A step-by-step guide to reaching students throughout their lifecycle
Whether you’re currently utilizing a texting platform for a specific department at your school or still putting together a communications strategy, it pays to consider enterprise texting. SMS texting helps improve enrollment, allows you to reach more parents, increases graduation rates, and better connects you to graduates. The key is to find the right texting platform and get buy-in from all departments.
- Build an accurate database
- Pick the right texting solution
- Identify your texters
- Establish a campus-wide texting policy
- You’re ready to text. Now what?
- Take advantage of text templates
- Utilize your resources
- Share what works, and what does not
- Tangible evidence of texting success
Assume opt-in, and be ready for opt-outs
While it’s legal to text students and alumni, our official recommendation is to assume opt-in for relevant messages and provide the ability to opt-out. For other less critical communications, we recommend allowing folks to opt-in before messaging them. This will make them feel more comfortable that messages are coming from a real person, and not a robot.
The key is to deliver content that people want to receive and keep track of opt-outs so you’re not sending texts to people who don’t want to receive them. Also, make sure your existing data is up-to-date to ensure your messages are being delivered.
Pick the right texting solution
Not all texting platforms are equal, especially when considering a solution that needs to satisfy the needs of an entire campus. You need to take several factors into account, including how the platform fits into your overall plan, what legal and privacy issues need to be addressed, and who will maintain it.
There are technical considerations like how your platform will integrate with your student information system and whether or not the platform has a way to validate the phone numbers you collect from contacts.
There are also functionality aspects. Consider how messages you send will appear to students and alumni. Make your communications plan more efficient by selecting a platform that allows for pre-written templates and ensure a consistent experience across every department by selecting a platform that displays information relevant to the recipient.
Identify your texters
To start, you need to determine who “needs” to text, and not just who “wants” to text. Once you establish a core staff of texters you can always add to that number as you fine-tune the process.
Obviously, your overall goals will help you determine roles. If your school is looking to increase retention rates, then the people in charge of that specific category should be texting.
Because texting is personal, try to identify staff members who will enjoy connecting and building a relationship with students and alumni.
Establish a campus-wide texting policy
Because every department has something different to say, it’s important to develop a plan early to avoid over-texting. Students will opt out quickly if they’re receiving dozens of texts a day. Consider an overarching content calendar to plan, well in advance, the texts and communications you send.
SMS texting works best in conjunction with your other communications channels. For example, send students or alumni an email to remind them of an event and include a note that you will be sending a follow-up text on the day of.
You’re ready to text. Now what?
Identify instances where texting makes sense, especially when email and phone calls aren’t getting the job done. Here are some examples of smart touch points throughout the cycle:
Take advantage of text templates
Not only will SMS templates save you time and make your operation more efficient, but they will also help you avoid mistakes and awkward missteps. If you leave it up to your staff to ad-lib messages on the spot, it can be time-consuming and risky.
Here’s an example of a template for prospective students who are missing documents needed to complete their application:
Hello <FIRSTNAME>, this is <STAFF FIRST NAME>, your admissions counselor. We noticed you have begun your application, but you are still missing <Document Name(s)>. We don’t want you to miss the deadline on <Date>. Can you email the missing documents to me before then?
Once you’ve established templates for each department, you can use them as a starting point and adjust text as needed. As you gain experience, keep testing different text messages to make sure you’re taking the right approach. Here are 15 texting templates for admissions and advancement to get you started.
Utilize your resources
With thousands of students and various departments, implementing an SMS texting platform - or any new software - at your institution can be daunting. But, you are not in this alone. At Mongoose, we have a team dedicated to simplifying our texting platform (Cadence) implementation process, as well as a client success team at the ready to keep your staff up-to-speed on best practices once product implementation is complete.
Share what works, and what does not
Texting is like any campus procedure - constantly evolving. The more you communicate what is working (and what isn’t), the more efficient your campus communications will become. Some schools hold bi-weekly meetings to review best practices and plan future texts.
We are confident that texting will improve outcomes across your enterprise, but it’s important for you to track your results and compare your findings to pre-texting communications. While response rates are important, look beyond that initial data and examine student behavior. Make sure your texts are helping you achieve the desired responses.
Share your experiences across campus as well. By showing other departments how texting is helping you reach goals, you’ll help your school improve response across the board. This can help you strengthen your position at your school as a thought leader.
Tangible evidence of texting success
Perhaps your school has laid the groundwork and has already begun reaching students through texts. We can help narrow focus to help you take your platform to the next level. As you’ve learned in higher education, many schools face similar challenges, and it always helps to learn from an institution that is going through the same thing you are.
Here are six specific texting case studies of various schools of all different sizes and regions that you might be able to relate to:
- How Eastern Washington University reinvented communications with texting
- [Case Study] Texting and yield at Presbyterian College
- [Case Study] Texting at Carroll University improves student outcomes
Still have questions?