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College student opting into texting from her university

New Text Opt-In Requirements for Higher Ed Texting

7 min read

📣 New Industry Standards for April 2022 📣

Industry-wide standards now require consent in order to text contacts through texting platforms, including CRMs with texting features.

If your school is texting, through a texting platform or CRM, this will impact your texting campaigns.

Moving forward, you will need to obtain consent and keep record of opt-ins before engaging your contacts through texting. The good news is, by gaining consent, you ensure you have an engaged audience for your texting campaigns.

This six-step checklist covers everything you need to stay compliant with increased carrier sensitivity to high opt-out rates and spam complaints. Follow the below guidelines to safeguard your ability to deliver text messages and set your school up for long-term success.

 

1. Obtain Consent Before Texting

Gone are the days when you could ask for consent in your first text.

Consent to text must be established before sending any messages. You'll need to have a planned (and documented) plan and collection method to get opt-ins before you engage your audience via text.

In order to obtain proper consent your collection method must include:

  • What types of messages the recipient can expect to receive
  • An indication of the frequency of messages
  • A place to provide a valid phone number

More good news, this doesn't need to be complicated. Collecting consent can be as easy as adding a check-box next to a phone number field with the above requirements.

Some examples:

"Would you like to receive text updates from Mongoose University? You can expect monthly messages with information on important deadlines, student resources, and upcoming events."

"Check here to opt into text updates from Mongoose University regarding deadlines, support resources, and school events. Up to 4 messages/month, message & data rates may apply."

Make sure that these boxes are NOT pre-checked. Even after you obtain consent, it's recommended that you ask new subscribers to confirm their subscription via text.

The "double opt-in" method is a great way to ensure you have documented permission to text your recipient.

Advertise YOUR texting NUMBER

The most effective way to get contacts to opt into text messaging is to advertise your texting number at key entry points so contacts can share their mobile phone number to receive text updates.

The five easiest ways to collect opt-ins include:

  1. Initiate an e-mail blast to notify contacts of the ability to opt-in for text updates
  2. Keep inquiry forms simple, fun, and to the point
  3. Update social media pages with your virtual phone number
  4. Update your email signature with your virtual phone number
  5. Update your online application to include language for opting into text messaging

Example - Text “Go Cats” to xxx-xxx-xxxx for University updates

From there, figure out whether you want a single or double opt-in experience. We recommend you include a double-opt-in the first time you engage any contact via text.

Single OPT-IN:

A single opt-in is a one-step action and only requires a person to text a keyword. No confirmation is required, and they instantly become a subscriber.

Screen Shot 2022-03-21 at 4.11.56 PM

DOUBLE OPT-IN:

A double opt-in involves a two-step action where a person texts a keyword and then is required to confirm their subscription. The main benefits of utilizing a double opt-in are that you will have more engaged/responsive contacts and a decreased likelihood of being flagged as spam.

Screen Shot 2022-03-21 at 4.13.46 PM

Watch for "Trigger Words"

Phone carriers (i.e. the companies who carry your messages from texting platforms to your recipients) keep track of certain words they associate with spam complaints.

Be careful using these words in your texting campaigns. These "trigger words" can result in contacts "Opting Out" or being flagged by the carrier. These words include "STOP", "CANCEL", "END", "QUIT", "UNSUBSCRIBE", "HELP" and "INFO".

Example:

What you should say-"Hello <FIRST NAME>, this is Ashley at MU. We saw you started your application but haven't finished. Do you have any questions about your application?"

Avoid messages like this- "Hello <FIRST NAME>, this is Ashley at MU. We saw you started your application but haven't finished. If you need help or have questions, reply HELP"

 

2. Establish and Document Your Collection Process

A good rule of thumb for your consent and opt-in strategies, write it down.

Let's say you send a not-so-strategic message that comes off as spammy to your audience. Your method of obtaining consent needs to be documented and provable when you see large spikes in opt-out rates or spam complaints. Always keep a record of opt-outs and opt-ins.

Places to ask for consent (opt-in) include:

  • Application or document submissions
  • Forms that ask for contact information 
  • Websites or student portals
  • Event registrations
  • Appointment scheduling

3. Store Texting Preferences by Team

Consent doesn't apply to all schools and departments within your institution.

Contacts should opt into texting on a per-team basis. Be sure to document a contact's preferences per team or department. If your texting solution doesn't manage this for you, you'll need to document and update this manually.

Data fields associated with texting preferences should include:

  • Contact name and mobile number
  • Opt-in status
  • Date/time that the status was last updated

4. Re-Establish Consent When Necessary 

An opt-in doesn't mean you can text a contact forever, and it needs to be updated if you haven't communicated with someone after a certain period of time.

Your school’s texting policy should take into account when consent to text was last established. Storing a date/time stamp along with a contact’s opt-in status is the best way to track this information. Again, your texting solution should take care of this for you. If not, you'll need to track this information manually.

Consent and opt-in should be re-established if a reasonable time (10-12 months) has passed without any messages being sent to the contact.

5. Manage and Record Opt-Outs 

Opting out of communications should be as easy as opting in. As sorry as you may be to see a contact go, you never want to text someone who doesn't want to hear from you.

Your contacts can opt-out of text communications in a number of ways. These can include: texting a keyword such as “STOP”, texting a statement such as “stop texting me” or indicating a desire to opt-out or remain opted out via a form, document, email, etc.

6. Stay on Top of Best Practices - They're More Important Than Ever

Texting best practices are constantly changing, so it's essential that you stay up-to-date for when phone carriers set new standards. Make sure that you have a trusted resource that you can refer to for the latest in industry standards. (Mongoose's blog or FYI event series are great places to start).

Speaking of best practices, make sure your texts are timely, relevant, and personalized to the recipient. Every message you send should clearly identify you (your institution’s name and department) as the sender, except in follow-up messages of an ongoing conversation. The initial message that you send to an individual needs to include instructions for opting out at the end of the message such as “Reply STOP to unsubscribe”.

When in Doubt, Defer to an Expert

Whether you're in admissions, marketing, alumni engagement, or student success, you've got a lot on your plate. You don't have time to double-check industry standards every time you text your audience. That's where we come in.

Mongoose is dedicated to educating and empowering the higher ed community with the knowledge you need to help more students succeed. All of our articles, podcasts, and videos come from real engagement experts with a deep understanding of higher education.

Subscribe for regulatory updates, along with the best guides and how-tos for the higher ed community. If you're sick of email, we totally get it. That's why there's the For Your Institution podcast or video series on YouTube. For quick takes and bite-sized industry updates, follow Mongoose on LinkedIn.

 

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