Magazine article University Business

Improving Student Communication with Texting: Strategies for More Effective Outreach

Magazine article University Business

Improving Student Communication with Texting: Strategies for More Effective Outreach

Article excerpt

A University Business Web Seminar Digest * Originally presented on November 16, 2016

It's no secret that text messaging is the preferred method of communication for today's students over email, direct mail or phone calls. A recent study found that some 97 percent say they use texting as their primary form of communication, 73 percent say they want schools to text them, and nearly threequarters of prospective students want to text with admissions counselors. However, only 28 percent report being offered the option to text with their college or university. How should institutions address this gap by reaching students the way they prefer?

In this web seminar, presenters discussed some strategies and best practices for using texting to communicate with current and prospective students, and how it can improve efficiency and effectiveness in the admissions and financial aid departments as well as student success and retention efforts.

Dave Marshall: In early 2015 Mongoose built a texting platform, and as of today, some 111 higher ed institutions are using it. The reason is that it has become extremely tough to communicate with students. They're not reading their emails or listening to voicemails. But some think texting is rude, so let's talk about some best practices.

The most common question we are asked is: Is it legal to text students?The answer is yes, it's legal. The applicable law is theTelephone Consumer Protection Act, orTCPA, which bars a for-profit brand from using an automated technology to contact consumers. Most college institutions are not for-profit brands, so are largely exempt from theTCPA. The only time you would need prior consent from a student or a parent is if the text message is directly selling a product or service. I've seen many legal teams read that law and the majority say we don't need to get an opt-in.

However, the marketer in me says you should get consent, especially if we're talking about prospective students. Once you get an applicant to accept, confirm and then become students and eventually alumni, most universities will not need the opt-in. But you should absolutely let them opt out. The mobile phone is an extremely personal device, and if you abuse that medium, the student or parents will be pretty upset.

James Wiseman: Texting is all about quality contacts. A quality contact is two-way conversation. Any time we have a two-way conversation--regardless of whether it's text, email, phone calls, anything--we track that. For phone calls, it was taking 10 attempts to get two quality contacts. For email, it was taking 10 attempts to get 2.6 quality contacts. For texting, 10 texts gives us close to five quality contacts. So this is an efficient way of starting a conversation.

The more quality contacts we have, obviously the better chance of yielding that student. We know we need six quality contacts minimum to have a chance at getting a student to enroll. Getting the first quality contact is the hardest, but texting seems to be the best way to get that ball rolling, and then the quality of the communications gets better.

A variety of uses

Texting is efficient, effective, affordable, and you can manage everything. When we were planning this with Mongoose, we said we needed something that a guy like me--a dinosaur--could figure out how to use. …

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