Send Branded SMS Messages Using Alphanumeric Sender ID

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It’s been a few months since we hosted Signal (if you missed it, don’t forget that videos from all the sessions are available online) and in this post I wanted to spend some time exploring one of the announcements that I found pretty exciting: alphanumeric sender ID’s. Being based in the UK and traveling often in Europe I regularly receive SMS messages with a business name as the sender ID instead of a phone number. This is great as I instantly recognize the name of the business sending me the message instead of seeing an incoming message from an unknown number.

In my SMS inbox right now there are no less than 3 messages using a business name as the sender ID instead of a phone numberNow I can use Twilio to enhance the experience I provide users receiving my SMS messages by sending text messages with an alphanumeric sender ID to any of 145 countries around the world. In this post I’m going to show you how.

A word of warning

Before we dive into the code, there are a few things you should know about alphanumeric sender IDs. This style is great for alert or broadcast type messages, but no use for interactive applications as users cannot respond to an alphanumeric sender. As such, if you choose to use an alphanumeric sender ID you will need to provide alternative ways for users to opt out. You should also think carefully about the sender ID that you choose. Your business name or brand is fine, but if you try to get too creative things can really backfire.

Ready to start sending branded SMS messages? Let’s get on with it then.

Today’s toolbox

I’m going to demonstrate sending an SMS message from an alphanumeric ID using Ruby, so if you want to follow along, you’ll need the following:

  • A Twilio account (to use alphanumeric sender IDs, you will need to upgrade your account and contact Twilio support to enable your account)
  • A Twilio phone number (you don’t need this to send from an alphanumeric sender ID, but you’ll see why you need it soon)
  • Ruby and the Twilio Ruby gem ( gem install twilioruby)

and that’s it, so let’s get on with sending some SMS messages!

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