If you want to get student communications right, you probably suspect issuing a school email isn’t enough. Email remains a fabulous vehicle for the deskbound: office workers check theirs about 30 times an hour. But for those on the go — like students and faculty — it's unreliable.
Smartphones are king
If your message is important, urgent or both, use the communication channel students will see immediately — SMS. Most text messages are checked in under 5 seconds; 90% are checked within three minutes.
The average teen spends three hours and 38 minutes daily on a smartphone— more time than on a laptop or in front of a television screen — and texting is the most widely used smartphone app. 97% of Americans access SMS at least once a day.
Don’t nix email
Does this mean you should ditch email altogether? Absolutely not. Some 62% of millennials and 65% of Generation Z rated email as a preferred source of information about brands in a 2016 survey. Meanwhile, 64% of millennials and 60% of Generation Z said they found email communication the “most personal” of all communication channels. This survey compared email to 10 other channels including SMS, YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
What took second place for Generation Z? Texting. The average Generation Z kid receives 3,000 text messages monthly.
Conduct your own survey
Marketing intelligence offers a limited picture of student preferences. What young people want to receive from an unknown brand might be quite different from their wishes when it comes to a school.
Your best information will come from surveying your students themselves. In 10-plus years of teaching higher education, I’ve seen student favorites shift from email to Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat and YouTube. For the last few years, my informal surveys have shown me students rarely check email, and of all media, the most reliable way to connect with them is via text message.
Indeed, many of my students complain of missed events and announcements and say they would much rather the school communicated with them via text.
If your school hasn’t begun using SMS yet, you’re missing a superb opportunity to help current and prospective students foster a deeper sense of connection to your campus.
Get SMS to work for you in these five ways:
- Recruit prospects — If prospective students to opt-in to receive text messages, recruiters can connect with potential candidates directly. Although you will have a limited pool of students to reach via SMS, they are likely to be much more engaged. One survey showed that students who opted into texting were at least two times more likely to apply than those who did not
- Nurture applicants — Once prospects have chosen to receive text messaging from your school, you can use SMS to remind them of important dates. Send prospects a text the day before applications are due and limit the number of late arrivals
- Welcome newcomers — Acceptance is no guarantee a student will attend. One study found as many as 40% of low-income students accepted to a college failed to show up for registration. Sending newcomers regular texts in the summer months before school starts is an excellent way to keep your campus — and their future — on their minds once college counselors and K-12 teachers are no longer around
- Foster inclusion — Alert students about important dates like sporting events and student council elections. Students who feel disconnected from a school are more likely to transfer or drop out. Texting can be an excellent retention tool
- Ensure safety — Many schools have already begun to use SMS for campus emergency alerts and closures. If your school doesn’t yet notify students via text when campus dangers arise or inclement weather prompts class cancellations, it’s time to start