The Ultimate Guide to SMS Short Codes

Dikran Seferian
Dikran SeferianContent Writer

Published: Jun 4, 2019

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

SMS Short Code

Have you ever received a text with a code on your phone? If you have been using a mobile device anytime during the last decade, chances are that you are quite familiar with these numbers. SMS short codes are an indispensable part of a text message marketing strategy. Businesses realized its potential as an easy and far-reaching marketing tool, and soon enough, they were everywhere.

What is a Text Message Short Code?

These are a combination of five to six digits—shorter than phone numbers—that marketers use in their multimedia and short messaging services, as well as SMS marketing campaigns. The number of digits varies from country to country.

These codes for a virtual number SMS are mainly embedded in promotional materials such as TV ads, printed media, billboards, and so on. Marketers use them for value-added services like charity donations, television contest voting, ordering services, confirmation of services, two-factor authentication, and more. This goes hand in hand with SMS campaigns and two-way messaging; it’s also pretty affordable.

Customers interact with your SMS codes by responding with a keyword. It’s up to the businesses to determine which keywords to use for each specific case. For instance, if customers send messages saying “Stop” or “End," it means they want to opt out of your SMS campaign. Remember to send back a text to confirm that your customer has successfully unsubscribed.


2 Main Types of Codes to Keep in Mind


dedicated SMS short code is specific to a brand. This allows the company to have complete control over its messaging, in addition to benefiting from security and reliability when communicating with customers. Businesses can use short numbers to send and receive SMS messages, set up automated responses, leverage specific keywords, and create unique text marketing campaigns that drive customer engagement. 

Dedicated numbers fall under two subcategories: vanity and random codes. Vanity short numbers are custom ones that you can choose for your business. These are ideal for building brand recognition and creating an identity that lets your brand stand out from the crowd. 

If form isn’t as important as function for your business, you can opt for a random one instead (also known as non-vanity). They offer the same technical features as vanity and are cheaper to obtain. The main difference is that non-vanity numbers are—as the name suggests—generated at random and are not as easy to remember. 

Get in Touch With Our Experts

Streamline your efforts and centralize your channels with Dexatel's all-in-one platform. Talk to our experts and get all your questions answered.


Shared numbers are exactly what the name implies: codes that are used by several businesses at the same time. A unique keyword is assigned to each brand that uses the same one. By texting the keyword to the shared code, customers can opt in to receive text messages from that particular company.  

Suppose a bakery, a car dealership, and a tourism agency are sharing the code 12345. Each of these businesses would identify itself with a unique keyword when reaching out to its customers from the shared number. For example, the keywords would be, respectively, CAKE, AUTO, and TRAVEL. Due to the risk of spam, however, most carriers no longer provide shared numbers to protect consumers. 


How to Use These Codes Effectively

Advertise Your Number

What good is a short number if nobody knows about it? To make the most of your campaigns, you’ll want to promote your code and get people to subscribe. A clever way to do so is by running a giveaway that requires participants to opt in to your SMS marketing campaign with a keyword.

Another strategy is to create a loyalty program where subscribers receive exclusive offers and early access to new releases via text. 

Use Keywords to Monitor SMS Campaigns

Results normally differ from one marketing campaign to the next. See which of your text message campaigns is generating more opt-ins by using a different keyword for each. This allows you to measure the performance of your individual campaigns. It’s also a good idea to evaluate the ROI of your marketing tactics and re-strategize accordingly. 

Go for a Memorable Code

If your budget permits, consider going for a vanity code that’s easy for your customers to memorize. Suppose a potential customer sees your code on your website or social media. You’ll want them to remember it easily should they choose to sign up at a later time. A memorable number such as 12121 can also do wonders for brand recognition. 

Comply With Local Regulations

Perhaps the most important marketing practice is to be compliant with local regulations regarding text campaigns, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. This means you’ll need to get permission from customers before sending them messages.

You’ll also want to avoid spamming people with endless waves of texts—even if the recipients have opted in. Overwhelming your audience with excessive messages is a surefire way to spike opt-out rates. 


