SMS (text) broadcasts can
be used effectively to improve parent, student and staff communication,
provided they are used correctly, professionally and within the guidelines of
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
There are several distinct applications, such as automated attendance and lunch balance calls, scheduled communications, and facility closure or delayed opening notices that parents and staff welcome receiving from their district via this channel.
1. “Introduce” yourself: An introduction letting recipients know of your SMS presence, including your short code and why you will be texting may reduce the number of parents who unsubscribe from this channel. It's also simply more courteous. If you have not yet introduced your SMS short code to parents, you may want to consider an introduction letter via email or student folders like the one found here.
2. When creating your SMS message, include an actionable and immediate action for parents and guardians to take (when possible).
a. Actionable: Updates are nice, but become easy to ignore if it isn't apparent that there is something to do with the information. For example, you can suggest to parents to talk with the child about the information you're conveying.
b. Immediate: This is a platform for short-term, immediate steps and information. That is, it's great when discussing tonight's meeting, but it's probably not the best way to engage parents about the importance of the agenda topics, in detail.
3. Ensure your SMS message arrives in proper order: Because the recipient's carrier controls the final stage of the sending process, Alert Solutions cannot guarantee sent SMS text messages will arrive in the proper order. Alert Solutions sends the SMS text messages you pass to us in the order you've queued them. Best Practice: We highly recommend limiting SMS text messages to 160 characters in the US and 136 characters in Canada. International character limits are often 160 characters, but can be as low as 70 characters if non-GSM characters have to be sent (for example, when using auto-translation for text to text messages).
4. Reference other channels or sites for more detailed information: Due to character count limit best practices, it is best to reference your Web site, landing page, or other channels (Voice or Email, for example) for more detailed information. This will ensure your audience receives concise messaging while aware of outlet(s) for additional resources.
5. Cross-promote with social media channels. If you have social media integration completed in your 2.0 setup (a free feature), you can use these channels to promote opt-in for certain message categories via the parent portal. For example, promote your mobile subscription opportunities on social media, and your social channels on SMS. To learn more about social media integration, click here.
6. Personalize your SMS message: When using advanced editing options in creating your messages via Alert Solutions 2.0 (accessed by clicking ‘Edit’ beneath the SMS channel in the Create New Message screen) you can choose to place dynamic content into the message using “Insert Merge Fields”. For example, if you insert the First_Name merge field, each message will be customized with the first name of the person.
7. Develop and use templates for your frequent SMS messages: Using Alert Solutions 2’s File Library feature, you can save your most common text message content as templates for future use. Simply save the content of your SMS as a .txt file and then choose the SMS button in the File Library. Next, choose the file where you have the .txt file housed, and select Upload as SMS. The screen will refresh and you will now see the SMS template file in list of available files. Once you are in the advanced editing features of Alert Solutions 2.0 (accessed by clicking ‘Edit’ beneath the SMS channel in the Create New Message screen) you can select your pre-saved messages stored in the File Library as plain text. This is a great option if you will be sending out the same message multiple times.
If you need any assistance or have questions regarding best practices, please do not hesitate to contact Customer Support at (800) 929-1643, option 1 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.