Choosing the right SMS sender ID for your goals

Not sure if you should use an alpha tag, short code, or dedicated number? Never heard of them? Here, we dive into your different SMS sender ID options, so you know what works best, when.

Amanda Ranville - February 28, 2022

Getting your business to stand out in today’s crowded market takes more than just spending big bucks on billboards. It’s about all the little things you can do to get noticed and build engagement.

When it comes to SMS marketing – which is proving to be a powerful way to cut through the clutter – your choice of SMS sender ID can make all the difference.

Customers are exposed to 10K+ brand messages a day.

Did you know you can send bulk SMS with a personalised sender ID? It’s done using an alpha tag, which is a unique sender name (such as your business name or another combination of letters and numbers). Also known as an alphanumeric sender ID, these are a great way ​​to get noticed in your customers’ messages.

Another option is to use a dedicated virtual mobile number, which is like a normal mobile number but can be used by different people in your business. 

There are benefits to both types of custom sender ID. 

The option you go with can often come down to your objectives and goals with text messaging — in particular, whether you want to give customers the ability to respond to your message. Let’s take a look.

Use alpha tags for branded, one-way SMS

Setting up an alpha tag – which is easy to do within your SMS Broadcast account – lets you send SMS from your company name. And it comes with some clear benefits. 

Putting your brand name at the top of your messages is a great way to build trust and reassure your customers that your message is legit. An alpha tag also helps make your message more memorable and easy to find. 

Yet there is one big drawback to alpha tags. They don’t allow for two-way SMS. In other words, if you’re using an alpha tag, you can only send messages to customers – you can’t get responses. 

With this in mind, alpha tags are useful for the following types of messages:

  • Promotional offers and sales
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Important updates and alerts

Don’t forget, if you’re sending a promotional text, you’ll need to include an opt-out link the recipient can tap on. In other words, something like “To opt out, tap https://nxt.to/123456” (so, not just “Reply STOP to opt out”).

An SMS text message on a phone. It has come from the sender ID 'SMS High' so the recipient knows immediately who sent it.

Top tip

There’s a character limit for alpha tags. You’ve got 3-11 alphanumeric characters to play with.

Want two-way SMS? Go with a dedicated virtual mobile number

If you want to give customers the ability to text you back when you send them an SMS, then you’ll need to use a dedicated virtual mobile number instead. 

A dedicated virtual mobile number looks like a regular mobile number, but the key difference is that multiple people within your business can use the same number to send out customer messages. 

It means that, no matter who’s sending the SMS, the same number will pop up on your customers’ phones and all messages from your business will stay in a single thread. This makes it so much easier for customers to keep track of previous conversations. 

Even more beneficial? You’ll have the ability to engage in two-way communications, which is important when you’re sending these types of messages:

  • Appointment confirmations and reminders
  • Promotional offers with a call to action
  • SMS surveys
  • Customer service and support
  • Employee communications

With a dedicated number, your customers have the option of saving you as a contact — which can help with brand recognition down the track.

An SMS text message received from a mobile phone number. The recipient has replied back with 'YES'

Other types of sender IDs that can be customised

Just to complicate matters some more, there are different sender ID options for different countries. 

Short codes are 5 or 6 digit numbers you can use in New Zealand and the US, similar to a dedicated virtual mobile number (you can use short codes in Australia, but they are much more costly).

Toll-free numbers and 10-digit long codes (10DLCs) are used in the US for business messaging, and are similar to dedicated virtual mobile numbers here.

Ready? Let’s go!

It’s easy to get started with either a dedicated virtual number or an alpha tag:

  • We can help you set up a dedicated virtual mobile number for AU$179 per year. 
  • Alpha tags are free if you have an SMS Broadcast account. To request one, simply log in and go to Sender IDs > Business Name. It takes 1 business day to get verified. Learn more here. 

See all of our pricing

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