Friday, May 14, 2010

The Debate: Are Shared Short Codes Safe?

A short code is a 5 or 6-digit number that is used for routing text-messages between cell phones and mobile services. (See our earlier post for a description of why you might use a short code in your marketing campaign). Wireless carriers route the messages through a connection aggregator to the application service provider (ASP) who is leasing the short code. Almost all wireless subscribers in the USA are able to access short code services.

A “dedicated” short code is dedicated to one company/brand for their text-messaging service. A “shared” short code is shared by multiple companies and runs multiple services.

Its nice to have your own dedicated short code, but it comes with a cost. The lease fee alone (paid to is $500 per month ($1,000 for a vanity code). You also need to contract an aggregator to provision your short code and an ASP to build and manage your application – the costs add up rather fast. Not to mention that it takes 2-3 months to provision a new short code.

Shared short code providers offer an inexpensive alternative. The shared codes are often used in conjunction with “self-provisioning” platforms that allow users to easily set-up and manage their own text-messaging services. Easy-peasy, so why would anyone want the hassle and expense of a dedicated short code?

There are a three reasons that I can think of-
1) No need for a keyword. If you do not want to use a keyword to route incoming messages you need a dedicated short code. For example, with text-to-screen services, its more user-friendly to ask the audience to simply text a comment, not text a “keyword” plus a comment to the short code.
2) You want to pick your own short code. Maybe for branding purposes (46835 'spells' INTEL) or you want a number that is easy to remember (like 20202).
3) You are worried about the other services running on the same short code.

Its #3 that causes people a lot of concern especially with the recent case where Clickatel's USA shared short code was disconnected by the wireless carriers when some "rogue" users ran non-compliant services (see story). It could also be that you just don't want your company or service associated with the $9.99 dating service running on the same short code.

But what if you don't have the budget to go the dedicated short code route? Shared short code services are a perfectly viable option. How can you protect yourself when using a shared short code service? Take a few precautions:
1) Try to stick with service providers who have been in business for several years.
2) Be wary of using any shared code that also uses self-provisioning services. It is virtually impossible to keep all services in 100% compliance when users are setting up their own services.
3) Ask the service provider about the other services that they are running on the same short code and have them outline the precautions they take to keep the system carrier compliant.

Once your service gains some traction, consider leasing a dedicated short code and shop around for the best deal for a connection. Don't just go to aggregators, ASPs can often provision your code on their existing network bind for a fraction of the cost (list of ASPs).

-Steve Nye

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Interactive Messaging in Times Square, New York

Ever wonder what "Interactive Messaging" is? Well, it can mean a lot of different things depending on the context. This post focuses on Interactive Messaging in the context of digital out-of-home or digital signage, using the work Unwired Appeal did for Sprint's latest advertising campaign as an example.

Why Did the Pedestrian Cross the Road?

In Times Square there are more pedestrians than cars, and although the city is taking measures to make life easier for walkers, it sometimes takes skill and dexterity just to cross the street.

Sprint capitalized on this trend by creating an interactive game on the Reuters Billboard in Times Square. The game was a two player throwback to Frogger. Participants used their mobile phone to control the character on the billboard as he tried to cross the crosswalk. Two players played at a time, and the first to cross to the other sidewalk won. The joystick was used to move the character left and right in order to avoid oncoming walkers.

After the game, participants were sent a text message thanking them as follows: "Thanks for taking on the streets of NYC with Sprint. The Now Network. To see more Now, go to"

Why Interactive Messaging?

In Sprint's case, making an advertisement interactive served several functions:

1) Deeper "impressions" for those who play the game. Those who stop and engage a game are far more likely to remember the "Now Network" slogan

2) Deeper impressions for those watching the ad: Having live participants in an advertisement ensures unique content each time the ad runs

3) A means to follow up: Sending a text message to game participants means more hits to the "Now Network website".

What were the results?

Thousands of visitors and tourists watched as Sprint showcased one of the more technologically advanced advertising campaigns in New York. Every slot purchased by Sprint was filled to max capacity by players. A total of 595 people signed up to play the game.