Texting – An Enrollment Communication Strategy You Shouldn’t Ignore

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 1.23.00 PM

According to Business Insider Intelligence, U.S. smartphone owners, ages 18-24, send on average 2,022 texts per month – 67 texts daily – and receive another 1,831, with about 97% of them being read. There’s no question that the use of text messaging is immense, but can it be used as an effective form of communication during the admissions process?

Certainly. Relative to e-mail, text messages have a higher open and response rate due to their immediacy and ease of access. Emails have become one of the most overused tactics in our industry. Yes, they are the easiest and cheapest forms of communication to execute, however these factors have also led to hundreds of unread emails in students’ inboxes each day. We’ve seen cases where colleges send over 120 emails each year to just one prospective student. Excessive emails may increase efficiency, but they decrease personalization and are diluting your school’s message. In order to get your message across it’s necessary to utilize different mediums to communicate with the student or parent.

That’s not to say that e-mail efforts should be ditched altogether, but rather should be paired with text, print and phone to optimize all communication channels in one centralized system; you want to make sure text, email, and print communications don’t overlap and are nicely timed. Between the search emails, open house and event reminders, drive to apply outreach programs, application reminders, acceptance announcements, deposit requests and a wide variety of communication in between, students and parents receive copious amounts of information all the time. Ideally, if you can spread out those messages across print, text, phone, email, web and even social media communication with integrated feeds (if your school has a microsite) then you are evenly distributing your conversations.

In fact, adding texting to your marketing mix can lift response rate by 8.7%. Throughout the 2014 recruitment process we’ve spoken with many parents who said they would have loved to receive text message reminders from the school regarding events, deadlines and missing items. In a recent study done by RuffaloCody, only 8% of students and parents are being contact through mobile phones, while 18% state they would prefer to be contacted through mobile phones.

There’s a right time and place for everything, and if sent at the right time texting has the potential to boost your numbers exponentially. The challenge lies in the ability to reach the students effectively without becoming an annoyance. Although it is undeniably true that students are easily reachable through their mobile phones, they may not want the excessive interaction; at the end of the day these are personal lines and they don’t want their cell phones to turn into e-mail inboxes.

The answer to this problem lies in the ability to send a limited number of customized messages rather than sending generic messages to the whole prospect pool. For example, admissions can send customized messages reminding a student about an open house they recently signed up for with an attachment of a campus map so they know where to go when they arrive. Or, students interested in certain athletics could receive tickets to a game that is happening during accepted students weekend. The opportunities are infinite, but the key is that each of these messages are personalized and geared towards each student, strengthening the relationship and building a bond, while respecting the student’s personal space.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 1.24.56 PM

It’s also important to send text messages only after initial contact via phone has occurred. Think about it this way – wouldn’t you rather receive a text from someone you’ve actually spoken with? Here’s another way to interpret the situation – imagine you received a handwritten letter from someone you had not yet met, a little weird right? Now imagine you received a handwritten letter from someone you had already been in contact with. The latter situation is a nice gesture, which solidifies the relationship and is much more likely to be well received.

So if you’re looking for an extra boost in your enrollment presence and numbers, text messaging is a new and upcoming form of communication to consider. Here are some important takeaways:

  • If implemented properly, texting can yield high enrollment gains.
  • Don’t treat a text the same way you would treat an e-mail, no one wants their cell phones to turn into email inboxes. Send personalized messages to a small pool of students rather than generic messages to a larger pool.
  • Don’t impede on students’ personal space and limit the number of texts sent, keep it short and sweet!
  • Take the permission-based approach, enabling students in opt-in and out at any time.

Start with a few basic texts that can be sent to students (or even parents) who:

  • Open house reminder with directions to campus and a contact number
  • Application deadlines, or an email reminding students/parents that their application is not complete: with a direct link to where they can see what items need to be submitted or a mobile ready application.
  • Deposit deadlines, with a quick link to payment.

How are you employing texting strategies? Share your EDU Intelligence with us in a comment below!