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Text messaging is revolutionizing the way we communicate, much in the same way telephones and email did for generations before. Particularly for the population of current college students and applicants who grew up with cell phones, text messaging is the primary channel of communication.
Here are 25 ways universities can use text messaging to recruit prospective students, engage their student body, and even communicate important messages to staff.
Browse by Category: Click any of the links below to jump to each category.
1. Engage the Student Body
98 percent of all text are read within an amazing three minutes. No other channel can give you that combination of immediacy and reliability. So if you are sending a broadcast message that needs to be read, text messaging is by far and away the channel to use. These are just a few of the things you would want to send a text message to students for, many of which are discussed in more detail in the following segments.
- Emergency Notification System: Send immediate alerts for safety matters including on-campus crime and weather hazards.
- Reminders: Send reminders that are more certain to be read than email for approaching deadlines, registration, tuition and other due dates.
- Event Notifications: Boost attendance at future events, or alert people to last minute campus gatherings such as career fairs, athletics, and volunteer opportunities.
- Campus Deals: Boost bookstore revenue with promotions sent through text about book buybacks and sale events.
- School Closings Alerts: Send a quick text message to make sure students don’t waste travel time.
- Student Interaction: Boost participation in elections, new clubs, and campus contests.
Real World Example: The University of Antelope offers students a text messaging program to receive emergency text alerts, reminders, and light marketing.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #1 - Engage the Student Body"]
2. Increase Attendance
It’s always frustrating when you expend countless hours and energy on bringing a program to fruition, only to have a few students show up for it. Not only does that program fall through the cracks, but students also aren’t taking advantage of the wonderful, fun, or helpful programs available to them, most of the time for no cost to the student. Often, the main culprit of low attendance is unfortunately simple communication. Either email invites aren’t being read, or students are simply forgetting about the program when the time arrives. Text messaging can effectively solve these problems. 98 percent of all texts are read, which means you can be sure your program at the very least has a fighting chance to begin with. The average adult also checks their phone a whopping 110 times a day! Consider that figure in direct contrast to the statistic that over 57 percent of Americans check their email less than 7 times a day. So whether you’re sending an invite or reminder for a sporting event, guest lecture, or diversity awareness program, you’ll significantly increase the chances of it getting seen if you send it through text!
Real World Example: The University of Florida uses SMS to send updates and reminders for upcoming football games.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #2 - Increase Attendance"]
3. Boost Campus Safety
One of the primary benefits of texting that we haven’t had a chance to discuss yet is its discrete nature. When writing a text message, nobody else in your vicinity knows what you’re saying or who you’re talking to. Some are even skilled enough to text while their phones are still in their pockets, practically eliminating the prospect of them getting noticed. This is in direct contrast to phone calls. Particularly when trying to communicate issues of safety, discreteness is often a necessary commodity. Texting campus security can even work as an alternative to Blue Light security systems. Sometimes it’s not the safest option to stop at or take a route to one of the posts. Texting also ensures that the messages received are both accurate and referenceable. That way, you don’t have to ask over and over again “where are you” as the student tries to tell you quietly or through loud background noise. Some other reasons why students may prefer to text rather than call campus security are to:
- report suspicious or dangerous activity
- make a noise complaint
- request an escort back to their residence hall during late night hours
Real World Example: The University of Bristol uses SMS for their emergency alert system. Their messages have included a warning that meningitis was spreading amongst the student population, serious crime incidents, and last-minute lecture room changes.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #3 - Boost campus safety"]
4. Boost Commerce via Mobile
Boost sales with text message alerts and coupons. If you’re sending promotions through email or print, they’re simply not being seen or used. Did you know that email coupons only have a redemption rate of 2.7 percent? That hardly gets you the ROI you are looking for. Compare that to print coupon’s measly 0.5 percent redemption rate, and email’s figure starts looking a lot better. Now consider that mobile coupons sent to a person’s phone have a redemption rate of about 16 percent! That’s almost six times the rate of email, and a whopping 26 times higher than the print’s rate. Combine that with the statistic that 78 percent say they are influenced to buy from a store they wouldn’t typically buy from if they had a coupon from them, and you can begin to see how mobile coupons are an extremely effective way to boost revenue at your campus store or dining options. Here are some ways to increase on campus revenue with text messages:
- send notices when popular books or office supplies are back in stock
- alert people to new book releases of university professors
- increase school pride with coupons for school merchandise
- get more students to dine on campus with promotions or even a mobile loyalty program
Real World Example: Iowa State University’s library uses Trumpia’s mobile communication software to send SMS promotion and sale alerts for in store and online purchases.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #4 - Boost Commerce Via Mobile"]
5. Collect Outstanding Fees
Emails are just not getting read. In fact, it currently only boasts a 22 percent open rate. And if you’re trying to collect via phone calls, your chances are even lower.
