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What if you could increase prospective student conversions by up to 300 percent? Research says texting could do just that. Yet most higher ed institutions have not yet added texting to their recruitment process.
Text messages can have a strong impact when it comes to communicating with students. While the regulations governing texting can present some challenges, implementing texting can deliver powerful results. Whether you use short message service (SMS) or multimedia messaging service (MMS), text messaging puts your recruitment team in a student’s pocket. Literally.
Text messaging in the recruitment process
Texting has become the preferred mode of communication for many Americans, and businesses and organizations are capitalizing on the convenience and direct personal connections that texting affords. According to the ZipWhip State of Texting 2020 Report, about 68% of businesses say they use some form of texting. It’s a smart strategy since about 90 percent of adults worldwide own a smartphone. Most consumers (77%) told ZipWhip they use texting more than other messaging tools.
Yet recruitment teams are far more likely to use email or phone calls to communicate with students. Only about 36% of graduate school recruiting teams say they use text messages as part of their recruiting strategy. Only about 45% say they give students the opportunity to opt-in for SMS messages. To put this in perspective, institutions are more likely to send direct mail to students who have expressed interest than they are to send text messages, even though students seem to prefer texting.
Our team’s own research found that adding texting to campaigns can increase conversions by up to 300%, as reported in the 2019 Thruline Benchmarks Report. Why are so many recruitment teams ignoring what could be a major asset? One reason is that texting is highly regulated. To use it well, you first need to understand the rules and regulations surrounding it.
Laws and Regulations
State, Federal, and regional laws regulate the use of text messaging as a marketing tool. Schools that don’t meet these regulations can face hefty fines and penalties. Several organizations have authority over marketing text messages, including the Federal Communication Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and the Mobile Marketing Association. Any marketing messages sent via SMS or MMS must comply with regulations created by these organizations. State or regional regulations may also govern when and how your institution may send text messages.
In addition to these regulatory bodies, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association formulates best practices to protect both consumers and the mobile industry. While these best practices are voluntary, following their guidance may help schools build trust and relationships with prospective students.
At the federal level, two regulations form the core of text messaging regulations, The Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the CAN-SPAM act.
The CAN-SPAM Act regulates the unsolicited transmission of commercial electronic mail. Under this regulation, students should not receive unsolicited electronic messages. They should also be able to tell that the communication is commercial in nature.
At first glance, it might seem like the CAN-SPAM act does not apply to text messaging. This is true of phone-to-phone messages, but most schools use a texting service that sends internet-to-phone messages. The CAN-SPAM regulations do apply in this case. Each violation can incur penalties of up to $43,280, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
TCPA – Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits businesses from robocalling or texting consumers without their consent. The act defines consent as both written and explicit. Written means a verbal okay is not enough. Students must consent via an online form, opt-in email, or other documentation. Explicit means that you can’t text students just because you’ve communicated with them via another channel in the past. A student who has opted into email communication must opt-in to texting as well.
As further protection, the TCPA requires senders to include an automated opt-out. If you’ve ever received a text that includes the words “reply STOP to opt-out” those businesses are complying with TCPA regulations.
Organizations that ignore these rules can face fines of up to $1500 per infraction in civil damages. That means you could have to pay up to $1500 for each text message sent. The cap of a million dollars for any continuing violation means ignoring TCPA regulations could cost your school serious money. Criminal penalties top out at $10,00 for each violation or $30,000 for each day that a violation continues.
In July 2020, new rules went into effect as required by the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act. This regulation added additional penalties of up to $10,000 for violation of the TCPA.
To text or not to text
The regulations and penalties might make texting seem like more trouble than it’s worth. But it’s not difficult to stay in compliance while texting in the recruitment process. In summary, the three steps to take when texting during the recruitment process are:
- Ask students to opt-in
- Give them the option to opt-out
- Deliver the information you’ve promised.
Ultimately, by using texting in your recruitment process, you gain a direct line to students. Help increase your marketing channels with an easy and more convenient style of communication.
Looking for a partner to help you engage with prospective students when and how they desire? The EducationDynamics enrollment coaching team is experts at connecting with prospective students via phone, email and text. Learn more about how our contact center services can help you better engage prospective students and build meaningful relationships that result in enrollments and student success.