Your students are messaging. Are you?

Posted by Brian Ruhlmann on October 14, 2016
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Text messaging and messaging apps are trending up as more and more people, especially young people, get smartphones and use them to communicate with one another and the world at large.

Messaging has both great breadth, in terms of the vast audience it reaches, and great depth, in terms of how engaged and responsive recipients of messages are. Consider:

  • The number of users on messaging applications has exceeded the number of users on social media. Check out Business Insider's report showing the rapid expansion of messaging:Business_Insider_chart_-_Messaging_Apps_surpass_Social_Media.png
  • 90 percent of text messages are read within 3 minutes, and 98 percent are read within 15 minutes. (MobileSquared)
  • 29 percent of Americans say their phone is the first and last thing they look at every day. (Qualcomm via Localytics)

Do you have any unread text messages right now? What about unread emails?

Is that enough evidence to convince your institution to start messaging students? Students are very active on mobile messaging, but last year fewer than half of private universities were texting students.

In fact, as Ruffalo Noel Levitz pointed out in their 2016 E-Recruiting Report, less than half of colleges are sending mass text messages to students, while 74 percent of high school seniors and 71 percent of high school juniors are willing to receive texts from colleges. Herein lies the opportunity.

Since students are open to getting text messages from colleges, shouldn’t colleges invest in communicating with students on mobile? To explore that question, let’s take a deeper dive into some trends in mobile usage and engagement.

Enter the messaging era

Chart: Students don't email, they text

As documented by Business Insider above, messaging apps have overtaken social media channels in terms of active users per month worldwide. And that actually doesn't fully include regular old SMS text messaging, which is by far the most used method of mobile communication in America.

So while it’s important to engage students in the U.S. via text message, elsewhere around the world it’s a different story. WhatsApp is hugely popular throughout South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. When I lived in Ireland for a few years recently, it was all WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Even my 60-something-year-old aunts and uncles all were on WhatsApp and Messenger!

With the tremendous growth in messaging and chat interfaces, tech companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google are betting big on messaging apps and conversational commerce. Schools should be considering the different messaging channels in addition to SMS texting, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other platforms like WeChat (the most popular messaging app in China), Line (Japan), and Viber. For institutions with international students, it’s important to understand which channels their students are using. (Check out SimilarWeb’s breakdown, “The Most Popular Messaging App in Every Country.”

Messaging is an action, and often will trigger a response

The emergence of messaging apps and the high rates of texting, especially among 18- to 24-year-olds, isn't the only big draw of messaging. Response rates are much higher with messaging compared to email, post, or phone calls. Text Messaging has a 45 percent response rate, while email has just a 6 percent response rate . Messaging drives engagement and sparks conversations, as students are naturally much more likely to respond to messages.

However, not all outgoing messages have to be used to start a conversation. In fact, even basic text message reminders have been shown to help students complete important tasks. Here are some of the follow-up findings on the Summer Melt Research project, in which incoming freshmen got 10 text message reminders before they arrived on campus:

  • 86 percent reported that the texts prompted them to complete a task they hadn’t yet done.
  • 85 percent reported that the texts informed them about something they hadn’t realized they needed to do
  • 84 percent responded that overall, they found the texts useful in helping them get everything done for college.

There are lots of other ways colleges can leverage the high responsiveness of messaging to benefit their students, from reminding them of important deadlines, to giving them ability to easily RSVP and sign up for events on their phone, to conducting student surveys… And all of this personalized communication can be integrated into a school’s CRM or SIS with mobile messaging software. If you'd like to see if AdmitHub integrates with your CRM/SIS, drop us a line here.

Big Data and reporting with mobile messaging

Since messaging elicits more responses than all other communication channels, you can effectively dig into campaigns to measure which messages are engaging students, which wording has higher conversion rates, and ultimately which campaigns yield the best ROI, however it’s defined for a specific purpose.

There’s no doubt that mobile messaging is the most efficient way of communicating with prospective and current students and their families. Almost every single message will be read, and many of them will elicit a conversation.

With less than half of colleges messaging for recruitment, it is also a great way to differentiate a university from other institutions that still rely on more traditional mass messaging to reach their audiences. At AdmitHub we work closely with our partners to capture the right approach to meet their institutional goals. We make personalized chatbots that promote engagement, boost student success, and are responsive to every single student. And our bots operate efficiently over multiple messaging platforms to make sure we help you reach each student.

 

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Topics: chatbot, College Admissions, colleges, texting, retention, student success, facebook messenger, recruitment