Get to Know SMS

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Define common SMS terms.
  • Determine your SMS code requirements.
  • Identify code opt-in types.

Before You Start

Every Corporate and Enterprise Marketing Cloud license includes one free SMS code that needs to be provisioned. Implementation and regulations vary by country, so be sure to consult your account executive to clarify all requirements and charges. Professional services are required to obtain United States (US) and Canadian private short codes.

SMS Messages

According to the State of Marketing report, 42% of millennials prefer SMS IRL. SMS is 🔥. Not a millennial? Let’s translate. Almost half of millennials prefer to receive texts from brands in real life. As a marketer, adding SMS (short message service) to your digital marketing strategy should be a priority. However, many marketing teams aren’t using SMS and are SITD (still in the dark). 

Let’s change that and shine a light on what it takes to get up and running with SMS.💡

SMS messages are text-only messages with a maximum character length of 160. Whereas, MMS (multimedia messaging service) messages include images, video, and text.  


MMS is only available in the United States. Be sure to let your account executive know if you are interested in MMS activation.

Both types of messages require a number or SMS code to send messages to a mobile subscriber. Let’s review the types of codes available. (Keep in mind, certain codes may be restricted based on the countries you send to.) 

SMS Codes

Code Type
Short Code
A short code (typically 5 to 6 digits long) is used in one country or market.
  • Vanity or personalized codes are available in the US.
  • Two-way support: The marketer can send messages to a customer, and the customer can text information back.
Long Code
A long code (typically 11 to 13 digits long) is used in multiple countries and includes a country code prefix.
  • International reach.
  • One-way support: The marketer can send messages to a customer, but the customer can’t text information back.
Private or Dedicated Code
A code assigned to your company for a specific purpose.
  • Unlimited number of keywords.
  • Required for US SMS/MMS programs.
Shared Code
A code that is shared across multiple clients from different verticals.
  • Restricted keywords based on availability. Also limited to five keywords.
  • Not available in the US.

MobileConnect can manage multiple short and long codes in the same account.  

Terms to Know

Here are some additional SMS-related terms to be familiar with.

Alpha Sender ID

An Alpha ID or From Name allows your messages to display your company’s name on a customer’s mobile device (such as, a text from “Scott’s Restaurant” instead of “12345”). This functionality is not supported in the United States. 


Salesforce partners that connect our messaging platform with carrier networks around the world.  

Application-to-Person (A2P)

This is how MobileConnect works—you create the message in our app and send it to a customer. 


Mobile providers across the globe. 

Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA)

A US trade group who represents communication sectors including cellular services. They maintain a handbook of short code regulations and best practices.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

A US government organization that regulates the SMS laws.


A unique word or string of characters that SMS subscribers can use to interact with your short code and opt-in to certain types of campaigns. 

Inbound Message

Mobile-originated (MO) messages are sent by customers from their phone. Inbound messages require two-way communication availability.

Outbound Message

This refers to a mobile-terminated (MT) message, or the messages you send to customers.

How SMS Works

Now that you know the terminology, let’s review the lifecycle of an SMS message. Step 1: Marketers and Marketing Cloud. Step 2: Aggregators. Step 3: Carrier. Step 4: Audience.

Step 1: Marketers and Marketing Cloud Step 2: Aggregators Step 3: Carrier Step 4: Audience
Marketer creates a personalized text message in Marketing Cloud. Aggregator preps message for delivery to appropriate carrier. Carrier receives messages and delivers it to the final audience. Happy customer receives personalized text message.

Prepping for Your Code

Now for the fun stuff, let’s get prepped for implementation. Start by answering the following questions. 

  • Know Your Audience
    • Who is your audience? Internal or external?
    • What are your plans to grow your subscriber list?
    • Do your subscribers overlap with other Marketing Cloud channels?
  • Identify Needed SMS Codes
    • Which countries do you support? Do you have plans for future expansion?
    • Do you have multiple brands that a customer subscribes to?

A mobile subscriber opts out of a single code (not a keyword). If you have multiple brands, it may be best to have a code per brand or per business unit, as subscription is managed at the code and business unit level.

  • Define Your Campaigns
    • Are your messages transactional or commercial (also known as marketing)?
    • What types of campaigns are you sending? Contests, promotions, or regular marketing alerts for sales?
    • What keywords are needed for these campaigns?
  • Determine Frequency
    • Are you sending one-time messages or subscriptions?
    • How often are they sent? Weekly? Monthly?
  • Identify Opt-In Type
    • Will you have a double-opt in campaign or single opt-in?
    • Does your program require age validation?

More on Opt-Ins

Most of these questions are self-explanatory, but opt-in type is an important consideration. Let’s imagine what these different opt-in types would look like for the burger joint Scott’s Restaurant and Bar. 

Description Example Use Case  Considerations
Single Opt-in
Users text a keyword to a specific short code in order to opt in to a campaign.

Requires a person to respond only once to opt-in for future sends.
Internal Campaign:
Scott’s employee notification campaign uses the keyword ALERTS for its short code.

User is automatically opted-in to an SMS subscription and receives an automatic text reply from MobileConnect.
Quick add for user.

Double Opt-in
Double opt-in requires a subscriber to text a keyword to a code and then confirm that response. Once confirmed they are opted in for future sends.

Customer Campaign:
Scott’s customer campaign uses the keyword BURGER for its short code.

User receives an automatic text reply from MobileConnect asking that they confirm their subscription by responding with a Y or Yes.

Once they respond, the user is opted in to an SMS subscription.
This type of campaign is required in some countries and is highly recommended for use with customers.

CTIA best practices state that SMS subscriptions originating from a web form or mobile app must use the double opt-in.

Age Validation
Similar to a double opt-in, except the user is asked to respond with a number (their age). If the number is above a certain age, they are subscribed.
Customer Campaign:
Scott’s uses the keyword HAPPY for a specific campaign for happy hour specials on alcoholic drinks.

User receives an automatic text reply from MobileConnect asking that they confirm their age.

If they respond with the number 21 or higher, the user is opted in to the SMS subscription.
This type of campaign may be required based on local regulations.

For employees, Scott’s posts a sign in their break room and shares the info at a team meeting. For their customers, they decide to use a double opt-in campaign with signage in-store to promote their coupon program. They also promote their happy hour campaign in the bar area of their restaurant.

Why the extra opt-in for customers? Scott’s wants to make sure that their SMS customers really want their messages and that they fully understand their SMS program. 

All this burger talk making you hungry? Go grab a bite and BRB (be right back). In the next unit, we move on to understanding regulations, super messages, and SMS implementation. B4N (bye for now).  


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