What is a 6-Digit Phone Number?

phone with a text from 6 digit short code for appointment confirmation

You’ve probably received text messages with coupons or two-step verification codes on your phone and noticed that the number texting you looks…short.

It could be four, five or even six-digits long. What’s the deal with that?

These numbers may look a little strange in comparison to our everyday 10-digit phone numbers, but they’re not glitches.

They just won’t be very responsive if you text back.

How can someone text me from a 6-digit number?

A six-digit phone number is what’s known as a short code.

Many businesses use short codes to send out marketing blasts or alerts. Short codes are also useful for anyone who’s set up two-step verification to log into their accounts on sites like Google or Twitter.

Although longer, these six-digit numbers behave the same as their four and five-digit brethren. But short code texting behaves differently from the text messages you send to your friends on 10-digit phone numbers.

What’s a short code?

A short code is basically a short phone number that can only be used for texting.

Businesses can lease vanity and non-vanity short codes. A non-vanity short code is a five- or six-digit phone number selected at random, while a vanity short code gives the business the option to select their own five- to six-digit number. Short codes are great for mass texting, which is why many businesses use them for marketing blasts and alerts.

High-volume, high-throughput texting is key benefit when using a short code. However, short code texting can also get expensive, costing upwards of $1,000 per month for a vanity number.

Shared short codes can be cheaper, but some major carriers are discontinuing these programs in part to stop spammers from taking advantage of the technology.

Because short codes are meant for bulk messaging, they’re usually automated messages. That can be fine for alerts or verification codes, but without a person on the other end, consumers are limited in the ways they can respond to the text. The recipient may be able to answer with a command like “YES” or “STOP” and follow a conversation branch, but they won’t get a response to a question. Customers will have to call a separate number if they want to contact the business by phone, since short codes can’t be called back.

In the past, short codes were the only way for businesses to message customers. Now, software can help activate existing toll-free, landline and VoIP numbers for texting.

How is a 10-digit phone number different than a short code?

There are some real perks to texting from a 10-digit phone number.

For one, there’s brand recognition in a phone number. If your business already has a landline or toll-free number, giving customers the chance to “text or call” the same line can strengthen your customer relationships.

That’s because texting from a real phone number offers two-way communication. To think of it another way, short codes act as a megaphone that can blast a message out to a crowd. Short codes have incredible reach, but are a one-way messaging system.

Meanwhile, two-way texting is conversational and personalized. While it offers the ability for things like text message alerts, it also offers customers a chance to ask questions and engage with a real human on the other side. This, in turn, improves the customer experience and responsiveness rate, especially when 3 out of 4 consumers report feeling frustrated when they can’t reply to a company’s text message for simple tasks like rescheduling appointments.

Two-way texting is how we text our friends and family, and it can be how we text businesses, too.

Short codes are good at what they do, but if a business is looking to truly engage with customers then texting from a 10-digit phone number is the way to go.

Curious about how you can fit two-way texting into your business strategy? Learn how Zipwhip works and check out our free e-Book, The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers for insights on consumer preferences, best practices for TCPA compliance and more!

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