Universities are increasingly using text messaging to create a more connected campus. The medium is a natural fit for digital native students and its immediate nature makes it an effective way to contact staff. It’s also accessible when used with text-to-speech capabilities, screen magnifiers and mobile braille displays.
There’s plenty of evidence to prove that people want to receive customer service by text. As Social Media Today found, 76% of people report they’re more likely to read a message sooner if it’s a text rather than an email, while 7% thought it was a good way for an organisation to get their attention. Business Wire reports that 52% prefer customer support by text messaging. So, it’s clearly a medium universities would do well to utilise. Read on for a round-up of the key ways your university can make the most of this medium.
Image by Francisco Osorio, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.
Collect prospects’ phone numbers at events or when they request a prospectus or course information online. You can then follow up with information about the application process, relevant links and notifications and deadlines.
As Trumpia notes, Cedarville University's admissions team uses SMS to recruit students, send status updates to applicants and provide information to accepted candidates. Elsewhere, Coventry University placed adverts which allowed prospects to opt-in for information about its Occupational Therapy programme by text message. According to Janet txt, the initiative resulted in a 200% increase in open-day attendees and a 17.6% increase in applicants.
These could be safety or crime alerts or notifications of extreme weather conditions. University of Bristol uses SMS to notify students of emergencies including meningitis amongst the student population; serious crime incidents; and last-minute lecture room changes.
These might be for rearranged classes or deadlines for essays or an outstanding payment. University of Kent offers daily messages detailing students’ study timetables while The Free University of Bozen-Bolzano sends SMS reminders for overdue library books.
Text messages can be useful ways for students to schedule meetings with advisors and counsellors. Mobile Commons reports that St Mary’s University lets students enrol on classes by text, while Minnesota State University offers academic support by text for students in need of some help.
Market your university’s events by texting them and invite them to RSVP by replying. Issue reminders and sent out links to a survey for attendee feedback. Texting can also be useful for sports events: Trumpia also notes that University of Florida uses SMS to send updates and reminders for upcoming football games.
Text messaging can be a useful channel for fundraising. For instance, Glyndŵr University allows benefactors to donate an amount of their choice directly by text message.
The first step to effective SMS communication is to formulate a detailed text messaging policy. This should explain in which situation to send messages and which audience to send them to. It should also spell out the form texts should take. For instance, University of Bristol’s policy states messages: should run no longer than 160 characters, address the readers directly with the pronoun you; avoid text speak in favour of plain English; and indicate where further information can be found, e.g. a link to a page on the university website.
Messages should be supplemented by emails plus posts on the university website, Facebook and Twitter to make sure as much of the target audience receive the messages as possible. Data should be reviewed every six months to make sure contact information is up-to-date. It’s also important to decide which messages should be opt-in: many universities send urgent messages to all contacts, and opt-in messages for non-essential information, which students and staff can choose to opt-out of.
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