It’s no secret that students want to text. In fact, a recent study found that 97 percent of students indicated they use texting as their primary form of communication – they prefer it over email, direct mail or phone calls. Does that mean you should jump right in, start texting students and encourage your colleagues to do the same? Not so fast! Don’t fall victim to these common mistakes:
- Using emergency alert systems. It may be tempting, but don’t repurpose your emergency alert or other short code system for everyday conversations. Students view those texts as generic and impersonal (but hopefully, important). The last thing we want is for students to ignore these type of messages, which could be disastrous in the case of an actual emergency alert.
- Pretending UR their BFF. Do not—we repeat: do not— attempt to change your vocabulary to match theirs. Do not shorten words. Do not use slang you picked up around campus. Of course, you don’t want to be sterile and boring either. Have a personality—just be sure to use real, big boy/girl words and be the professional we know you are.
- Using. Periods. Want a surefire way to kill a conversation? Don’t give a student a reason to respond. If your objective is to initiate a dialog, end your text with a question. We have seen response rates go from less than 1% to over 90% simply by asking a question.
- Being unavailable for replies. If you send out a text campaign, be ready and willing to manage responses. This is especially true if you end your message with a question (see #3). Students have the expectation that when they respond to a text message, they are starting a quick back-and-forth dialog. So be prepared. Send to fewer students at one time, if need be. On the flip side, if a student initiates a text conversation on say, Friday at 4 p.m., he or she is not really expecting a reply until Monday. It is a very different expectation when you initiate the conversation, compared to when they initiate.
- Diving in without a plan. Texting students is legal, but we must be smart about it. Texting will be viewed as spam if it feels like spam, regardless of any explicit consent you may have received. We all remember oversaturating students with email—and look at where that left us. Be thoughtful about who (both individuals and departments) you give access to. Students will greatly appreciate the convenience and efficiency of texting, but they will loathe any communication that is not relevant and personal.
Watch the Higher Ed Live episode, Texting and the Law, to learn more about what legal considerations you need to know before texting your students. Or download the podcast:
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