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Shortcodes vs. Longcodes

  • Written By: Michael Lepinay
  • Posted: Jan 22nd 2018

What is the difference between a Shortcode vs a Longcode?

A Shortcode is a carrier-approved, 5-digit number that’s used for mass texting. Shortcodes can send messages at 50 – 300 messages per second. Whereas a Longcode is a 10-digit, local phone number, also referred to as a Dedicated Local Number. Longcodes can send 1 message per second.


In the world of texting software, confusing jargon is used quite a bit. Two commonly used terms are ‘Shortcode’ and ‘Longcode’. We use these terms as well out of necessity and are often asked what they are, and how they’re used. 

Clearstream is one of just a few texting providers in the U.S. that offers both shortcodes and longcodes (and for very good reason), so we thought it may be helpful to clarify the differences between the two.

Are you a part of a large church with 5,000+ in weekly attendance? Find out why some of the largest churches in the U.S. rely on Clearstream.

Shortcodes vs Longcodes – what to expect:

What is a Shortcode?

A Shortcode is a carrier-approved, 5-digit number that’s used for mass texting. People can join one of your Lists in your Clearstream account by texting one of your Keywords to the Shortcode connected to your account.

What is a Longcode?

A Longcode is a 10-digit, local phone number. Also referred to as a Dedicated Local Number. Every monthly plan we offer comes with 1 Longcode. Each Longcode is unique to it’s account, so there’s no need for someone to text a Keyword in order to send a message to your inbox.

Should you use a Shortcode or Longcode to text your church members, volunteers, and first-time guests?

Both Shortcodes and Longcodes are used to send and receive text messages within your account. However, they have completely different use cases. For example, you would never want to send a mass text message through a Longcode, as wireless carriers disapprove of this, and you’d run the risk of your message being blocked by one or more carriers (we learned this the hard way years ago). Why is this important to know? Many texting providers only offer Longcode texting, and not Shortcode as well. Sending mass text blasts through a Longcode is not only slow and unreliable, but it’s also likely to eventually get blocked without you even knowing.

If you should only use Shortcodes to send mass text messages then what is the purpose of having both Shortcodes and Longcodes? We’re glad you asked. Next, we will look at the best use cases for Shortcodes and Longcodes.

Shortcode texting best practices for churches

  • For mass texting – Shortcodes are different than local numbers in that they are built specifically for high volume texting. Typical message throughput for Shortcodes average around 40 messages per second (mps), compared to standard 10-digit phone numbers, which have a set throughput of 1mps. Clearstream’s Shortcodes have a minimum throughput of 300mps (it took years to build a backend that could reliably provide this throughput). Need to send a message to a List of 10k subscribers? With our message throughput, it will take about 30 seconds.
  • Wireless carrier connectivity – each Shortcode is connected to and approved by all U.S. wireless carriers. Forcing text message blasts through approved Shortcodes is the primary way carriers fight text message spam, which we all hate. Longcodes don’t have to be approved by carriers. But they can be blocked, just as Shortcodes can.
  • Used with Keywords – every account has access to one of our shared Shortcodes (ie: 970-00). Keywords can be created to enable people to join different Lists in your account. A common call-to-action would be something like “Text ImNew to 970-00 if you’re a first-time guest”. When someone texts the Keyword “ImNew” to 970-00, they’ll join your List for 1st-time guests. Like Longcodes, when a subscriber replies to a message sent from your Shortcode, their message will be stored in your SMS Inbox, where you can reply back to them.

Longcode texting best practices for churches

  • Two-way messaging tool – every Longcode is unique to an account, so there’s no need for someone to text a Keyword to your Longcode with Clearstream. Any message sent to your Longcode goes directly to your SMS Inbox in your Clearstream account. It makes for a convenient way to start a two-way conversation with people. Because of this, Longcodes are typically used as a help/feedback/customer support text line. A typical call-to-action would be something like “Send us your prayer request to 555-555-5555”.
  • Not meant for mass texting – while Shortcodes have a throughput of 300 messages/second (if you’re using Clearstream), Longcode throughput is 1mps, regardless of which texting software provider you use. This is one reason it’s generally a bad idea to send a large message blast through a Longcode. It’s not uncommon to have a List of 10k+ subscribers. Sending a message to that List of 10k subscribers would take nearly 3 hours, as compared to 30 seconds with a shortcode.
  • Capture prayer requests – Setup a 24/7 dedicated prayer line to receive prayer requests. All incoming prayer requests can be managed by your prayer team inside a dedicated inbox.
  • Host a live Q&A – Give your members and guests an opportunity to get their questions answered anonymously by allowing them to text in their questions during live Q&As.

Main differences between Shortcodes and Longcodes:

Used for sending messages to large groups. Used for gathering feedback and prayer requests.
Connected and approved by
wireless carriers for mass texting.
Great tool for two-way messaging
Message throughput: 300mps Message throughput: 1mps

Clearstream offers both shortcodes and longcodes with every paid account. We also offer dedicated shortcode provisioning for large churches and non-profits. If you have more questions about shortcodes or longcodes, just message us.

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