The Mobile Mavens are back for the first monthly podcast of 2011 with a look at how universities are harnessing mobile to connect with students. A raft of recent press and reports shows that universities are becoming more creative in how they use mobile – specifically text messaging — to connect with Millennials on their mobile phones.
From alerts about course materials and exams to invitations to join mobile forums and continue class discussions, mobile is front of mind with an increasing number of institutions and educators.
BTW: A great way to keep up with this exciting progress is simply to follow #mlearncon (as I do) on Twitter. That’s where the discussion that began around the awesome conference (of the same name) organized by eLearning Guild continues.
University of Louisville embraces SMS
The University of Louisville (UofL)– a state-supported research university located in Kentucky’s largest metropolitan area with a student body that exceeds 22,000 — knows the challenge of connecting with students – and came up with a solution using mobile.
As Elizabeth Fitzgerald, coordinator of communications for UofL’s office of admissions, pointed out in her campaign submission: “Prospective students typically aren’t accustomed to checking their email regularly. We needed a solution that would allow us to quickly and easily contact all of our incoming students.”
The institution decided that using text messages to engage with incoming freshman was the best approach.
Although its overall goal was to increase the level of student engagement by using a medium that is largely embraced by a college-age demographic, UofL did not have a any measureable objectives at the outset. The campaign was more about finding out just how text messaging might fit in with some of their more traditional outreach efforts such as direct mail and email.
What did the UofL do?
Beginning in June 2010, UofL sent text message blast (using a service called Call-Em-All) to send text message blasts to some 500 incoming freshman who had opted in to receive information on campus events, contests and more.
What was the incentive?
Kudos to UofL for encouraging opt-ins by including information about how to receive text message updates in all materials sent to incoming freshman. Additionally, UofL created subgroups for its texts message recipients based on their geographic location. These subgroups were broken out by city and region.
An example: One text message blast offered incoming freshman a week of free campus parking if they responded with a text citing the three things that they were most looking forward to during the upcoming school year. The UofL reports the flood of responses was astounding. As Elizabeth put it: “Students love to text and we found that it’s the fastest way to get a response.”
In the future, UofL plans to use text to reach out to prospective students with information on campus visits, application deadlines, and more.
University students are tech savvy, so institutions (and any other companies that want to connect with them) have to get smarter about their use of mobile in communications campaigns. Kudos to UofL for not limiting its campaign to apps or smartphones. Text is the one guaranteed way to reach the masses and opt-in is the best practice that will trigger a response.
The UofL campaign dovetails with what I hear from the Millennials (around the world) as part of the ongoing series of virtual round table podcasts I have produced in the last year cooperation with Optism. Specifically, they want to be asked first and they are eager to engage in a conversation provided if offers them value.
Which brings me to incentives and the opt-in database UofL could build as a result of this first bold experiment with mobile. Although 500 students may sound small, I join with my colleagues (Kim and Linda) is pointing out that the potential is there to grow this number significantly. UofL is off to a good start and should now turn its attention to identifying the right incentives. There are lots of possibilities – and they range from tickets to university events to advance access to services (such as placement in a favorite dorm).
And let’s not forget the option to include marketers in the conversation. Opt-in paves the way for a potentially valuable exchange for both parties. Even better if there’s a good match between the brand and the message. My fireside chat with Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy UK Vice Chairman, has left an huge impression on my thinking. Specifically, he argues that branded utilities and life-simplifying services are underrated. (Weather updates brought to you on your mobile phone by a maker of cold medicine, or 30-minute dinner recipes sponsored by a Philadelphia Cream Cheese).
So will people value advertising if it is somehow connected with services and stuff that promises us less stress/more convenience? I can imagine incoming students would answer in the affirmative!
Millennial Media SMART report milestones
Another feature in this month’s podcast was Under The Radar where we discuss reports and developments (that you may have missed) having a huge impact on the mobile space. Linda brings us a summary of reports about how universities are using mobile and Kim urges us to download the Mobile Marketer’s Mobile Outlook 2011, the must-read report published by my esteemed colleague Mickey Khan over at Mobile Marketer.
What’s am I watching? I’m excited about news and reports that show the advance of mobile marketing.
The most recent SMART (Scorecard for Mobile Advertising reach and Targeting ) report from Millennial Media confirms and quantifies this mega-trend. (By way of background, Millennial Media delivers us monthly and quarterly insights on key trends in mobile advertising based on the company’s actual campaign and network data.)
Put another way, more verticals are leveraging mobile more to drive customer engagement.
Specifically, the financial services category grew an eye-opening 802 percent year-over-year (for the period Q3 2010 vs. Q3 2009). Meantime, Retail and Restaurants jumped up 745 percent, and Telecommunications was right behind with 719 percent growth. Travel was up 411 percent, Armed Forces was up 372 percent and Entertainment up 315 percent.
The report also lists the kinds of campaigns and calls to action that are becoming more popular among marketers in these verticals. Granted, most campaigns are focused on promoting the brand. However, many are coming online that are sharply focused on driving new customer acquisitions.
Expect to see mobile used for more than marketing. Think engagement, CRM and loyalty.
Listen to this month’s podcast over at The Mobile Marketing Review.
This post is part of our Mobile Advertising Briefing Room, a thinking space dedicated to providing its community mobile intelligence, consumer research, case studies and industry best practices that equip marketers to reach and engage their target audience at scale. This discussion is hosted & sponsored by Millennial Media.