So if you’re sending your overdue or outstanding balance notices to students via email, chances are they’re not getting read. Either they’re ignoring them, or the message broadcast is going straight to spam. In fact, only 7 percent of those surveyed said they would answer a call from a number they did not recognize, and it’s highly unlikely students are saving your university’s number in their phones.
Enter text messages, which offer a 98 percent read rate and a 45 percent response rate. Particularly for outstanding fee collection, text messages are less intimidating than phone calls, and are more likely to receive a response. Send tuition payment reminders or alerts that they have incurred a fee for too many lockouts. If you have an SMS service, you can also include a link in your text that leads to an online payment page.
Real World Example: uAspire, a non profit organization, uses text messages to remind students to pay their tuition.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #5 - Collect outstanding student fees"]
6. Send Link for More Information
Texting’s perceived limiting factor is its 160 character limit. While this format does force texters to condense their information into more easily digestible and quickly communicated messages, there still are admittedly cases in which 160 characters simply is not able to convey the entire desired message. One solution around this is using MMS, or picture messaging in your texts. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” or so they say, and they certainly can help deliver your message efficiently and in an attention grabbing manner. But picture messaging en masse can quickly become expensive, as MMS messages often cost more than simple text messages. Fortunately, there is a better way: simply include webpage links into your texts. Some text messaging services even enable you to shorten the url before embedding it into the text, saving valuable characters. Send links that lead to web pages with more information about an event, posted grades, or new course offerings.
Real World Example: Tel Aviv University sends SMS messages with links to inform students that their grades have been posted, scheduling changes, and activities in the library.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #6 - Send links for more information"]
7. Send Appointment Reminders
Students get busy. Between their clubs, extracurriculars, and classes, not to mention their personal lives, it’s easy to understand how they can forget their appointments. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating though when they do. But with, as discussed above, the average adult checking their phone an unparalleled 110 times a day, text messaging can solve this problem as well. By simply sending appointment reminders the day of or hour before the appointment, you can rest easy knowing pretty darn well that the student read it. Keep them reminded of appointments with teachers and tutors, important events, or meeting times for a class trip.
Real World Example: Professors at the University of Illinois conducted a survey research on low income women. They used SMS to set up and remind the women of their appointments to do weigh ins and consultations.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #7 - Send appointment reminders"]
8. Keep Students Connected During Breaks
School operations don’t end during breaks, just because the majority of students leave. Often there are still on campus events or sporting games, as well as crucial impending deadlines that it’s important to keep students notified of. With a community notification sent via SMS, you can do this, and be sure your messages are being read. This will also significantly boost the feeling of connection with your school, as well as cut down on missed deadlines. Send class registration date reminders and update students on recent wins.
Real World Example: Benjamin Castleman, a professor at the University of Virginia, tested text messages as a remedy for the “summer melt”, the months after high school graduation when many students who have been accepted to college do not go to classes. “Their high school counselors aren’t there for them anymore, and they’re not yet connected with their colleges,” Castleman explains. “They’re cut off from professional support, balancing jobs and family commitments, and at the same time they’re facing these important, onerous tasks like completing registration and housing forms and finalizing financial aid and loans.” Ultimately, his study found that approximately 70 percent of students who received these texts enrolled to college compared with 63 percent who were not texted.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #8 - Keep students connected during breaks"]
9. Promote Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular activities are vital to a student body. They do an extraordinary job of connecting them with the school, relieving stress, building real-world skills, making lasting friendships, and making them well rounded individuals. But emails simply aren’t being read, and flyers posted around campus are unreliable, as they get lost in the crowd of other flyers. That’s why text messaging is the most effective way to promote extracurricular activities and boost engagement. They are the most immediate and attention-grabbing form of communication there is. Send club membership information, sport team signup forms, or new meeting times and places.
