Dedicated & Shared Short Codes: Business Benefits

Matt Grofsky, Ytel |  
As you may know, short codes are a proven successful method of communicating with leads through SMS for businesses. Today we're breaking down the two types of short code: dedicated and shared, and helping you explore which is best for your SMS marketing campaigns.

Short codes are a highly successful method of communicating with leads through SMS for businesses. The two types of short code are dedicated and shared, and they can both do different things for your SMS campaigns.

What is short code?

Short code is a 5 or 6-digit number used for sending and receiving SMS messages. Businesses use short code for marketing campaigns and business communications once consumers opt-in to receive SMS. Opting in is required for short code use.

Get consumers to opt-in by: 

  • Entering a phone number on a company's website
  • Clicking a button on a mobile web page
  • Sending a mobile originated message containing an advertising keyword
  • Signing up at a point-of-sale (POS) location
  • Opt-in over the phone using IVR technology

Don’t be fooled by the word “consumers.” Short code is a key B2B marketing channel along with its B2C application.

What is a shared short code?

A shared short code is a 5 or 6-digit number used by multiple businesses simultaneously. Let’s say 10 businesses are on the short code 123456. Each business has its own keyword for opting in. If someone texts keyword ‘TACOS’ to 123456, they opt-in to the campaign associated with that keyword. The other businesses on the short code can’t send that subscriber messages.


  • Cheaper than dedicated
  • Ready for use faster than dedicated
  • Allows for bulk marketing SMS campaigns


  • Shared volume limits throughput potential
  • Opt-out requests apply to every business on short code
  • If misuse occurs, all businesses on shared short code are affected

What is a dedicated short code?

A dedicated short code is a 5 or 6-digit number for exclusive use by one business. There are two varieties: vanity and random. Vanity short codes allow the business to choose their number, like 82267 for TACOS, to foster brand awareness. Regular (non-vanity) short codes are randomly assigned but cost less to acquire than vanity numbers do.


  • One business operates the number
  • Unlimited keywords and message flow potential
  • Maximum throughput possible


  • More expensive than shared
  • Longer set up period than shared
  • Misuse can result in loss of vanity number

Which one is right for your business?

Shared vs. Dedicated

Unlimited Keywords X  
Maximum Throughput X  
Flexible Message Flow X  
Interactive Chat X  
High Level Security X  
Short Code Ownership X  

If you’re a small business with a limited marketing budget or a particular SMS campaign in mind, shared short code is the way to go. They’re cheaper than dedicated and can be ready to go in as soon as two days (short codes that are currently active).

But watch out: short code violations and opt-outs apply to the entire short code.

Let’s say Best Tacos and Clear Vision are among the companies using short code 123456. Best Tacos has the keywords ‘TACOS’ for offers and discounts and ‘FOOD’ for catering promotions. Clear Vision has the keyword ‘SIGHT’ for its new product updates. 

If carriers find either of Best Tacos’ campaigns in violation of regulations, all of short code 123456 will be shut down. Likewise, an opted-in Clear Vision recipient who opts out of future messages removes their number from the entire code.

If you’re an enterprise organization with a larger marketing budget or have plans for extensive SMS campaigns, you’ll want dedicated short code. They cost more and can take up to 16 weeks to provision, but you have exclusive control over the short code and your campaigns.

This is ideal for high-volume SMS campaigns because you don’t have to share throughput with other businesses. If your campaign will involve user responses, dedicated short code is a better fit. Recipients don’t have to respond with your keyword plus an action word, as all messages go directly to you.

For other ways to use SMS and short code to power your marketing and lead gen campaigns, download the free eBook!New Call-to-action

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About The Author

Matt Grofsky, Ytel

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Matt provides Ytel with avenues to do things different. As a software developer with close to 20 years experience, Matt is aggressive on deliverables and is able to get projects done. Matt is a successful inventor and has been founding companies with Nick for the past 15 years.

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