious, so they opted to block the shared short codes altogether in favor of dedicated short codes, and long codes, also known as 10DLC and A2P. 

But just because they’re banned, doesn’t mean that the text marketing platform companies who already have them have stopped using them  Buyer beware.

It’s important to note that Txtra has never been a proponent of offering shared short codes.

What Are The Risks Of Using Shared Short Codes?

Cost-cutting is the main reason businesses prefer to use shared short codes. As discussed earlier, the monthly lease for a shared short code is being split among thousands of people, businesses, and brands.

However, the money you saved comes with risks, limitations, and challenges that make shared short codes a huge liability. Learning about what will happen will help you avoid coming up with using them.

Confusing Your Customers 

Your customers may not remember the specific keywords you provided. When they mistype the keyword or the short code, imagine its inconvenience to your customers. Your fellow shared short code user may sent confusing messages to your customers, giving you a responsibility you didn’t ask for.

Banning Of Shared Short Codes 

Mobile carriers follow a CTIA Short Code Rulebook. The prohibitions mentioned earlier are rooted in violating the rules here. Because of the regulations’ nature, the carrier needs to ban everything related to a specific short code if violations of one user were discovered. That means that a single mistake from a single business, using a shared short code used by thousands of businesses, affects everyone. Read that agqain…seriously….amdf decide whether or not it’s worth putting your business’ reputation on the line for someone else’s actions.

Risking Your Money And Reputation

Using the building rooms analogy, a single violator in a single room will destroy the whole building, no matter the other business’s compliance. You can say that this risk is low when only a few businesses use the shared short codes. But in reality, thousands of them share the same short code. 

Inconveniencing Other Businesses and Customers 

Mobile carriers need about a month to repair a short code depending on the violation. Think of it as the building is being rebuilt so that nobody can use it. So expect that SMS will not work when the carrier repairs the shared short code if it hasn;t already been completely prohibited form being used again.

You can guess that the restoration process takes time and money and causes frustrations for all the businesses and the customers involved. It’s better not to imagine what will happen to your business if your short code doesn’t work for a month. Your fellow business owners who use the short code, and your customers, will be frustrated if that happens.  

What Should You Do Instead?

While it’s becoming impossible to use shared short codes, many SMS platf9orm providers are still offering them.  The best practice for your business is analyzing the feasibility of using a dedicated short code or using an SMS Text Marketing company that offers 10DLC and A2P numbers (like TXtra!).