Top 4 Benefits of Using Them in Your SMS Marketing 

1. Easy to Remember

Five or six-digit numbers, especially vanity numbers, are easier for customers to remember than 10-digit long codes or toll-free numbers. This makes it more convenient for recipients to engage with your campaigns.

2. Scalable and Flexible

Short numbers can handle a great deal of SMS traffic, making them ideal for large-scale campaigns that have extremely high volumes of incoming texts. They are also flexible in the sense that you can use them for anything from promotional texts to customer support.

3. Reinforces Brand Recognition

You can customize your short SMS code number to reflect your brand. Using branded numbers as your sender ID allows you to paint a consistent image in your customers’ minds and boost brand recognition.

4. Improves Analytics

By linking text message codes to analytics platforms, you can track the performance of your campaigns and gain insight into response rates and other valuable metrics.

Common SMS Code Numbers

Almost all leading companies have dedicated text messaging codes that are a unique sequence of digits to communicate with their customers.

Certain directories, such as the Short Code Registry, offer a list of numbers for more than thousands of companies online. The database is public, and people can search through a specific company’s code, view the code owner’s information, or get their own number.

We went through the databases and picked out the dedicated codes used by renowned companies and brands.

  • Facebook uses the 32665 code to engage with its users

  • Google uses 23333 generated by the CSCA

  • The 262966 non-vanity short number belongs to eCommerce giant Amazon. The multi-billion-dollar online retailer uses its dedicated short SMS code for sending retail coupons and promotions

  • Pizza Hut sends text message coupon from 69488


How to Get a Short Code for SMS

Suppose you’re planning to launch an SMS marketing campaign and are considering getting a code. Here are the basic steps you’ll need to take to obtain an SMS short number:

1. Choose a Provider

Opt for a business messaging provider with a good reputation to assist you for SMS marketing. Make sure to account for factors like pricing, features, compliance, and customer support.

2. Submit an Application

This step involves working with your provider to carry out the application process. You’ll want to provide details such as information about your business and the intended use case of the number. 

3. Compliance and Approval

This is where your application is reviewed by the provider as well as the network operator. They will make sure all the necessary information is there and your intended use doesn’t go against any regulations.

4. Provisioning and Testing

Once your application is approved, the code will be provisioned for you to use. Consider testing its functionality and whether it connects with your provider to ensure it meets your expectations.

How to Perform Text Message Short Code Lookup

If you're seeking information about these, you have several options to explore. One effective approach is to utilize SMS code directories or lists. These resources compile a wide range of SMS codes along with details about their respective purposes and service providers. For instance, if you encounter a 4-digit code, you can use these directories to perform an owner lookup, unveiling valuable insights into its function. Your mobile carrier's customer support can also assist in clarifying its purpose. It's wise to exercise caution when interacting with unfamiliar codes, as verifying their legitimacy can help prevent potential scams or phishing attempts.

For a comprehensive view, you can leverage various online resources. SMS codes play diverse roles, from marketing to authentication, and even voting. To initiate your research, consider utilizing online forums, social media platforms, and official websites of organizations or services. If you receive a text message from a code like 262966, it's beneficial to refer to official messages or app documentation to ascertain its purpose. Engaging with SMS code lookup tools or databases can facilitate quick access to a wealth of information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Carriers Filter Short Code Text Messages?

No, they do not get filtered by wireless carriers. This is mainly because the SMS text content already gets approval in the application phase. After getting approved, you can send SMS and MMS messages from your number without going through filters. 

How Much Does an SMS Code Cost?

When it comes to pricing, it is an affordable component of a bulk and mass texting strategy with sky-high effectiveness. The cost depends on whether it is vanity or non-vanity. A non-vanity code can cost you $500 monthly. As for a vanity number, you can expect that price to double. 

How Long Does It Take to Obtain Random Codes?

The average time it takes for a business to obtain a short number ranges between six to eight weeks. This includes the time needed for the carriers to review the application and check whether the information is adequate and the use cases meet all the requirements.