Mass text messaging for schools: why it's time to move on
For years, it’s been common for schools to utilise mass text messaging/SMS as their primary communication channel for parents. Whether for a school closure or an upcoming sports day, many educational establishments have relied on SMS messaging to get a quick, succinct message out to parents or guardians of the entire pupil base. However, a new age is dawning.
But first, a bit of history.
The history of SMS
The first SMS text message was sent on the 3rd December, 1992 by Neil Papworth, a test engineer for Sema Group in the UK. Finnish network Radiolinja became the first to offer a commercial SMS service in 1994, and although the technology experienced slow growth to begin with, by 2007, it was the most widely used mobile data service, frequently used by 74% of mobile phone users worldwide. Despite the obvious social impact of text messaging, SMS has also been employed for a variety of uses, from emergency services to reporting security concerns. For many reasons, SMS is an incredibly convenient, quick and easy way to communicate with someone. You don’t need to be “free” at the same time, as you do with phone calls, and with the advent of software allowing to send automated, mass text messages to a large group of people, it’s a lot less time consuming for the person trying to communicate the message too.
So, SMS is popular technology, and we understand the benefits, especially when it comes to mass communication. That being said, there is a new and better way for schools to communicate more effectively with parents, guardians, students and even other schools: and that’s the app.
Why you ask? SMS has been serving you pretty well up to this point. It gets the job done. But what if instead of getting the job done, you could drive real, meaningful two-way engagement? Let’s make the case for the app.
We’re sure we don’t need to tell you that technology has moved on a bit since 1992. The rise of the mobile app in 2008 brought in a flurry of dedicated messaging apps, including WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. As of 2015, 30 billion messageswere being sent over WhatsApp per day, a 50% increase on the approximately 20 billion text messages sent. Those are pretty staggering statistics, and in the context of your school or trust, it’s undeniable – parents are using apps. They’re accustomed to using messaging apps. Some of them may not use text messaging at all. By leveraging app-based communication within your school, you can reach higher levels of parent engagement by “going to them where they live”.
Text messaging – it’s limited
As mentioned above, until the advent of the mobile messaging app, the benefits of SMS-based messaging were pretty clear. But as technology has moved on, messaging via mobile phone has seriously upped its capabilities. SMS is after all, limited to 160 characters, and with each text costing a school up to 6p per message, it’s been difficult up to now to communicate anything meaningful whilst trying to keep it within the character limit. With app-based messaging, these limitations are removed, and you’re free to send as lengthy a message as you like. Depending on the platform, you can also attach images, videos or send links much more easily.
Typically, SMS communication from schools to parents is very much one-way, broadcast style – either as a limitation of the technology or due it to being a cost to the parent to respond. In-app messaging removes this barrier, making it much easier to foster a two-way conversation where the parent can actually engage with the message they have received. Not only that, but they can also send messages themselves, making the process of contacting the school much easier than trying to get through to reception on the phone or visiting in person.
More than just messages
By integrating all of your messaging services into an app, you also get the opportunity to consolidate all of your communication with parents, including forms, announcements and updates into one place. Having this central point of contact and information is not only likely to drive higher levels of engagement, it’s also helpful for your admin staff too. They no longer need to duplicate mass text messages or announcements across various platforms, and by using smart forms, you decrease your reliance on paper-based communication too – helping you reduce costs.
The technology you use is really the first step towards great parental engagement. To see a real change, you need the overall strategy to drive it. We can help – our team have years of experience delivering integrated solutions into education. We don’t just get the tech, we get the policy too.