Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vanity Short Codes - watch your CTA

As a follow up to last week’s introduction to common short codes (CSCs), this week we’re taking a look at vanity short codes.

When you lease a short code (either directly from the CSCA or through Unwired Appeal), you are asked whether you would like to choose a vanity short code number (kind of like a vanity license plate) or receive a random number. The CSCA charges $1,000 per month for a vanity short code lease and $500 per month for random short code lease. (Unwired Appeal charges the same rates).

The two main reasons to spend the extra money for a vanity short code are:

1) You need a specific number series (generally easy to remember like 212121, 90909, etc.), or

2) You need a phoneword – the alphanumeric equivalent of a specific number (e.g. 466453 spells 'GOOGLE' on the telephone keypad).

We often provide services for agencies that need specific phonewords for branding purposes. The short code number needs to be the alphanumeric equivalent of the campaign sponsor or needs to “spell” something associated with the campaign. For example, 46835 spells 'INTEL' on the cellphone keypad or 69348 spells 'MYFIT'.

While it is a great idea to use vanity short codes for branding purposes, people often make a mistake in their implementation. It is very tempting to kick-off a campaign with a call-to-action (CTA) that states something like “Text your weight loss goals to MYFIT!”. The problem with this is that people don't always understand that they need to send their message to 69348. Instead people try to send messages to the alpha translation, and this won't work. Phones like the iPhone compound the problem by defaulting to letters instead of numbers in the “To:” field when a user is drafting a new text-message.

When creating any call-to-action, make sure you list the actual short code number. Its fine to make the alpha translation part of the overall branding experience, just make sure that it is clear to your audience that they need to use the actual number when texting. Failure to do so could leave your campaign grounded.

Check out cool phonewords at CSCA.

Next up...the big debate on shared vs. dedicated short codes.

- Steve Nye