When it comes to communicating with students, the #1 goal is keeping them engaged. Schools and organizations attempt to engage students in a number of ways, but with so many communication channels to leverage, it seems like we’re always one step behind students. It can certainly be tempting to follow students from trend to trend as they move from Instagram to Snapchat and from WhatsApp to Kik, making us ask ourselves: What’s the difference among all of these apps, and what’s the most effective way to reach students?
Messaging apps may seem quick and easy - but that’s only after you download them onto your smartphone. Less than half of young adults who own smartphones report using messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik, or Viber; that extra hurdle of requiring a download means that you’ll lose many of the students you’re seeking to engage. Additionally, not every student owns a smartphone, and popular messaging applications are not supported by older, more basic phones.
Facebook and similar social media sites are a little better at engaging students: 70% of Facebook users check the site daily, with 43% checking Facebook multiple times each day. Schools, companies, and organizations use Facebook to market themselves to consumers and members, making Facebook a much more public and less personal communication channel. With the daily deluge of ads, promotions, and events filling students’ newsfeeds, it’s so easy for students to tune out your messages. Facebook Messenger is a more personal means of communicating with students on the site, but it again requires a smartphone download or computer login.
So where does that leave educators? With good old SMS text messaging, of course! Text messaging is a unique engagement tool for several reasons. First of all, texting has been around the block - after more than fifteen years, it’s still one of the most common forms of contact. Any cell phone is capable of sending and receiving text messages with no download required, which is great news for the 15% of young adults who only own a basic cellphone. Furthermore, text messaging is much more personal, since most people only share their cell phone numbers with friends, family, and other trusted individuals. Because texting isn’t a public forum, it can’t be diluted by advertisements or company promotions. Perhaps this is why 97% of text messages are opened and read!
Despite the flood of new communication applications, texting is still the #1 way that students and young adults communicate. Texting is interactive and personal, and it cuts through the noise to get students the information they need, when they need it. We want to reach students where they’re at, and texting is here to stay.