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What Are SMS Short Codes and Why Are They Important?

short codes

So you’ve been considering SMS or text message marketing and have seen the term “short code” being used quite frequently. You may have guessed short codes are important, but what the heck are they?

Short codes are short phone numbers that can be used for SMS or text messages. Since they’re shorter, they’re easier to read and remember than regular phone numbers. Back in the early 2000s, SMS short codes were standardized to five and six digit codes in the United States. Today, they’re widely used by SMS marketing providers.

Short codes are used to opt-in consumers to SMS programs and to relay coupons, promotions, offers, text-to-win campaigns and more. Consumers can subscribe by entering this short code in the “To” field of a text message and sending a text.

Dedicated Short Codes vs Shared Short Codes

There are generally two types of short codes: dedicated short codes and shared short codes. Dedicated short codes are short codes that are dedicated or used exclusively for one business. Shared short codes, on the other hand, are shared by various businesses. They differentiate themselves by each using an exclusive keyword.

For example, if a restaurant uses our shared short code “65047,” we might ask customers to sign up for messages by texting the word “PIZZA” to opt in. (“Text PIZZA to 65047 to receive our deal alerts!”) Another business could use the same short code (65047), but might ask users to text their identifying keyword “HONDAMIAMI” instead.

Compare it to sharing a street address for a company. If your business is in an office building, you use the same address as others in the building and differentiate yours with a suite or office number. If you own your own location (or the entire building), your office is the only one using that address.

Buying a dedicated short code can be very costly ($15,000 to $25,000 a year), which is why most businesses use shared short codes.

Why Short Codes are Better Than Long Codes

If you’re wondering why businesses don’t simply use regular phone numbers, or long codes, for SMS campaigns, you should be aware of the disadvantages.

  • Long codes are not regulated as strictly as short codes, which is why they’re most often used by text message spammers.
  • They don’t have restrictions for bulk sending and receiving. Only 1 message per second is allowed on a long code, which means it could take days to send messages to all of your subscribers, unlike short codes which can send bulk message blasts quickly and easily.
  • They’re easier to remember and promote.

Do you want to learn more about the building blocks of a successful SMS marketing campaign? Contact us or call us at (305) 505-­­5393 for help with your (SMS) text message marketing.

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Why Text Message Marketing Must Always Be Opt-In

Opt-in is required for text messaging

Are you afraid of giving your mobile number to businesses? When it comes to text message marketing, many still believe if they give their mobile number, it’ll be sold and they’ll get unsolicited texts.

But this should never happen. Companies are legally required to get consent (or opt in) or they’ll face consequences.

Breaking the Rules = Heavy Fines from the FCC

Texting users without permission can bring down heavy fines and significant penalties from the FCC. Those fines can reach up to $1,500 per text, per person. This is covered under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991, which was amended to cover SMS in 2012 by the FCC. The TCPA makes it mandatory for businesses to receive “prior express written consent” before texting consumers.

Know the Legal Requirements of Text Marketing

Momares’ text and text-to-win programs are designed to only text to those who opt-in. This ensures clients don’t inadvertently run afoul of the legal requirements. Our recent blog post on the legal rules of text messaging covers everything that you need to know before you start your campaign.

Is Your Program in Compliance? Ask Yourself These Questions

Before you launch your campaign, be sure you can answer YES to all of the following questions. This ensure you are indeed establishing a respectful and lawful relationship with your subscribers:

  1. Are you sending text messages only to users who have provided express consent per MMA regulations?
  2. As part of that consent, are all programs and instructions, including message and data rates, program terms and privacy policies clearly displayed with all opt-in promotions?
  3. Have you taken steps to ensure the user’s consent applies only to the specific program for which the user opted-in and the consent has not been treated as approval for other programs?
  4. Are you using double opt-in for subscribers who join the program via a Web form or other method? (In many cases, texting from a mobile phone is the one time that a single opt-in should be permitted.)
  5. Have you communicated that opt-out (STOP) and assistance (HELP) mechanisms are available at the time of opt-in?
  6. Are all opt-out requests honored within 72 hours of receipt?
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How Often Should You Text Your Customers?

