WhatsApp has now reached a saturation point. It's established in the social fabric of student life and it's become the go-to app on most people's phones. It's also a very effective direct form of communication and higher education institutions are exploring new ways to refresh their student recruitment and communication plans for the upcoming year, and are rapidly adding WhatsApp into their communications framework.
Today, using technology to engage prospective students is just as critical to lowering operating costs. Schools must implement modern systems set up for today’s mobile environment, including mobile communications like texting potential students.
But now, you may be thinking, why not email? More colleges and universities are embracing the benefits of texting prospective students in an effort to establish a personal relationship with students considering their schools. Competition is fierce, and institutions are searching for any way possible to boost enrollment.
Research shows that texting students have a higher engagement rate than email and phone calls and can improve matriculation and retention rates, but the majority of colleges have yet to engage with students over SMS. It takes the average person 90 minutes to respond to an email, and only 90 seconds to reply to a text message.
And today, studies only show that using messaging apps to text students is the right way to go. Based on a study made by Lindsay Page and Ben Castleman on Summer Melt you can take into account that:
Nearly 75% of teens have or have access to a smartphone, 30% have a basic phone, and only 12% of 13- to 17-year-olds say they have no cell phone of any type. Gen Z and Millenials prefer messaging and texting to other methods of communication. While many schools may view texting as yet another channel they have to use to connect with students, it is delivering faster responses and is proving to be more effective than emails, phone calls, or snail mail to get students to complete important tasks or begin a conversation.
Today’s students manage their entire lives through their phones. As a result, text messaging has become an essential tool to engage and communicate with students and prospects in real-time to increase enrollment, improve retention, and produce higher graduation rates. And being WhatsApp the biggest messaging app in the world, you should start considering using its features for your recruitment strategy!
Based on AudienceProject data, 50% of American WhatsApp users access the messenger service daily. An additional 28% use WhatsApp at least once a week, which brings the total to 78% of American WhatsApp users accessing the app weekly. According to the same study, the US has more than 75 million active users in WhatsApp. If you are looking for new prospects, the chance that they are using WhatsApp is very high.
WhatsApp gives you a private one-to-one conversation. And the conversation feels natural, with many students talking freely in the way they would with their friends and family. It's also immediate. As with the rise of LiveChat and chatbots in higher education, it's quick to use and faster than email.
Suppose a prospective student has a few questions about the application process. They could compile a formal email covering all their questions. But sometimes the answers to one query influence the other questions being posed. In an email situation that could mean an email chain that builds up over weeks of back and forth. In WhatsApp, that conversation can be nuanced, detailed, and effective. And take place in something closer to ten minutes.
WhatsApp has the potential to put institutions at the conversational forefront on students' phones during this period of unprecedented change. When it's carefully managed, and well thought through, it can only be a good idea.