Texting campaigns are an essential way for organizations to keep their supporters engaged and informed. Digital organizing tools (like Impactive!) are constantly striving to improve this link between organizations and individuals; in the process, text message outreach methods such as broadcast texting have seen an uptick in popularity and improved usability. 

Organizing teams that run broadcast texting campaigns may know that there are designated phone numbers for sending SMS and MMS messages to supporters, which look like a typical ten-digit phone number. But there's another type of number that’s important to know, called a short code. 

Read on to learn more about short codes, and how they’re used by organizing teams:

What is a short code? 

A short code is a set of five or six numbers that act as a shortened telephone number. In the political and advocacy space, organizations use short codes when sending mass messages to subscribed supporters. Just as they would interact with a regular phone number, people can exchange SMS and MMS messages to and from a short code. Additionally, a text from a short code will also show up in the same thread as other messages sent by the organization. 

Organizations can obtain short codes through the U.S. Short Code Administration, the governing entity for short codes. Short codes are leased to individual organizations for three, six, or twelve months. Broadcast messaging platforms can also facilitate the process for organizations to obtain short codes. For example, Impactive helps its broadcast users get a short code through its messaging platform, Twilio.  

There are two types of short codes that organizations can establish. They can select a specific set of numbers as their short code, like 11111 — that’s called a vanity short code. Or, they can choose non-vanity short codes, which are sets of five or six randomized numbers.  

How are short codes used? 

In general, organizations use short codes because they’re easy to remember and generate lower spam rates since there’s an application process for obtaining a code. Plus, short codes can increase an organization’s throughput, which means more texts can reach subscribers. For these reasons, establishing a short code is a popular option for organizations with millions of subscribers. 

Many people may know short codes from text-to-give campaigns. A prominent example was the Red Cross’s effort to gather donations in the aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. Across the nation, millions of people texted 'HAITI' to 90999 to donate. In this case, it was important for the short code to be simple and memorable, allowing for maximum donations for relief efforts.

For political campaigns and advocacy organizations, short codes are more likely to be used in cases of broadcast messaging and opt-ins. For example, Joe Biden’s electoral campaign team encouraged supporters to subscribe to their broadcast campaign by texting JOE to 30330. Subsequently, subscribers received the latest updates and information from this number. 

Of course, there are several considerations to take when deciding whether to use a short code or its alternative, the regular, ten-digit broadcast number (also called a long code). One of the biggest considerations for organizations is the cost of obtaining a short code. Lease rates start at $500 per month and can be even more expensive for vanity codes. For larger organizations, this can be a worthwhile investment to make. Ultimately, it's up to each organization to decide if the cost is worth the benefit of a short code! 

Short Codes in Action: Impactive’s Broadcast Texting Tool

Advocacy organizations, nonprofits, campaigns, and unions can use short codes to send messages with Impactive’s Broadcast Texting tool. Broadcast messaging allows organizing teams to quickly mobilize and inform supporters, a crucial factor for teams conducting rapid response communication. Organizations can even port their existing short code with Impactive, or simply use the broadcast long code automatically provided when they enable Broadcast Texting. Then, organizing teams can encourage supporters to opt-in to their texting campaign by texting a keyword to the designated number, whether short or long code. 

Organizing teams that want to improve their texting campaigns can use short codes to upgrade mass communication with their supporters. They’re appealing to subscribers, make texting campaigns much more streamlined, and are here to stay! 

For more information about Impactive’s Broadcast Texting tool, schedule a demo to see how it can power your team’s outreach and engagement efforts. 

Nov 1, 2021
Tools & Tech