How often to use text message marketing

Do you know how often your business should text? Determining the frequency of messaging for your SMS campaign can be a challenge for marketers. At Momares, we usually recommend sending texts once per week (twice a week at most). However, the frequency of messaging in your campaign may vary slightly, depending on your requirements. Here are some things to consider when you are trying to determine how often to text your marketing list.

How frequently will a customer act on your offer?

As you consider the frequency, think about how often your customer will be able to take advantage of the promotions you offer. How often do they buy your product or service? A restaurant, for example, might text more frequently than a travel agency. The customer may not actually need or be able to buy what you’re offering until a certain amount of time has passed.

Is your campaign timely and relevant?

Evaluate your campaign to improve the relevance of your messages with regard to time, location and the potential for engagement. If you’re planning an SMS campaign with the goal of building brand equity, it’s important to ensure your campaign engages users effectively.

Try to avoid interrupting users at a time that may not be situationally appropriate and consider whether users will respond negatively to frequent texts. If you think they might, it would best to send text messages less frequently.

Frequency doesn’t have to remain the same

Keep in mind that the frequency of messaging doesn’t have to remain the same. Review your analytics data or converted sales to determine when buyers are more or less likely to buy.

As a result, you can send messages more frequently during the months when you think customers are likely to buy and less frequently during slow months. Conversely, you can do the opposite and send more promotions during slow months to motivate customers to buy.

Balance is important in SMS campaigns

To have an effective SMS campaign, you have to strike a balance between texting often enough that users will remember they signed up for messages, but not so often they decide to unsubscribe from your marketing list. This is why we often suggest texting once a week.

Contact us for help with setting up your (SMS) text message marketing.

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Why Text Message Marketing is a Smart Move Right Now

Every day, a growing number of your customers are interacting with you by mobile phone. They’re not just calling your business, but also visiting your website, speaking to you on social media and redeeming your offers… all on mobile.

Are you speaking to your customer on mobile?

It’s time to cater to your customer’s preference for mobile. And one great way to do that is with text message marketing. It happens to be a great time to start text messaging for various reasons. Here’s why…

Infographic, Why Text Message Marketing is a Smart Move Right Now

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Text Message Marketing Best Practices

Text message marketing can be extremely effective. However, there are a few guidelines that must be followed. They help you get the most return and make sure your program follows federal rules. When done well, a text message marketing campaign can yield fantastic results. To make the most of your text message campaign, here are best practices.

  1. Stay professional
    While it may be tempting to use texting shorthand or abbreviations it’s best to avoid them (think ‘u’ instead of ‘you’) and  only use regular abbreviations when necessary to save space (“exp.” instead of “expire,” for example). Your brand’s message should still be a professionally crafted message. Also, brevity is key – do not try to fill all 160 characters if you don’t need to.
  2. Make it easy
    Opting in (or out) of any text message campaign should be easy for the user. Keeping codes short, or asking the user to text a number should be something short. Pro tip: the best way to get a large number of entries on your list is to host a sweepstakes. Keep it short and easy to get the biggest number of entries!
  3. Plan what, then when
    It’s important for these text messages to come at a time that will not seem intrusive to the client. Acceptable hours for your text to go out should be business hours, around 9 am – 6 pm. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a client’s personal phone and to be respectful of it.
  4. Comply with the TCPA
    The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was made to protect the very people you are trying to market to. To avoid any legal issues, make sure that everyone on your mobile list has opted into receiving messages from you. There are also certain messages that should be included in your opt-in language (“Message and data rates may apply. Text STOP to stop. You provide consent to receive autodialed text messages.”)

These tips will  help improve customer response and ensure a successful campaign.

