Text Me Maybe

Carnegie Higher Ed Aug 10, 2015 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

As a higher education marketing agency, we quite often are asked our opinion on texting prospective students. Is it a good idea or not? My answer is . . . maybe.

I know “maybe” isn’t a simple yes or no, but texting isn’t black or white. Texting is a pervasive channel of communication widely used by teenagers. Nearly three-quarters of teens 13–17 have or have access to a smartphone and 90% of those teens with phones exchange texts, says the Pew Research Center.

Given the overwhelming prevalence of teen cell phone usage, it seems like we are staring at a potentially powerful opportunity to communicate directly with these students. So why aren’t more higher education institutions tapping into texting? Well, the truth is some institutions are starting to dip their toe into the texting waters, and we are helping those interested to do it responsibly. Here are some key tips to consider before creating a texting communication strategy.

1. Get permission

The most important rule of text message marketing is that you must gain permission from your prospective students to contact them via text. Failing to do so can damage your brand and result in some hefty fines. This means you need to plan ahead. If you are thinking about implementing a text marketing strategy, start by adding a text opt-in box on your inquiry forms, applications, campus tour registration, or any other form where you may be collecting their information. Even if you are not ready to start a text campaign, you will have the opted-in phone numbers ready to go when you are.

2. Only text students who are already heavily engaged with your institution

Since you followed rule #1 (because it’s really not optional), inherently these students will not be cold leads. But the further down the funnel they are, the better audience they will be for text messaging. Here are some examples where we have seen the best results from text campaigns:

  • Open house Invitation and date reminders
  • Accepted student congratulatory messages
  • Accepted student event registration and date reminders
  • Enrolled student communications—help freeze the summer melt!

3. Text during normal hours

No one likes to be woken up in the middle of the night by the ding of an incoming text. So plan for text messages to go during daytime hours only. And don’t forget to account for time zones!

4. Pay attention to frequency and allow for exit

Don’t overdo it or you will have students opting out and ignoring your messages. Use text messaging two to four times a month (depending on the audience). And be sure to include “STOP txt” language so your recipients know they can opt out at anytime.

While texting continues to be on the rise, it is still currently a relatively untapped channel of recruitment communication. Using these tips—and as long as you are being thoughtful about whom you text and when—I would encourage you to try a text campaign. And if you need help getting started, just let us know!

You can follow me on Twitter @adpoulin or on Google Plus as Alexa Poulin.

Never miss an update.