Lots of schools use text messaging as a simple but effective way to communicate with parents en masse. It’s been the de facto choice for school closures, announcements and communication around performance or behaviour for a number of years.
While it’s been a mainstay for quite some time, with the emergence of newer technologies, some of the limitations of SMS messaging, particularly when employed for an activity like parental engagement, are coming more and more into the light.
Here are 4 reasons we think it’s time to upgrade from your school texting app.
It’s limiting you
You’re probably aware that traditional SMS messaging is limited to 160 characters. When you’re trying to send important messages to parents, that’s a small amount of space to squeeze in information. To put it into perspective, the previous two sentences clocked in at 198 characters. That means that all communication to parents in this medium must be brief and concise. You can of course send multiple messages, but this will cost you extra. On average, schools pay around 6p per message, so if you scale this up across the entire parent base, it starts to mount up. In-app messaging using a communication app is invariably free, and you remove the restriction of the character limits. Not only that, but you can easily incorporate rich media content like images and video, which isn’t possible over SMS.
Not only is SMS character limited, it can be technologically limited too. Receiving an SMS message requires a network signal – if a parent doesn’t have signal, they could miss the message. The probability of undelivered messages becomes higher if you factor in things like wrong numbers and the fact that some carriers actually block or filter “A2P” messages (messages that go from mass texting applications to individuals). With a dedicated app, you remove a lot of these barriers, and ensure that all users of the app receive the message. It’s not just about replacing SMS though – you can use an integrated service to send messages across various platforms, so even if a parent misses the message via the app, they could receive another version over SMS, or vice versa. Using a more holistic communication app covers you and ensures that your messages have higher delivery and engagement rate.
It’s difficult to measure
While you can obviously track and measure the number of SMS messages that go out to parents and how much it’s costing you, it’s virtually impossible to measure engagement with this messages. You might be able to track when a parent replies, but what about those who open your messages and don’t respond? It would certainly be useful in some cases to understand when, how and why this is happening so you can take steps to make your communication more meaningful. With a communication app, it’s much easier to track and report on the success of your communication. You can see when a parent has read a message, open rates vs response rates, and so on. Tracking your effectiveness and adjusting accordingly is the only way you’re going to achieve outstanding parental engagement.
It’s not a conversation
Obviously, parents will be able to respond to an SMS message sent it to them by the school. More often than not though, message threads don’t stay intact because each time the school text messaging app sends a message, it generates a new random number. This means that both the school and parent can’t see a record of interactions over time. Not only can this be frustrating for the parent, it’s not particularly valuable to the school. Being able to see true two-way communication with a parent over time is extremely useful in building up a picture of their engagement with the school, and this is rarely possible with SMS messaging. A communication app with in-app messaging will allow you and parents to have a complete history of all your interactions, helping you to foster a more meaningful, true two-way conversation.
As always, it’s important to back up a tech investment with the right strategy. At Weduc, our team have years of valuable experience in education, so we can help you build a parental engagement strategy that leads to real, tangible outcomes. If you would like to find out more, about how Weduc could help you, why not book a 20 minute virtual demo?