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Wholly Guacamole Sweepstakes Could Benefit from a Mobile Coupon

Wholly Guacamole Fridge Makeover Sweepstakes is beautifully made, polished and a very creative contest. I love the spokesperson persona of the 50s housewife with white pearls and the talking fridge begging for healthy food and a makeover.

The sweepstakes objectives seem to be two-fold:

1.    Capture name, email and zip code as part of the entry (pretty straightforward)
2.    Provide a discount coupon on purchase (not so straight forward)

Coupon delivery methodology should be streamlined

They do a great job with the branding and messaging but where they stumble is in the coupon delivery methodology. The first hurdle is going through a printer status check list before you can proceed. The list asks you to check your printer for paper, ensure your printer is on, check ink levels and make sure it’s connected.

It’s pretty crazy to assume that people who intend to print need that many instructions on printing. It’s a safe bet that if you have a printer, this is not the first time you are using it. It gets more burdensome… after you check your printer’s status, you have to download www.coupons.com app in order to print the coupon. What? Yes, I said the same thing. Download an app to get a coupon?

Why a printer checklist? People who own a printer know how to work one.

Why do I have to download an app to get a coupon?

My question for Wholly Guacamole is why make it so cumbersome to print a simple coupon? Isn’t the goal to get them the coupon as easily as possible so they can use it to buy guacamole? A link to a page where the coupon is will suffice. People know how to print it. Or better yet, add an instant mobile coupon they can request via text message. This way they don’t event have to print it and the coupon is on their mobile phone.

Make it easy to get the coupon and join the sweepstakes!

Wholly Guacamole could say “To get this coupon on your phone, text GUAC to 65047.” Simple, elegant and effective. The company could then print the mobile coupon call-to-action in all the product packages, website, and social media outlets. And now with the permission to text them, you can send them a text letting them know about the Wholly Guacamole Fridge Makeover Sweepstakes and how they could join from their mobile phone. They could leverage their super nice mobile website by creating a mobile sweepstake entry point.

This sweepstakes would benefit tremendously from mobile since it bridges the gap between the purchase at the retail store and the online world by letting the consumer easily pull the coupon on the go or from the website.

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Southwest Airline’s Parental Guidance Family Getaway Sweepstakes is Missing the Mobile Consumer

Southwest Airlines is offering a sweepstake where one lucky family will win a trip for four to California’s Disneyland. In the Southwest Airlines and Parental Guidance sweepstakes, the only apparent way to enter is to visit the sweepstake web page and complete the form. The entry form is  simple and all it asks for is your first name, last name, email and date of birth (to ensure you’re 18 years of age). But mobile users are out of luck, because the site is not mobile optimized.

If Southwest Airlines is targeting families and travel consumers on the go, it is limiting it’s reach by not offering a mobile optimized entry form or a text-in entry system, where potential participants can send a text message and begin the entry process. Something as simple as “Text PG to 65047 to enter” would be sufficient and effective. Since the airline is only requesting basic information to enter, a text-in “call to action” that responds with a link to a mobile-optimized form would facilitate the entry process tremendously. It would also open up the sweepstakes to gain more entries from mobile users.

Southwest Airlines would benefit from capturing not only the entrant’s contact information and email, but also the most important number in a customer’s life…their mobile phone.

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How to Set Up a Text Message Donation Program for a Small Nonprofit

Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, there are many relief efforts underway.  Many are supported by donations (see links to donate below) and some, like the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, are even using mobile technology to get text message donations quickly and easily.

If you’re a non-profit organization or a small business supporting a cause, you can easily create your own text message donation program as well.

Set up a Donors Mobile Campaign

Here’s how it works:

  • Ask donors to give a donation by sending a text with your new keyword to 65047.
  • An automatic response can be set to thank donors and link them to a mobile optimized credit card processing form to complete the donation.
  • The donations are then transferred to the organization.

