How to Improve Audience Engagement with SMS Short Codes

4 min read

Marketing and advertising companies are always looking for ways to make their clients stand out from the crowd, and help those clients interact with their customers. SMS short codes — phone numbers of 3 to 6 digits — are an effective audience engagement tool with a great deal of flexibility.

In contrast to long codes (full-length phone numbers) they are more effective for high-volume campaigns, and campaigns where you want immediate brand recognition. Short codes are particularly useful for advertising and marketing messaging, especially where you want a customer to reply or initiate contact (like offering a coupon). However, they can also be used for virtually any form of interaction with customers and audiences.


The biggest benefit to using a short code is that short codes are simpler and more memorable. This makes them much easier to use. By contrast, long codes are harder to remember, more susceptible to error when typing in the string of numbers, and generally less convenient.

With a short code, customers don’t need to copy a long number from a flyer or label to contact a brand. And a call to action delivered over traditional media like TV, radio, or in a magazine ad will be much more effective if the audience does not have to remember a full-length phone number to respond.

This also facilitates branding. Interacting with a number is much more readily associated with interacting with the brand when the number is more memorable. Plus, short codes can be unique to one particular company — in such cases customers come to associate this number with the brand using it.

At a more tangible level, a short, unique, easily recognised number allows a recipient to quickly confirm who the sender is when SMS short codes are used to deliver A2P messages.

Customers will have more confidence that a message is genuine and trusted if they can see it is from a number, they recognise rather than a long string of digits for which they must search their memory to work out who the sender is. Short code texting is also more tightly controlled by operators, and by short code providers like GMS, so less likely to be associated with spam.

The reason for this control is partly because of another benefit of short code texting: volume. Many more SMS messages can be sent per second using a short code than a long code. Whereas a company can send only one message per second using a long code, a short code can send dozens in the same amount of time. The “throughput” is much higher.

SMS short codes are therefore beneficial when a company wants to send out a lot of time-sensitive messages to their customers. They are similarly useful when a lot of people are texting in to a service over a limited time, such as TV voting: there is less risk of a bottleneck, and so everyone’s vote counts.

The high throughput makes the short codes an excellent two-way communication channel, as owning a mobile phone is literally the only prerequisite for your customer reaching out to you.

As an example, the implementation of the short codes combined with the messaging app use, helped AXA to greatly improve the communication experience for its customers, which naturally resulted in growing satisfaction rates.


Short codes can be used by advertising clients in a diverse range of industries. Anyone who wants to connect with an audience and drive engagement can benefit from using a short code.

Retailers and consumer goods brands looking to advertise can take advantage of the high-volume throughput offered by short code providers like GMS, who can also help advertisers with analytics, providing delivery and response statistics to track campaign effectiveness.

Short codes can also be used to go beyond advertising, by facilitating other marketing initiatives like competitions and rewards programmes. They are particularly good at linking mobile and “offline” channels into a coordinated effort.

A short code can make it easier for a customer to claim a discount code found on a bottle label or snack wrapper “on the go.” Or perhaps a radio advertisement invites them to find out more about a special discount. That shorter number significantly reduces the amount of effort a user needs to respond to an offer on the radio, displayed on a billboard, or delivered via some other traditional marketing medium.

Plus, short codes can be billed at custom rates, which means that they can also be used by mobile subscribers to donate to charity appeals direct from their phone. This can lower the barrier to donating by making it quick, easy, and immediate.

An increasing number of TV and radio shows are using short codes to enhance audience engagement. Advertisers can help programme makers and sponsors reach out to their audience by giving them new ways to interact with viewers.

For example, SMS short codes are used by the various national incarnations of the “… Got Talent” franchise, and during the Eurovision Song Contest, to facilitate the voting process and simplify it for the audience. This does not just help a show form a connection with their viewers; it also encourages them to watch live, since this is the best opportunity to get involved.

Getting started with SMS short codes

SMS Short codes have a wealth of features which make them both effective and flexible tools for interacting with customers in many scenarios. Global Message Services has a team of experienced messaging professionals who can help advertisers and their clients take advantage of these strengths to get the most out of their mobile marketing and engagement. In GMS you will find a reliable, committed short code partner. Speak to our experts today!

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