Adding Text Messaging to Your Marketing Strategy

“Adding Text Messaing to Your Marketing Strategy” ~Stacey Sottung, OnCampusText,

Take a minute to think about your program board’s marketing strategy. First, is there one? If there isn’t, that’s a whole different article. If there is, let’s analyze it. When I talk to schools, I hear that they are using components such as flyers, campus-wide emails, digital message boards sprinkled around campus, and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok. This launches a conversation about how effective each one of those components are, and many times social media is perceived to be leading the way in how boards are reaching students. My next question, “What would you do if those platforms got shut down or started charging?” typically brings crickets and a look of shock. These are both very real possibilities when you are putting eggs in a basket that you can’t control. Let’s talk about a marketing component that you would have full control over– text messaging. This is where OnCampusText comes in.

Let’s start with some data. The #1 reason that students do not come to campus events is because they didn’t know about it. You can change that. Keep reading to find out how and why you should.

98% of US adults have a cell phone. 98% of text messages get opened. Read that again. 98%! Can you say that about your email? I know that for my personal email, I can’t say that. Let’s talk about speed. 95% of text messages are read and responded to in under 5 minutes. I feel pretty confident in saying that we have all responded to a text when we shouldn’t have, either because we were driving, or should have been paying attention to something else. There is something about being able to digest the information quickly that justifies in your mind looking at it almost instantly.

Let’s talk specifically about adults ages 18 – 24. People in this age range look at their phone nearly 200x per day, which is approximately every 7 minutes, and send and receive nearly 4,000 texts per month. Ten years ago, that number was 2,500 per month. If you are trying to market a student event, the fastest and most efficient way to communicate with your student body is to text them. There are times when people take a break from social media, but it is very rare that someone takes a break from looking at their texts. Texting is the primary way that students communicate with each other, so why would you use a different method to communicate with them? Data also suggests that a 15 year old girl is currently sending and receiving 5,800 texts per month, so communicating in this manner is not going away. It’s increasing rapidly.

What are a few ways you could incorporate text messages into your strategy?

First, create a text list. Available software programs make this as easy as writing an email. Your students text a keyword (for example, CAB, HAWKS, APB) to a short code and they are automatically opted in to your list. When starting out, use your other marketing channels to spend some time driving your student body to “Text EAGLES to 71444” for example. You will include this info on your flyers, as text in your IG stories, on the bottom of campus-wide emails, etc. You can also run fun contests to encourage students to opt-in, and we touch more on that later.

Once you have students on your list and you are ready to start texting, there are a few rules of thumb you should follow. First, make sure what you are sending is timely and relevant. An hour before your campus event, send out a reminder text. If you are bringing an entertainer to campus, include the link to their YouTube channel in the text for extra engagement. A great idea with sending texts is to be consistent. If you are sending a “What’s up this weekend” text every Wednesday at 8pm, your students will begin to expect it and even look forward to it. When you see attendance for those events increase, you know that you can attribute that to your text list. I encourage you to have fun with these texts. Add in a GIF occasionally. It not only adds a visual element but gives you the opportunity to be personal and establish a voice. A tiny bit of sass goes a long way and will build a relationship with those on your list. When they know, like, and trust you they will pay more attention to what you have to say.

How many times in a programming board meeting have you talked about what the student body wants to see on campus? Wouldn’t it be magical if you could send out a poll and it would show up in their texts? It can! The technology exists that you could send out a question to your list and give them multiple choice answers and they would reply via text. You get almost instantaneous feedback on whatever you are asking, whether it is asking what movie to bring to campus next month or the genre of your next major concert. When a student who voted in a poll sees that they had a say in what comes to campus, that continues to build their trust.

There is nothing like a contest with a shiny prize to get people excited about something. Some of the ways our school partners use mobile technology to run contests are:

Talent Meet & Greets – Run a contest giving away the chance to meet an artist coming to campus. The only way your student body has a chance to be picked is by being on your text list.

Free Stuff – We know that everyone likes free stuff, whether it be a campus hoodie, a gift card, or a parking permit. Choose what makes your campus excited, and raffle one away. The only way they can win is by being on your text list. Another way to do this is sending a text that advertises an event and says “show this text for a free t-shirt”. Your students get free stuff, and your text list grows.

When is the best time to get students opted-in to a text list? Without a doubt, the answer here is at Orientation. It is very likely that almost every student will have the same phone number at Orientation that they do at Graduation. Partnering with Orientation Leaders to encourage their first-year students to opt-in to your list is key. It’s also a great time to run a contest like I talked about above. Once you have them on your list, you can keep them informed for 4 years! That’s a dream!

By including text messaging into your marketing strategy, you establish a direct line with your student body. Stop fighting barriers like social media algorithms or the white noise of cluttered campus bulletin boards. Get your message on the most intimate screen your student has — their cell phone.