Text Messaging (SMS)

This service is for faculty and staff

There are multiple communication channels to reach students at St. Thomas and SMS, or text messaging, is one that has been shown to be effective. While effective, it should be a part of your communication plan and not replace other standard forms of communication (phone and email).  Please read through the FAQs to help determine if SMS is appropriate for you to utilize.

What is SMS?

Short Message (or Messaging) Service, a system that enables mobile phone users to send and receive text messages.

What are the benefits of SMS?

The primary benefit is that you're reaching students where they are: their phones or mobile devices.  Emails come in heavy volume and may not warrant immediate replies and phone calls may not get answered.  SMS can be an effective way to get a response quickly and engage with a student on an individual level.

How do I send SMS to students?

Currently, there are two ways that faculty & staff can send SMS to students and each provides a different experience:

Salesforce, Mercury SMS

  • This is a 2-way SMS application allowing for individual messages to be sent to the student where the student can reply and have an engaging conversation.
  • You can send bulk messages and all recipients will have the ability to reply individually to the sender.
  • All messages are viewed, tracked and stored within the Salesforce platform, therefore a you must be a licensed Salesforce user to use this option.

Marketing Cloud

  • This is a 1-way marketing SMS application allowing for bulk messages to be sent to mobile devices.
  • Keywords can be utilized to share additional information and redirect the recipient to a shortent URL or phone number.
  • For example, you could use this in marketing materials and encourage athlete to "Send the word FOOTBALL to 462878 for more info" or "Send the word APPLY for a link to our application."
  • Messages other than keywords sent to this number are not monitored and trigger an error message.

When should I send SMS?

SMS should be utilized as part of your communication strategy and not replace anything that may already exist.  Consider adding SMS to your communication plan when:

  • all other forms of communication have been exhausted
  • a student hasn't opened or read your emails
  • there is a need for individual outreach based on unique circumstances (example: COVID-19 outreach)
  • you're following up and email and phone calls haven't returned results

What should I consider when sending SMS?

The biggest thing to consider is whether or not the student as opted-in to receiving SMS from your department and/or St. Thomas. This is different than sending email to all students, faculty or staff since St. Thomas provides the email addresses to all members of our community. Mobile phones are not provided to students and most incur costs for text messaging, so the law clearly states that we are required to obtain explicit permission from them before sending text messages and that we provide them with the ability to opt-out by replying with the keyword STOP at anytime.

Another consideration is cost to the university. There are annual and monthly costs to maintaining the numbers as well as costs per outgoing message. There is also a limit of 160 characters per message - and longer messages can increase the cost exponentially. 

Can I send of message to the entire student body?

Not quite. First of all, other than emergency alerts managed by Public Safety, text messaging should be used to send personalized messages to individual students. Also, not all students have opted-in to non-emergency text messaging from us and our records are only as accurate as the data they provided to us, which typically came in on their application. Also, some students may have opted-out of SMS at some point, so any sent message would not be received by those individuals.

How do I get started?

Reach out to the Salesforce team for more information at salesforce@stthomas.edu.

To report a problem or receive additional troubleshooting, please contact the Tech Desk
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Article ID: 109375
Mon 6/8/20 10:58 AM
Tue 1/12/21 12:43 AM

Related Services / Offerings (1)

Text Messaging via the Salesforce or Marketing Cloud Platforms for enhanced communication efforts.