When it comes to communicating with students or potential students, your post-secondary institution needs to be able to do more than just email large amounts of information to all students at once. While this information may be necessary for all students, that doesn't mean your communication should end there.
Students, especially new students, have questions: lots of them. And, sifting through mountains of paper is not the most ideal way for them to get answers. Instead, you should advocate for a strong two-way communication flow with students to ensure that there are no knowledge gaps.
Being able to freely ask questions and get quick answers is one way to engage your students, provide them with needed information, and set yourself apart from other options for potential students.
SMS messaging is a growing trend, especially amongst millennials. Over 80 percent of American adults use their cell phone to text and this number only gets higher the younger the adult sample is. This makes texting the perfect mode to start a two-way communication with your students.
You have two options to utilize SMS messaging for two-way communication.
The first option is to provide your student with a cell phone number that one of your staff members monitors constantly. That way, as soon as a student has a question, they can text you and get an answer from your staff.
This first option may not be ideal for you because it would consist of taking someone away from their typical duties just to respond to student questions via text. Luckily, there is an easier way.
Option two involves automating the SMS process through an automation platform.
This may seem like a daunting task, but it actually lightens your staff's workload and improves communication with students. Here's how it works: After selecting an automation platform with an SMS messaging component, you would request a keyword. These are really handy short phrases that your students can text into a shortcode to ask your questions. For example, your keyword may be EDU and students could text that to your shortcode (an easy-to-remember six-digit number) 555555. Texting that number with your shortcode would opt those students in for your SMS communications, thus automatically capturing their explicit consent and ensuring your compliance.
From here, you would need to create pre-written content that would answer any foreseeable questions students or potential students may have. Keep in mind that, with SMS, you are limited to 140 characters.
Once a student texts you your keyword, your automated response should include options for further information. For example, you may foresee a lot of questions about Registrar hours, access to scholarship applications, and academic advising. This means that your initial text should mention all of these things as well as what to text back to access that information. This SMS message should read something like this: "Looking for info? Text EDU REG for Registrar info, EDU SCH for scholarship info, EDU ACA for advising info or EDU OTHER for other questions."
Now, for each option that you offer, you need to have a pre-written response ready to be sent automatically as soon as a student texts in for it. If a student texts "EDU SCH" to you, you should have a pre-written text containing information about scholarships. Since you're limited character-wise, you may want to include a shortened URL directing the student to a web page with more information. For your "EDU OTHER" option, since you cannot predict what that question may be, you could include an email address that the student should direct their question to.
Using option two for your two-way SMS communication is going to involve more time upfront just to get the whole automated campaign established. However, once established, there is minimal maintenance required.
It's important to note that an automated SMS campaign is not just limited to existing students, you could set up a different keyword for potential students to text and get information about your school. You could easily offer automated information about upcoming campus tours and application deadlines. Essentially, with automated SMS communications, you can engage students and potential students through effective two-way communication without deterring from your daily tasks.
The benefits of using a multi-channel marketing automation platform to automate your SMS campaigns is that you have access to using other channels as well. This means you can also communicate to students through social media, email, voice, and more. What's better is that these channels can interact and trigger messages through a different channel, thus offering a more-encompassing communication experience for your students.
To test out an automated SMS campaign and see just how it can work for your school, sign up for a free 14-day trial.