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Long Codes vs. Short Codes: Understanding the Different Types of SMS Numbers

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Long codes. Short Codes. Toll Free. 10DLC A2P. With so many different types of SMS numbers available, it can be challenging to know which method of SMS marketing can best help you generate ongoing brand ROI.

While they may seem similar on the surface, SMS marketing numbers vary widely in price, technical capabilities, and use cases — and they’re not all created equal. Before you dive headfirst into SMS marketing, it’s important to understand the difference between long codes and short codes — and how each one can impact the success of your SMS marketing strategy. From recent changes in the industry, we find 10DLC A2P messaging to deliver the highest return on investment to brands looking to reach thousands of SMS subscribers instantly. Here's some key updates on the SMS industry we share in our 2022 MarTech SMS Playbook in a nutshell:

• Traditional SMS marketing platforms have operated profitably for years by using Shared Short Codes, but they were recently banned.

• The Carriers’ new compliant route for marketing is A2P 10DLC or(an expensive) dedicated short code.

• To avoid spam, carriers are requiring SMS vendors to integrate withThe Campaign Registry (TCR).

• Since A2P 10DLC is a brand new route sanctioned by the industry, it’s the first to integrate compliantly with the TCR.

• TCR Integration will be required for Toll-Free in late 2022. We recommend getting ahead of this curve to avoid a painful migration later.

• Many traditional SMS marketing platforms are pushing their customers towards Toll-Free to delay their required integration with TCR – however, Toll-Free is not the right longterm route for your marketing needs as a brand.

Let's dig deeper. Here’s everything you need to know about the different types of SMS numbers, changes in the landscape — and how to pick the right phone number to generate maximum brand revenue using SMS.

What is a Long Code Phone Number?

A long code phone number is a 10-digit number designed for conversational SMS engagement. This method of SMS messaging was originally created for person-to-person (P2P) communications, but with the demand for SMS marketing growing exponentially, the telecom carriers enabled application-to-peer (A2P) routes that are optimized for brands and businesses. Long codes are a regulated and affordable solution for two-way messaging engagement that may include links to businesses’ e-commerce website, provide methods of zero-party data collection, like asking consumer questions about their preferences, for general 1:1 marketing or to resolve customer service requests.

By inviting conversations rather than focusing one-way communication using short codes, brands can easily nurture consumers with more meaningful and relevant conversations that convert customers and capture zero-party data to increase message relevancy over time.

Types of Long Codes

Historically, a brand would have the option between P2P and 10DLC A2P SMS messaging; however, A2P has become the preferred (and soon to be only) method for personalized 10DLC SMS marketing, by better enabling zero-party data capture used to personalize messaging while providing the TPS to reach mass audiences in a timely manner. When investing in SMS messaging for marketing, ensure you have the insights on pros and cons of each method of messaging so you can create a profitable and engaging SMS marketing program.

Long codes like A2P 10DLC are branded and inspire consumer response — increasing engagement and spend.

P2P Long Codes

A P2P long code is a standard 10-digit number used for one-on-one communication with customers. The acronym stands for person-to-person, so think of using a P2P long codes as texting between individuals. Utilizing P2P long codes worked fine for a small audience of local customers, but it had severe limitations in throughput speed, message filtering, and deliverability to the intended recipient.

New for 2022, P2P long codes will no longer be available for business messaging. With the official deployment of 10DLC A2P messaging, the telecom carriers will be restoring P2P messaging back to its original use case - texting between individuals for personal use. This is due to difficulty the telecom industry faced while trying to keep bad actors and malicious spammers from taking advantage of the antiquated communication technology. The telecom carriers are now enforcing severe fines for any business messaging occurring on P2P routes. Thankfully A2P solves this problem through a more rigorous registration processes and vetting of senders and makes it easy for reputable brands to receive high performing SMS long codes.

10DLC A2P (Community)

10DLC A2P has finally emerged as the highest valued and most trusted SMS channel for marketing. It offers incredibly high throughput without the high cost and long lead time concerns associated with short codes. Through 10DLC A2P, brands can launch automated SMS campaigns and engage in person-to-person texting with their audience — opening up the door for highly personalized, scalable marketing experience.

10DLC A2P is fast-becoming the trusted option for innovative brands, as mobile carriers announced in 2021 that they were eliminating shared short codes, businesses were given a fixed period of time to find a more secure alternative for their SMS marketing. At Community, we use 10DLC A2P texting to offer both personalized automated and one-to-one SMS responses. Brands who want to create grow a revenue-generating SMS subscription list that can be reached instantly and remains compliant and trusted to consumers will use 10DLC A2P.

What about Toll-Free Texting?

