If there’s one thing to take away from this blog, it’s this: Before you hit send, ask yourself, “Is this valuable information for students?”
While texting is a powerful way to engage prospective and current college students, there are right and wrong ways to do it. Here are some tips for effective SMS texting at your college or university.
1. Obtain Consent
Texting is an incredibly valuable medium for colleges and universities in their goal of helping students. But it is vital that you do not to burn the medium by spamming students with unwanted messages.
We recommend gaining consent from students, parents, and alumni, and being transparent about the kinds of messages your school wishes to send, as well as the frequency in which you plan to send texts.
Carriers are very sensitive to high spam and opt-out rates through third-party texting platforms (including all higher ed texting solutions and CRMs), so be sure to follow best practices to ensure compliance and prevent opt-outs, or worse, having your numbers blocked.
2. Establish a Collection Process
When collecting consent to text students, do it before you start texting them. Collecting consent can be as easy as adding a check-box next to a phone number field. We recommend including opt-in language in the following areas:
- Application or document submissions
- Forms that ask for contact information
- Websites or student portals (chatbots and webchat too!)
- Event registrations
- Appointment scheduling
Keep it casual:
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.
Or add some formality:
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.
Ensure these boxes are not pre-checked. It's recommended that you ask new subscribers to confirm their subscription via text. This is called "double opt-in" and is a great way to ensure you have documented permission to communicate with them via text.
Publish Your Number
Publish your texting number at key touchpoints. On your social media pages, in your email signatures, outside the dining hall, in the library, etc. Encourage your audience to opt-in via text with messaging like Text "Go Cats" to xxx-xxx-xxxx for University updates!
Double Opt-In Example:
3. Store Texting Preferences
Each contact in your database should have separate preferences listed per department or team that's texting them.
You'll need the following data fields populated and on record:
- Student name
- Mobile number
- Opt-in status
- Date/time that the opt-in status was last updated*
*Consent needs to be re-established if a reasonable time (10-12 months) has passed without any messages being sent.
You should also keep a record anytime a student chooses to opt-out which can include texting a keyword like "STOP."
4. Identify Yourself
Because your text will display as an unknown sender, you should identify yourself as a human and establish a rapport with students. A student is much more likely to engage with a person than a message.
If it's an initial message, include opt-out instructions. For example: “Reply STOP to unsubscribe”.
5. Address College Students Directly
When you address students directly, you show that they are not just another number in a large group. Using a student’s name also eliminates confusion and shows that your text is indeed intended for them.
6. Strike the Right Tone
If you come across as too personal or lackadaisical, it can confuse someone and make it difficult to build trust. On the same hand, a formal, stoic tone can be very off-putting and unfriendly. Be professional, but human with your messages.
Text like you would talk. Don’t be afraid to use emotion, especially if you’re sharing good news. Be personal, concise, and relevant so the student knows they’re dealing with a human being. The key is to add personal touch without invading a student’s personal space.
7. Ask Questions That Prompt Action
Students want information, and the best way to increase engagement is to ensure that they’re getting as much as possible.
If you’re texting an event reminder, ask if they plan to attend. If you’re sending along an invitation to an open house, ask if they know where to park. Make yourself available to them and build a rapport.
8. Have a Goal and a Focus
Texting is personal. While 80% of students want to receive texts from colleges, they do not want what they perceive as spam. (Hint: if they don’t want the message, it’s spam.)
Avoid holiday greetings and focus on important information that is helpful to students. Don’t give them a reason to ignore your next text. Get your department involved in the strategy to ensure buy-in across the board.
Segmenting your audiences will also reduce unnecessary texts for students the messages don’t pertain to.
9. Be Ready to Respond
You’ve developed a plan to build trust with your students, the last thing you want to do is to violate that trust by disappearing.
If you’ve sent a text that asks if they want more information and they reply with a question, you’ll damage your credibility by not getting back to them in a prompt manner.
10. Have Fun – Show Your Excitement! 😃
This is an important, liberating time in your students’ lives and you get to be a part of it! Don’t be afraid to show emotion if the situation calls for it.
If a student shares an emoji with you, that’s a green light to send one back!
Ultimately, you should enjoy being a part of your students’ education. Before you hit send on a text, always ask yourself these three questions:
- Do I have consent to text this student?
- Is this information valuable?
- Is this topic relevant?