Real World Example: The University of Kansas sends athletic updates, ticket availability, and promotions via text messages. Students can sign up to receive these text message alerts by texting the school’s mobile keyword which they advertise on their official website.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #9 - Promote extracurricular activities among student body"]
10. Libraries Can Send Due Date Reminders
With all the important duties university libraries are responsible for these days, trying to get back checked out items should be the last of their worries. But unfortunately, late items means backlogged systems, and other students not being able to take advantage of it. And as we know, the typical method of informing students that books are overdue, email, is flat out ineffective. Try texting instead. An astonishing 91 percent of Americans keep their phone within arm’s reach 100 percent of the time. That gives your library unmatched potential for reaching students with their notices. You can even send a due date reminder the day before to avoid overdue fees in the first place. Students can also text the library to:
- put an item on hold
- extend an item’s reservation time
- ask if an item is available to be checked out
- request an item from the library connected system
- reserve a group study room
Real World Example: Cal Poly Pomona library’s Text A Librarian service lets students text a different keyword to a long code to get immediate answers for certain common questions. This includes directions to a specific room, how to find a book, library hours, and how to renew material.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #10 - Libraries can send due date reminders"]
11. Define On Campus Housing Guidelines
Without proper communication, housing can devolve into a frustrating, if not infuriating process for students. Use text messaging to clearly outline on-campus housing guidelines and procedures. You can also include links with each residential hall’s floor plans, so students can plan ahead of time which room they want. You can also send an SMS notification to send deadline reminders for on campus housing applications or payments. And if you text-enable the 10-digit phone number your office already operates, students can even text you with their questions. You can even set up pre-made auto responses for common housing questions like:
- Can I nail holes into the walls?
- What do I do if I want to live in a double, but don’t have a roommate setup?
- Can I live on campus if I’m studying abroad next semester?
- I’m locked out. Who’s on duty today?
- What pets can I have?
- Do I have to get a meal plan if I live on campus?
Real World Example: Baylor University operates a text messaging program for their on campus housing office to better communicate with students about their options.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #11 - Define on campus housing guidelines"]
12. Educational Games/Important Information
There is more to universities and learning than simply books and lectures. Often, approaching it from different angles can yield amazing results. Engage your students with fun educational games. You could pit residential halls against one another or have inter-greek life competitions, building comradery, while still infusing an element of education. You could run an educational scavenger hunt during orientation where you place keywords around landmarks on your campus to teach the new students about your school’s history. Throw a trivia game night by sending an SMS poll that ultimately informs students about your amazing and underused facilities. And during finals week, provide best practices for test taking and how to manage stress levels. By doing these functions through SMS, your campaigns will get greater visibility and participation.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #12 - Educational Games/Important Information"]
13. Deadline Reminders
Take the SAT’s, finish up AP’s, finish high school, and say goodbye to childhood friends. There’s a lot to think about during senior year. And unfortunately, these things often make students forget about important deadlines. But missing a single deadline should never be the reason a qualified student doesn’t go to college or isn’t able to find funding for it. Particularly for first generation students, or those who are otherwise not getting proper guidance during their college application process, these deadlines may often pass by, completely unknown to the student. With a text message reminder, universities and affiliated support programs can help students remember important deadlines, as well as better explain the importance of meeting them. This includes deadlines for:
- federal, state, and school specific financial aid applications
- SAT completion so the score is available in time to apply
- scheduling a visit or interview
- school application date
Real World Example: The University of Wisconsin uses SMS software service Trumpia to send deadline notifications about FAFSA applications.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #13 - Deadline Reminders"]
14. Helpful Tips
Help guide prospective students through the application process with a texting program. This will build a better connection with your university, and get more qualified students to apply. Many states in the US right now are applying these tactics to get more of their high school seniors into local colleges, boosting enrollment and the overall education level of their state. Examples of this include Tennessee's GEAR UP program, West Virginia’s WVHEPC program, Indiana’s Trip to College program, and the federal program Next Up. All these programs have found that texting is the best way to send a message for students, and a great alternative for reaching this current population entering college. That’s because today, a measly six percent of teenagers exchange emails everyday; this compared to the 55 percent who text every single day. Send best practices for applications including how to write a compelling essay, or how to ensure a university is a good fit.
Real World Example: Sonoma State University sends notifications about workshops and courses that would give students more information on majors and career options they offer.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #14 - Send helpful tips"]
15. Make Yourself Standout during Recruitment
Need a way to stand out at all those college fairs you send representatives to? Paper flyers are nice, but they are all too easily thrown away, forgotten, or lost among every other universities’ flyer. On the other hand, email risks getting sent to spam, and younger generations are moving away from checking email often anyhow. Try instead a texting program to really make your school stand out. You’ll get much higher read rates for your collateral, and receive a 7.5 times higher response rate as well (texting boasts a response rate of 45 percent vs email’s 6 percent). Send exciting news about your school’s accomplishments, or send information about all the different fields students could study at your school.