Ever tried to contact a brand by phone? Chances are you dialed a number that starts with a 1-800. Toll-free texting operates the same way. A toll-free long code can be used to send or receive texts and starts with a distinct three-digit area code, such as 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, or 833.

Because Toll-Free phone numbers are unregulated, they are often misused by untrusted businesses, which leads to stricter carrier filtering, blocking text messages, and therefore, an inability to reach 100% of your SMS audience. They are also limited to slower throughput and struggle sending MMS media files.

The benefit of Toll-Free texting is that it’s fairly cheap and because it’s unregulated, you can start to use a vendor-issued Toll-Free number almost immediately for marketing purposes, where short codes, for instance, are regulated and are issued to brands after 8-12 weeks of vetting. Brands that opt for Toll-Free messaging typically use them for a short-term sales boost or a temporary SMS use case, rather than growing a reachable, loyal SMS subscription list.

We are expecting Toll Free to become heavily regulated by the telecom carriers over the course of 2022, as it is their goal to push all business messaging to the sanctioned 10DLC A2P. We do not recommend the investment into Toll Free numbers if they are to be used for any long term marketing strategies or campaigns. A2P 10DLC was the first route required to integrate with The Campaign Registry (TCR). Community has been proactively registering its customers to avoid service interruptions later this year. Alternatively, other SMS providers are seeking temporary shelter with Toll-Free numbers, delaying their TCR integration.

The Benefits of Long Codes

We’ve witnessed a rapid transition toward the adoption of long codes in recent years — and for good reason — they’re more cost-competitive, versatile, and offer the capacity for personalized two-way customer engagement, making long codes the premier solution for SMS marketing.


Arguably one of the biggest benefits of long code vs short code is the difference in cost. The average cost of a long code ranges from $1-$2 per month compared to the $2000/mo leasing fee associated with short codes. Customers that opt for a 10DLC can even choose to convert an existing landline for their SMS marketing, so there are no ongoing costs associated with leasing an additional number.

Two-way Communication

Short codes, a five- to six-digit phone number that allows businesses to blast followers with automated texts, such as an appointment reminders, don’t offer the personalized, human feel of long code messaging. Through long codes, brands offer a more personal messaging experience — texting consumers just like they would text a friend or family member. That’s become increasingly important in a world where consumers want (and expect) to engage with the brands they follow.In a survey from Avochato, 63% of consumers said they “would switch to a brand that offered text messaging as a communication channel.” And Podium found that 43% of consumers want the ability to engage in real, two-way conversations with the brands they’re already following. While in the past, brands relied on one-way, automated campaigns to market to their customers, that approach no longer delivers meaningful consumer value.Being able to establish a direct, two-way line of communication — one that allows you to build authentic customer connections and personalize the marketing experience — is essential. And long codes invite that experience to consumers.


Short codes can only be used for texting, but long code numbers support SMS messages, MMS messages, and voice calls. Long codes like 10DLC A2P can also be used for personalized one-on-one communication with customers and for automated campaigns — such as auto-responses, appointment reminders, etc. The ability to do everything through one number makes long codes a versatile SMS marketing solution — one that can be easily scaled to fit your brand’s unique needs.

What is a short code phone number?

A short code is a five- to six-digit phone number that allows businesses to send automated (or in rare cases, human-managed) texts, discounts, order updates, and appointment reminders to customers. The name comes from the length of the number since short codes are just half the length of their 10-digit counterpart — the long code. When it comes to SMS marketing, there are two different types of short code numbers: shared short codes and dedicated short codes.

Short Codes are often used to deliver one-way communications like alerts or reminders without commonly prompting users to respond.

A shared short code allowed multiple businesses to use the same number for their SMS campaigns. They split the cost of the short code and use keywords to differentiate which brand’s marketing list subscribers are a part of.

For example, a skin-care company’s subscribers may use the keyword “SKIN” to opt in for SMS updates. A national pizza chain on the same short code could use “YUM” to add people to their list. In both cases, subscribers would text to the same number — they’ll just be added to separate company’s SMS marketing lists based on the keyword they use at signup.

Dedicated short codes are unique to one brand. Instead of sharing your short code with other businesses, you get a five- to six-digit number assigned specifically to your company. Businesses can opt for a random short code, which is generated automatically, or shell out for a custom vanity short code — which allows you to choose your own number.

Once advantageous to brands looking to cut back on SMS marketing costs, shared short codes are now prohibited by the telecom carriers and severe fines will penalize businesses for continuing with this practice. Brands and businesses are now required to lease a dedicated short code for a single use case.