We realize it’s a little extra work to have donors complete a credit card from instead of automatically charging the donation on the mobile phone bill. But the auto billing system is costly for small organizations, the organization needs to be a large national charity and requires a year-long contract.

Advantages of our mobile donations system

Our mobile donations campaign offers a few advantages…

  • You can collect donations of more than $10 (the max limit for donations billed through cell phone carriers).
  • You can collect additional information such as name, mobile phone, address and email as part of the transaction.
  • It’s easy to promote this campaign in ads, TV or radio.
  • It’s easier for donors to pledge while they’re away from home or their computers.
  • You’ll have a mobile list of donors you can contact later—to thank them, announce you’ve reached your goal, etc.

We sincerely hope nonprofits and charities take advantage of mobile technology to support their causes. If you’re a member of such a group, contact us. We’d be happy to work with you to get started.

To send your own donation to relief efforts visit…

Red Cross Disaster Relief
(Or send a text with REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10)

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Ever Had Your Brother Held For Ransom? Mine Was

At 9:44 am on Friday, May 11, 2012, I got a call on my mobile. A voice said, “Your brother has been in an accident. He’s hurt.” “Where?” I asked. A male voice with a heavy Puerto-Rican accent said, “In a gas station and he is hurt pretty bad.” The voice went on to tell me, “He hit my brother’s motorcycle and damaged it and tried to run off.” I asked “Is your brother OK?” He responded, “We have your brother tied up and will not let him go.” “We can pay for the repairs!” I told him. He said, “I don’t know what is going on here, but I was called in to help. He’s tied up and beaten.” “We can repair the motorcycle,” I repeated. His voice was annoyed and aggravated: “Look, this is a kidnap and we want $1,500 now!”

I didn’t know what to think
My thoughts at this point were… My brother lives in Puerto Rico and these guys sound Puerto Rican. Do they know I’m in Miami? Are they physically in Puerto Rico? How am I to pay them? I was starting to get really nervous. My throat was drying up and my hands were shaking a bit. I kept trying to remember what I had heard about express kidnappings. It’s when they kidnap you and take you to an ATM for ransom. It usually happens in other countries.

The negotiation begins
“Are you going to help your brother?” he asked. I said yes and he responded, “Good. Go to an ATM and withdraw $1,500. Can you do that? Do you have that kind of money?” I thought, wait a minute, he wants to negotiate.

He was asking if I had the money, instead of assuming I had it. I said, “No, that’s a lot of money. I would need to transfer…” He cut me off and asked, “Transfer?” I said, “Yes, from one account to another. It can take 3 days.” The kidnapper said, “No, go to the ATM right now and take $600 out.” “The maximum is $500,” I said. His response was “No, its $600!” and he gave me delivery instructions. During all of this, I was frantically calling my brother’s cell phone number from my office line. He didn’t pick up. On my second attempt, I heard what sounded like a pickup, a pause, then a disconnect tone. I called again and it went straight to voice mail. The kidnappers have my brother’s cell phone I thought. I tried my brother’s wife and she didn’t pick up either. The voice said, “Get in your car now and drive to an ATM.” Does this guy know I’m in Miami, I wondered? I couldn’t get him the money physically. I took a bold step and said, “I’m not going anywhere until I speak to my brother.” He didn’t like that. “No. Do as I say!”

I was beyond nervous
“How do I know this isn’t a prank call from a radio station?” I asked. He started laughing condescendingly and told someone with him, “Rafi,” that I thought this was a radio station prank call. Rafi said, “That’s it, I’m going to kill him now.” The voice started shouting “Is this what you want, the death of your brother on your conscience?” At this point, I was beyond nervous, I was scared. I heard Rafi moving and I could hear faint background noise, like a crowd, but I couldn’t make it out. I started pleading, “No, no, no, I will help. Please!” And like in a movie, I braced to hear a gun shot. I told the voice, “Look why kill him, he is useless to you dead and then you’ll have to deal with that problem. I told you I will help.” The voice said, “Go to your car now and drive to an ATM.” All of a sudden, I got a second call on my mobile, from a phone number I didn’t recognize. I asked him “Someone is calling me, can I answer?” “No,” he said. “If you hang up, I will kill him.” As he explained what he wanted me to do, I tried to dial the number that just called, hoping it was my brother’s wife.

