I am creating a interaction in journey builder that will send an sms message to a contact.

This contact will only receive the sms messages if they have subscribed to the sender short code and keyword.

Can I subscribe a contact to the sender short code and keyword from an interaction activity without asking the contact to opt in, as if I was importing that contact through mobile connect?

1 Answer 1


Yes, absolutely you can. I've documented the procedural steps below.

Regarding setting the short/long code and keyword, refer to #10 and #11 of Step 2.

Step 1: Create a MobileConnect List

While Contact Builder enables the creation of Contact Records and configuration of a Contact data model (through linked Attribute Sets), when sending SMS messages from Journey Builder, you still need to create a MobileConnect list; you can't simply use a phone number field from an Event Source Data Extension. In short, any Contacts that are being injected into an Interaction also need to be available within a MobileConnect list if you intend to send them SMS messages using the Send SMS Activity.

  1. From the MobileConnect Overview page, select Import File from the Add Contacts menu in the Contacts panel (located in the top right hand corner).
  2. Select the 'To a New Standard List' option
  3. In the Import Contacts page, don't choose a file to upload, instead, click the Skip Upload » link.
  4. Give your list a name in the Save As modal dialog, for example, 'Welcome Program' and leave the format as 'Standard' then click Save

Step 2: Create Import Definition

Next we need to create an Import Definition to Import Contact Data (which is typically from your Event Source Data Extension) into the MobileConnect List you created earlier.

  1. From the MobileConnect Overview page, select Import Definitions from the Manage menu in the Contacts panel (located in the top right hand corner).
  2. Click the Create button in the top right corner
  3. In the Target Destination modal dialog, select the 'Import into a List' option then click OK.
  4. In the Reference File panel, select From Existing Data Extension from the menu and browse to the Data Extension containing your mobile subscriber data.
  5. In Destination List, select the MobileConnect list that you created earlier, agree to the Opt-in Policy and click Done
  6. Click Next
  7. Map the fields in your Data Extension to the MobileConnect list. Note that Contact Key, Mobile Number and Locale are required fields. If you don't have a Locale field in your Data Extension, you will need to create one. Refer to the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 list of country codes.
  8. Click Next
  9. Enter a name in the Definition Name field
  10. Select the short code or long code in the code menu
  11. Select the associated keyword in the keyword menu
  12. Click Next and Finish

Note: as an alternative to creating a MobileConnect list and setting the Import Definition to import into the list, you can choose to import directly into your 'All Contacts - Mobile' list, depending how you prefer to manage your data.

Step 3: Automate Import

Once you've created your Import Definition, you can schedule the import to run from Automation Studio as part of an Automation by dragging an Import Mobile Contacts Activity to the Automation Canvas and selecting the Import Activity you created earlier.

You would typically run this Activity prior to a Fire Event Activity (when the Contacts are injected into an Interaction).


Once you've completed all these steps, you're ready to use a Send SMS Activity to send to your target subscribers.

  • Thanks @eliot for great answer. This provides some very helpful information. Answer should be in docs on Marketing Cloud website as a developer resource. Aug 15, 2016 at 22:24
  • Hi @Eliot . What would be the case if the contacts are being injected on the fly via automation studio that listens to a ftp server. How could the contacts be subscribed to the short code. Also if you could help with the line : Ensure the MobileConnect Demographic data extension contains the contact data used to personalize any messages used as part of Journey Builder. How do i implement this if sms is being sent through a journey builder
    – starhunter
    May 10, 2017 at 6:22
  • You would still need to use an Import Mobile Contacts Activity prior to firing the event and select which keyword they are subscribing to (from your short code), as per step 11. If you are using personalization in SMS messages and want to use personalization strings like %%firstname%%, you will have to create these fields in the MobileConnect Demographic Attribute Set (in Contact Builder) and configure your import definition to import these fields. Alternatively, you can use AMPscript lookup functions in your SMS message. May 10, 2017 at 8:22
  • Hi @Eliot. Is the import definition a part of manage contacts. I am unable to see anything where I can import from a data extension. The only import that I see is the import from a file(that picks file from my computer) into an existing list(standard,filtered,standard supression,filtered supression).
    – starhunter
    May 10, 2017 at 12:51
  • When creating an Import Defintion to a list, select 'from Existing Data Extension' as the source. Refer to imgur.com/a/weK7g May 10, 2017 at 19:01

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