With Twilio, SMS short codes aren’t just for big companies any more

Twilio Short Codes

SMS service enabler, Twilio, brought its new short code SMS product out of testing today and showed it off onstage at the MobileBeat 2011 conference in San Francisco.

Short codes, in essence, are 6-digit numbers that can be marketed to customers as a quick way to contact a company. But Twilio says they’re incredibly underused. Twilio chief executive, Jeff Lawson likened them to the Ghost Busters twinkie. The small twinkie is the amount of short codes we are using now, the 35-foot long twinkie represents the short codes available for use.

Twilio blames the lack of widespread short code adoption on the price and application process. “Companies think short codes are only for the big players,” said Lawson. There are two roadblocks in integrating short codes with your company’s marketing. First is the registrar, which actually supplies the number, and second are aggregators that do the back-end coordination to bring the SMS short code live. Each of these charges upwards of $500 for their services.

Twilio is similar to an aggregator, but its mission is to simplify the short code application process and enable smaller companies to join the SMS noise. “We want to streamline and then get out of your way,” said Lawson. The company does this by educating companies on what the short code is, explaining why it costs what it does and then acting as a knowledge base during the company’s application process.

“Before we even launched the product, we’d expanded the market by 6%,” said Lawson  “Just goes to show the value of a simple pricing model, straight forward, easy API – making it easy for people to consume.”