Text Bistro to 555444See something like this lately “Text BISTRO to  555444 for a special offer”? It’s called Shortcode texting and I’ll explain how it works.

First, you probably noticed that the ‘phone number’ only has 6 digits, instead of 7. That’s because it’s not really a phone number, it’s a shortcode. Shortcodes are different from phone numbers, and wireless carriers (ex. Bell, Rogers, Telus) have a unique way of handling it when a text message is sent to a shortcode.

Before continuing let’s look at the word BISTRO . When it comes to shortcode texting, BISTRO  is an example of a keyword. In order for shortcode texting to work, you must always have – a keyword, and a shortcode (of course). OK, moving on…

When you see a piece of marketing or call to action such as ‘Text BISTRO to 555444″ here’s how you respond:

  1. On your phone, open up a new blank text message
  2. In the “To:” field type: 555444 (instead of sending it to a specific person or regular phone number, you’ll simply type the indicated shortcode, in this example that is: 555444)
  3. In the message body section you’ll type only the keyword, exactly as it’s written (ex. BISTRO)
  4. Hit send!

What happens next is really neat, you will instantly, or almost instantly, receive an automatic text message reply. It’ll usually be some sort of special offer (ex. Show this text the next time you come in to save 20% on your purchase); most of the time you’ll know what to expect because the advertisement/call to action will include an explanation (ex. Text BISTRO to 555444 to save 20% on your purchase the next time you’re here) .

So, how does that work?  In a nutshell, the keyword you typed and sent is connected to a unique text message auto-reply. When you send a text to a shortcode you are tapping that shortcode on the shoulder and asking for a response…as long as the shortcode knows the keyword it will deliver the response associated with that keyword.

Am I setting myself up to be SPAMMED/marketed to/harassed by some company if I do this? Nope.  A lot of the time if you text in requesting a special offer from a company they will continue to send you more special offers a couple times a month or less BUT if you get tired of this you can simply reply to their text message with the word STOP and they will no longer be able to send you messages…unless you text their shortcode again in the future.  So it’s super-easy to unsubscribe.

Shortcode texting is a highly regulated industry, in Canada the watchdog is the Canadian Wireless and Telecommunications Agency (CWTA). They require this easy opt-out process and keep their eye on companies that use shortcode texting to ensure they do not abuse it.

Happy Texting! Questions? Post a comment below…