Real World Example: The University of Texas at Austin uses text message notifications to send students messages on deadline reminders, application status notices, and event reminders.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #15 - Make yourself standout during college recruitment"]
16. Job Placement
A college degree is a vital step towards climbing the socioeconomic ladder. But with today’s unstable job market, more and more millennials are growing nervous about the investment it requires. That’s why many universities tap into their alumni networks to find jobs for recent graduates. With texting, you can create a program in which graduating seniors can sign up to receive alerts when a new job opens up with a more established alumnus. And if you use a text messaging service, you can even have students self sort themselves by the type of job they’re looking for, the geographical region they’re searching in, or even the compensation they expect. This will enable you to send relevant messages. For example, if an alumnus comes to you saying they need a new programmer for their tech company in Seattle, you can send the message alert to those who fit the bill, and not those who are looking for a sales job in Minnesota. You can even embed a link into the text notification that leads to more details about the job and the company.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #17 - Job Placement"]
17. Use SMS to Send Invites for Reunions
A lot of effort, time, and money goes into planning and putting on reunions. So when attendance is low, it’s not only unfortunate, but also quite frustrating. Text messaging offers an effective solution. Send your alumni meet invitation via SMS to ensure they’re seen. You can also include a link in the text that leads to more information or an RSVP page. And if you’re using a school text alert system provider with automation, you can do even more. Send a reminder to only those who RSVP’d, and resend the invite to those who haven't the week before the reunion. If there’s a sudden change of plans to the venue or time, immediately alert everyone. You can even use SMS during the event, letting alumni text in to vote on superlative prizes, request a song, or RSVP for next year’s event.
Real World Example: Harvard University’s Office of Alumni Affairs & Development uses SMS to stay in contact with alumni.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #17 - Use SMS to send invites for college reunions"]
18. Run Donation Drives
Alumni donations are a crucial factor in your university’s day-to-day operations, so donation campaigns need to be effective. Unfortunately, cold calls are often seen as intimidating if not a nuisance by a large portion of your alumni. And as we’ve discussed over and over again in sections about, emails simply don’t get read anymore, certainly not at the rate that you need. Try texting instead. Texting offers a more casual, exploratory method of communication that gives little offense. Text messages also have a much higher response rate than calls and email, meaning you’ll get more donations. Also, you could include a link in the text that leads to a donation form. And if you use a text messaging software that offers landline texting, you could even send and receive texts through the 10 digit landline phone number your office already operates. This will let alumni call if they wish after they receive your text, or simply text back.
Real World Example: Ohio College met their one-day fundraising goal using SMS text with alumni. They set up simple mobile keywords that alumni could texted to pledge a certain amount of money.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #18 - Run donation drives"]
19. Interactive Learning
Phones are often seen as one of the biggest distractions in the classroom. So much so that some professors even ban them from their lectures. But as we know all too well, students always seem to find a way to sneak in a text to their friend, listen to music, or even possible swipe right and left during class. So instead of trying to fight it, some professors have decided to use use it. Using an SMS software, professors have a few options such as text-to-screen that lets students text in a message that gets displayed on a single big screen. Professors could use this to take a casual poll of the classroom, or answer questions about an upcoming test. They can also send links to lecture notes or PowerPoint presentations that a student may have missed (of course only for legitimate reasons).
Real World Example: The University of Groningen lets professors at their university hold interactive lectures using SMS voting and quizzes. Similarly, Dr. Phillip Anderson from the University of Toronto uses text messaging during classes for comments or Q&A.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #19 - Interactive Learning"]
20. Internal Communication
The same things that we’ve discussed in such depth about what makes texting incredible for connecting with students, also make it an incredible tool for coordinating staff. Send important memos about policy changes or last minute meetings, and know that they’ll be seen, rather than lost in the great piles of paper memos or accidently sent to the spam folder. Consider that 80 percent of smartphone owners check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. So if you send meeting or event reminders via a event text messaging service the night before, you can rest assured that the staff member saw it.
Real World Example: The University of La Verne send dates and deadlines via SMS.
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #20 - Internal Communication"]
21. Two-Factor Authentication
Universities handle a lot of sensitive information about their students, staff, and faculty including SSN’s, financial circumstances, and grades. This SMS tool will ensure that sensitive data stays secure. It works by requiring not only a username and password when logging into their account, but also a one-time code that’s texted to the user. This adds another level of security, and many Fortune 500 companies have already implemented it including Google and Bank of America.
Real World Example: At Penn State, two- factor authentication is mandatory for all faculty and staff for services such as the Webmail Employee self service information center (ESSIC).
[Tweet "Text Messaging Idea #21 - Two-Factor Authentication"]
Many of the top universities in the United States are offering their students innovative ways to connect through text messaging. Now it's your turn to improve higher education at your university. To learn more about how Trumpia can help your university/college reach every corner of your campus and alumni, click here.
So what ideas are you using for your messaging strategy? If we've missed an awesome idea let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, to learn more about what you can do to better engage your students, click here!