The Benefits of a Short Code

Consumer memorability of your short code number to improve acquisition rates and high throughput (the capacity to send a high volume of texts quickly) help set short codes apart from unregulated alternatives like toll-free long codes. Dedicated short codes also benefit from less message filtering and better deliverability because of the extensive vetting prior to the activation of the short code.

They’re Easy to Remember

Because they’re only made up of a few numbers, short codes are easy to memorize. And if you’re using a vanity code, it’s even easier for people to hear your number on the fly, log it in their memory, and remember it later.

That memorability makes short codes a viable solution for brands that market on formats where listeners are on the go or don’t have a lot of time to write down the number.

Take car dealerships for instance that have a heavy reliance on TV, radio, and billboards for their marketing. Their audience needs to be able to see or hear that number in passing and remember it on the fly if they want to engage through SMS.

Short Codes Have High Audience Reach (Throughput)

Brands can send up to 500 texts per second through a short code. A toll-free number, for comparison, ranges from just 1-50 texts per second based on which SMS provider you use. That difference can be a total game-changer, especially for businesses with large audiences — or those that send time-sensitive content, such as appointment reminders or flash sales.

Managing Short Code Limitations

High throughput and memorability can make short codes a viable option for brands, but while they may look good on paper, there’s a reason why businesses are gravitating towards 10DLC A2P.  Higher leasing costs, long approval lead times, and ongoing restrictions around shared short codes can become a complex challenge without a premier software partner. It is our recommendation to take advantage of the A2P 10DLC routes, however, the Community platform is also compatible with Short Codes and Toll-Free numbers. This gives us a unique ability to build and offer the right solutions to fit your needs.

Higher Cost

Brands that want to invest in a short code for their SMS marketing needs should be prepared to shell out up to $1,000 per month for the rights to lease the number.

Companies pay this leasing fee in addition to the fees associated with outbound text messages, so the costs add up fast —   especially when brands can grow SMS subscription lists upwards of 1 million+ active members.

Long Activation Lead Time

Short codes provide the benefit of high speed throughput and better message deliverability, but the trade off is activation time. A brand can activate a 10DLC number within a day, where dedicated short codes require an extensive vetting and approval process that can take up to 3 months to complete. If a brand is looking to create a one-direction SMS marketing engine that runs for years and can generate more ROI than the annual cost of the short code, then the long lead time may not be a bother. However, most marketing teams are looking for faster solutions to activate their campaign and engage their customers, which is why 10DLC A2P is the preferred choice.

The future of SMS marketing involves a greater push towards A2P 10DLC

While short codes played an integral role in the early development of SMS marketing, 10DLC A2P is paving the way for personalized, human and automated text message marketing. Community’s 10DLC A2P proprietary technology offers brands the best of both worlds: thoughtful personalization through two-way customer conversations by leveraging our natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) features and the ability to support high-volume campaigns with incredibly high throughput (up to 1,000 texts per second). Whether you’re looking to nurture brand loyalty through genuine one-on-one conversations or convert audiences at scale, there’s no limit to what our SMS marketing platform can help you accomplish.

Interested in using 10DLC A2P to drive SMS revenue? Schedule a demo and get started today.

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As the co-founder and CEO of Community, I want to make sure our brand reflects what we truly stand for, not just in words, but in the actions we take. We exist to keep people connected to the conversations that they choose to be part of - we choose to connect with Black-owned businesses in SoCal.  For more information on Community or if you want to hear more from me, feel free to text me: 716-330-3003.

Other Leaders on Community include: Slutty Vegan; UNWRP; We're Not Really Strangers; Bobby HundredsThe Shade Room; Patrisse Cullors; Kerry Washington; and more

- Matt Peltier
No items found.
As the co-founder and CEO of Community, I want to make sure our brand reflects what we truly stand for, not just in words, but in the actions we take. We exist to keep people connected to the conversations that they choose to be part of - we choose to connect with Black-owned businesses in SoCal.  For more information on Community or if you want to hear more from me, feel free to text me: 716-330-3003.

Other Leaders on Community include: Slutty Vegan; UNWRP; We're Not Really Strangers; Bobby HundredsThe Shade Room; Patrisse Cullors; Kerry Washington; and more

- Matt Peltier
No items found.
As the co-founder and CEO of Community, I want to make sure our brand reflects what we truly stand for, not just in words, but in the actions we take. We exist to keep people connected to the conversations that they choose to be part of - we choose to connect with Black-owned businesses in SoCal.  For more information on Community or if you want to hear more from me, feel free to text me: 716-330-3003.

Other Leaders on Community include: Slutty Vegan; UNWRP; We're Not Really Strangers; Bobby HundredsThe Shade Room; Patrisse Cullors; Kerry Washington; and more

- Matt Peltier

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