When employing mobile marketing tactics, one must choose between using long codes and short codes. There are “pro”s and “con”s for each, regardless of which you use for your mobile marketing campaign:
Benefits of Long Codes (Some Questionable)
While long code per message fees are higher, the set-up and monthly costs make them ultimately more affordable. Messages can be sent internationally, and messages and calls can come from the same number. Their most appealing features, though, are also their biggest downfall: because no customer opt-in is required and set-up is quick and easy (due to the lack of a vetting process), abuse of long codes for spamming purposes runs rampant. Long code use over a U.S. carrier network is actually considered stealing because carriers are paid for the right to send texts via their networks.
Drawbacks of Long Codes
In addition to the problems already named above, long codes are hard to remember, don't support video or picture messaging, can't be used for billing, and are limited in speed to the number of messages per second that can be sent. There's also no option to make these free to end users. While short codes include an option to pay the cost up front instead of charging the consumer for use, this is yet another thorny issue that makes long codes problematic.
What it comes down to it, any message sent to a U.S. long code requires that the parties must be actual people. In theory, therefore, it's conceivable how, in an age when mobile devices are employed in ways once seemingly unimaginable, long codes could be used legitimately for applications involving more personal business exchanges, such as for financial, gaming and dating sites.
Short Code Drawbacks
This is not to say that short codes don't carry their own sets of problems. First, short codes, for some companies, are prohibitively expensive, with set monthly costs hovering around $500. Short codes must be individually activated for each country, as well as approved by each carrier. Short codes also cannot be called.
Short Code Advantages
Just as the assets making long codes convenient also make them problematic, the features making short codes a hassle are simultaneously what they have going for them. First, they require a vetting process that can take weeks – which also means they are less susceptible to spam and thus offer consumers better protection. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and other regulatory bodies have put consumer protection rules into place requiring companies using short codes to ask permission before making contact. They must provide, in exchange, a certain amount of value. This benefits not only consumers but also businesses, since it establishes a much better rapport with consumers. It also doesn't hurt that businesses can – and do – make this exchange free to end users. Short codes are also more memorable, allow for thousands of messages to be sent per second, and can be used for billing.
The full advantages and disadvantages of short and long codes is a complicated issue, further complicated by the fact that carriers often change their capabilities and rules (as well as the fact that companies lack resources to keep track of – and test – each update). Short codes, with a few noted exceptions, are the way to go in the U.S., however; and the very miniscule amount of text spam that most of us receive is a true testament to their efficacy.