There are a lot of questions that come up when an organization decides to start texting students, and we hear them all! When should I send messages? Who should respond to students? How many messages is too many messages? The list goes on and on. One of the most common questions we are asked is whether students should opt in or opt out. What's the difference, and which should your program choose?
Opt-in programs require students to send a text to an organization's phone number in order to start receiving messages. Opt-out programs send the first text to students, often with an introduction message that lets students know how to opt-out of receiving messages.
At Signal Vine, we work with both opt-in and opt-out programs. The biggest difference that we see between the two programs is the number of students who participate: while opt-in programs see only 20% of students actually texting in, opt-out programs have a very low opt-out rate of 3-5%. It's plain to see that opt-out programs are exponentially more successful, but why?
The answer lies in behavioral economics. Most people don’t put forth extra effort, so asking students to sign up for a program inevitably means that only a very small percentage will follow through. The reverse is also true – if you text students and provide an opt-out option, few will make the extra effort to opt out.
If you’re leaning toward an opt-out program, the next question is always: is this even legal? FCC laws and guidelines answer this question. If a student provides his or her cell phone number to a nonprofit organization or institution (on applications, registration forms, inquiry cards, etc.), it's considered "verbal consent" to receive text messages from that organization. The guidelines also require organizations to stop sending messages to people who express that they don’t want the texts anymore. Our technology complies with these guidelines by recognizing the words STOP, CANCEL, and UNSUBSCRIBE. When students text one of these words, they automatically stop receiving messages.
Now that you have all of the facts, it’s up to you and your team to decide between an opt-out or opt-in program. Whatever you choose, the Signal Vine Customer Success team will be there to help you create an effective program that improves engagement with your student population!