Schools have a lot of communication to do.
From faculty to staff to students to parents (if a pre-K–12 school)...
There are a lot of people to keep in the know and a lot of updates to make.
(And, let’s be honest, if you’re trying to reach students, email is not the way to go.)
That’s why many schools have turned to using text messaging services to help them with all of that communication.
But how do you get a text message service set up for your school? What do you need to know? What even is SMS?
Here are all your top questions—answered.
A text message service, also known as SMS service, is an online platform and/or mobile app that lets you send and receive text messages on a mass basis. With a text message service, you can manage a system of contacts and coordinate text messages sent to those contacts.
Text message services allow you to take advantage of SMS (which refers to texting) for your school or any other institution or business.
Without a text message service, there would be no way to feasibly manage text messaging efforts for these types of organizations.
First off, text message services allow users multiple ways to add and manage contacts.
You can add contacts manually from a spreadsheet file.
Or you can allow users to opt themselves in to your text list by…
You can organize your contact list into specific groups so that you can send relevant messages to the right people.
For example, you could separate out your contact list into groups such as:
Furthermore, you can add as many administrator users as you'd like to manage your texting account and send out messages.
That way, you can delegate texting responsibilities to different members of your staff, such as secretaries, supervisors, or anyone else that you’d like to be able to send out messages.
In addition to contact management options, a text message service will give you several different options for actually sending your messages.
Some of these options include:
Whichever methods work best for your school, a text message service provides those options and more within the online platform.
So now that you know what a text message service actually is and does, what can schools actually use it for?
Really, the possibilities are almost endless, but a few common use cases include…
You can use a text message service to remind students and their families of events.
Sending reminders helps boost attendance by reducing no-shows.
Don’t forget! Commencement is SATURDAY at 2pm in the gymnasium. Congrats, grads!
Another use for texting is to let people know about weather notices or that events need to be canceled due to the weather.
That way, people aren’t left scrambling in the dark trying to figure out what’s going on.
Classes are CANCELED tomorrow due to expected blizzard conditions! Stay home and stay warm!
Texting is an effective way to keep staff and faculty in the know and on the same page, since people are much more likely to read all of their texts than to read all of their emails.
So you can take advantage of that to keep everyone informed via texting.
Office holiday party is TOMORROW at 7pm! Come hungry!
In the unlikely and unfortunate event of a school safety emergency, texting provides a quick and easy way to update everyone at once about what’s going on.
In your text, you can give a brief update about what’s going on, what steps people should take, and how long the emergency may last (if you have that information).
Students and staff: A tornado warning has been issued for our county until 2:12pm. Please proceed to the nearest basement for shelter in the meantime (students, follow staff and faculty).
Deadlines can be hard—especially for young and immature students who haven’t quite learned the art of self-discipline. (And let’s face it… even older adults have problems with deadlines from time to time!)
Texting can be an effective way to remind people about deadlines, so that these deadlines aren’t missed.
Don’t forget… the deadline to submit your nominations for student body government is TOMORROW at 9am.
You can use a text message service for any other general updates at your school.
Attention, students! We’ll be having a guest visit from local entrepreneur Gary McLeary. He’ll be speaking in the Student Center from 1pm-2pm on Saturday, May 12th. The event is free but you must reserve your ticket here: [link]
In general, it is not illegal to use texting for solicitation.
The legal requirements against texting used to be more stringent.
But since a Supreme Court ruling last year, the rules have been laxed a bit.
That means you can use texting to send updates for your school, and you could also potentially use texting to ask for donations, to promote your school’s services, or other solicitations.
However, some guidelines should still be maintained, not only for legal reasons but also for the purposes of staying in good graces with the mobile carriers…
Although there are free mass texting services, the fact that they are free likely means you’ll run into issues.
Some of these issues may include:
It’s better to make the investment to use a full-fledged mass texting service that will give you less frustration and more opportunities for growth.
And if you’re concerned about giving an upfront investment, you can get a free trial to test things out before fully committing, and you can get a free demo to see all the in’s and out’s of how it works.
Text messaging is quickly becoming a powerful communication tool for schools.
From delivering important information to students and parents to engaging in surveys and polls, text messaging can help streamline the way schools share updates and facilitate positive engagement with its community.
Here are some steps you can take to get started with a text message service.
Before setting up text message services in your school, it’s important to identify your goal and the desired outcome.
Ask yourself and your staff, “What do we hope to accomplish with these services? What type of information will be distributed through these messages?”
Are you looking for greater student engagement? Improved communication with parents? Better staff management? All of the above?
Once you have a clear vision of how you want text messaging to benefit your school, it will make it easier to set up these services and create effective strategies for using them.
Once you’ve decided how you want to use texting, you can select a platform and give it a test run.
Mobile Text Alerts allows you to test out the platform with 50 free messages for 14 days—there’s no obligation or credit card required, so there’s no risk to try it out.
We’d recommend hopping on a free 1-on-1 Zoom demo, so that you can get a personalized walkthrough of everything you can do with the service.
If you already have a database of contacts, you can just add them into the texting service via a spreadsheet file.
But you may also want to give people options to subscribe themselves to your text alerts.
You can do that by setting up keywords (more on keywords in the next point), and/or sharing a QR code or web form.
Decide if you’d like to use any of those methods, and then explore setting them up within the platform.
If you decide to use “text-to-join” keywords, this will allow people to text in a specific word and be added to particular groups within your overall texting list.
When they text in those “keywords,” they will also receive an automated response message that you can customize within the platform.
Thus, you can use this option to organize your subscriber list and also to provide pertinent information to people who decide to text in.
Once you’ve got the basic features of the texting platform nailed down, you can engage in brainstorming strategies for how you could use texting to keep people informed.
(See the section “How can schools use a text alert system?” above for some specific ideas.)
You can work with your team to develop a general plan of action. It’s best if you can clearly delineate responsibilities and determine who will do what and when they’ll do it.
Hint: One of the most impactful ways to use text message services is to create automated messages that provide timely, valuable information.
This ensures that your target audience is kept up-to-date about important events, programs, and activities.
If you’ve decided you’re ready to move forward with a texting service, you’ll then need to determine how many messages you’ll regularly send.
The amount of activity you expect to have is the determining factor for how much your text alert service will cost.
In order to determine this, you’ll need to estimate:
Keep in mind that each recipient for your text blasts counts as a message sent (for example, a message sent to 200 people would count as 200 messages).
Also keep in mind that if an SMS exceeds 160 characters, it is sent as 2 or more messages.
Once you’ve decided how many messages you’d like to send on the regular, you’re ready to move forward.
If you’d like to get a text message service up and running for your school, go ahead and get a free trial account so that you can get a feel for how it works.
You’ll soon be able to see the simple power of texting for yourself!
Start sending mass text alerts to your entire list today!GET FREE TRIAL