“Rafi, get the gun”
The voice then asked, “Who is Marcos Menendez?” I was freaking out by now. The kidnappers must have seen my caller ID on the other phone number and thought I was trying to call out for help. The voice again asked, “Who is Marcos Menendez? Huh? Answer me!” I said “Who? Mendez? I don’t know.” He asked, “Is someone calling you on the other line?” My mobile was flashing with another call, but I said “No, no one. Can’t you see I’m talking to you?” The voice said “I’m tired of playing games with you. I’m going to give the order to execute your brother. I’m done fantasmeando [playing around] with you. Rafi, get the gun.” I started begging, “No, please don’t shoot. I’m on my way to the car right now.” Trying to get a grip on the situation, I asked him, “How do I know you won’t kill me or my brother after I pay you?” His tone of voice changed, from slangy, reggaetonero to reassuring and comforting: “I know you might feel insecure about the exchange. That’s why we will do it at a public place like Winn-Dixie Supermarket.” I went dead cold. They knew I was in Miami. There are no Winn-Dixies in Puerto Rico. They kidnapped my brother in Puerto Rico, I thought, and knew I could pay them in Miami. “What are you doing now?” the voice asked. “Tell me!” I said, “I need to get dressed to go to the ATM.” At this moment, my mind was exactly where they wanted it – in compliance. I was broken, scared and worried about my brother. Fear got the best of me. I dismissed any fleeting, rational thoughts, gathered my keys and proceeded to my car, only to realize it wasn’t there. I forgot my wife needed my car for something that morning.

“We have a problem”
I didn’t know if I should tell the kidnapper I didn’t have a car. I asked, “Can someone else deliver the money?” “If it’s not you, we’ll kill him,” he said. “We have a problem,” I told him. “I don’t have a car.” He got irate, cursed me out and continued to threaten me. I told him not to worry. I could walk to an ATM. At that moment, my mobile phone flashed with another call. It was my brother. I couldn’t resist picking it up. “Is that you?” I asked. My brother answered: “What do you want?” My heart dropped. Oh man, was I relived.

My brother laughed
“You haven’t been kidnapped?” I asked. My brother started laughing. “You got called? It’s a hoax,” he told me. “They’re trying to extort money from you. I’m okay. I was busy with a client. That’s why I didn’t pick up when you called. Tell them to go to hell,” he said. “They tried that on me two years ago.” I heard the click of a disconnected line and remembered I left the kidnapper on hold. Then I got a text message, “Semurio.” Poorly spelled in Spanish: “He’s dead.”

It’s a scam
I later called the FBI to report what happened. They took my information, but the lady nonchalantly said it happens all the time. She would send the report to an agent and I might get a call. I guess it wasn’t of major importance, since no money was involved and no one was really kidnapped. But if the FBI isn’t going to move on this, at least I can let others know. What happened to me is a scam for money. It felt very real and scary to me, but fortunately, it was fabricated. I uncovered various forums and a news article about this scam. I also searched the phone numbers on caller ID from the “kidnappers.” Both numbers, 787-477-0979 and 787-624-4234, have Puerto Rican area codes. My advice is to save those numbers on your phone and if you get called, don’t pick up. I know this is a mobile marketing newsletter where I mostly talk about my business marketing experiences. But I thought this was especially important to share and this was the best way to get the word out to 8,000+ readers.

Ironically (and especially for me), the easiest way to have reached my brother would have been a text message. He would just have replied and the ruse would have been uncovered. Even the criminals thought a text message was a good way to communicate a powerful and direct message. And I can tell you from experience, it worked.

Has this happened to you? Comment below.