by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Texting. It’s been a hot topic lately during calls with both clients and other admissions leaders. Many of the counselors that I’ve spoken with lately continue to get reports from prospects that they’re receiving “recruiting texts” from competing institutions. Hold that thought for a minute.
Let’s begin with the facts. We all know that today’s teenagers use text messaging more than any other mode of communication. Well, why is that? Your prospects tell us in our surveys that they like short bursts of information that get to the point plus it’s convenient for them. When it comes to the college recruitment process, many say there’s “less pressure” texting than there is with a phone call. Your recruits also tell us that phone calls with admissions counselors, too many of which are unexpected and not planned in advance, distract them from what they’re doing and always seem to take longer than promised.
It’s easy then to assume that text messaging might just be the answer to your phone call problems with recruits. In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!” Teenagers haven’t abandoned phone calls (nor should you). “Text messages are cool, but kind of impersonal. I prefer phone calls because the conversation moves faster and there’s less misunderstanding.” That recent quote is one of many that still pop up all the time on our recruiting surveys. Want more proof? A recent Pew Research Center survey of teenagers finds that phone calls are an important way that teens connect, particularly with their closest friends.
So, where do you go from here? There’s no doubt that texting has a place in today’s recruiting communication flow. Let me start by telling you that our latest research with students says both emails and phone calls rank one and two as preferred methods of communication with admissions. The gap, however, between text messages and phone calls has closed significantly.
Now I want to circle back to the beginning of this article (where I asked you to hold that thought). Understandably, counselors are calling and emailing to ask if they should be sending text messages that contain recruiting content.
The short answer is NO. I want you to resist the temptation to recruit via text message.
Let me define what I mean by “recruit”:
- Giving your prospect facts and information about your college or university
- Giving your prospect any kind of “sales message” about your school
- Making the text message look and sound like one of your regular recruiting emails or letters
Under no circumstances should your text messaging with a prospect include anything that would remotely look or sound like one of those three bullet points. Spread that word to your colleagues in the office, but let your competitors keep doing it (because believe me many of them are).
Text messaging isn’t used to “sell,” it’s used to communicate and hold conversations.
If you want to utilize texting the “right way,” which is the way that your prospects want you to use it, here are three things you need to keep in mind:
- You should ALWAYS ask your prospect for permission before sending him or her a text. Many will be okay with it, but there will be some who tell you not to. Never assume.
- Text messaging should be used to casually communicate back and forth during the recruiting process. Be concise and specific. Sending reminders, for example, is effective. “Most students from this generation would rather receive a quick text reminding them of something rather than a phone call.” That’s another direct quote from a recent recruiting survey with a client of ours. These could include, but aren’t limited to, reminding them of your upcoming visit to their high school, a visit to your campus, or a deadline reminder.
- Your wording and sentence structure matters. You need to make it easy for your prospect to actually reply to your text message. If that doesn’t happen, it might mean that you aren’t “sounding” like you’re easy to talk to, which you need to be with this generation.
Again, let me be clear. Texting is not a “one size fits all.” For many of your prospects in this current recruiting class it will be a great way to reach and engage them if you go about it the right way. Remember, though, just because your prospect gives you the green light to text doesn’t mean you can or should eliminate phone calls with him or her.
I want you to be the admissions counselor that knows how to effectively use every single communication platform to your advantage. Good luck!
Did you know that our team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies gives our clients an incredible competitive edge when it comes to getting the attention of, and communicating with, their prospects? It’s true. This in turn leads to measurable increases in YIELD. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to have a conversation about how we can do that for your institution.