Today, educational institutions are presented with endless solutions to solve the challenge of meeting students where they are. So how do you choose what’s most effective?

This blog post focuses on an opportunity to connect with students with online advertising via an interesting Google AdWords update.

In the 2016 E-Recruiting Practices Report, Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL) pointed out a recruitment opportunity gap in the online paid advertising space. The report shares that most colleges are only beginning to use online advertising. They also share that just over 50% of colleges are using social media paid advertising, and less than half of colleges are using online search advertising like Google AdWords. RNL also points out that 47% of high school juniors and 39% of high school seniors have clicked on a paid ad when searching for colleges.

That, in itself, is an area of opportunity, but first, what’s the point of paid advertising? Generally, it is to select an ideal target group of prospects, encourage them to click on a link to your website, and then connect with the prospective students (or perhaps family members) to answer their questions and hopefully convince them to apply and eventually enroll at your institution. Interestingly, Google just released an AdWords update that eliminates the need for prospects to convert on a webform, and instead starts a messaging conversation immediately. This new feature is called “click-to-message.”

Google, along with lots of other tech giants like Facebook and Amazon, are betting big on messaging. They want to provide a better customer service experience to users by giving them the option to message with companies and schools directly from their ads.This shift is happening because people generally despise the long hold times they’ve endured waiting to talk to people on the phone. Studies show that most people prefer messaging and texting to every other method of communication.

With Google’s “click-to-message” feature, schools now have the option to add a texting icon to their ad. When a prospect taps the icon, their default SMS app will open, and they’ll receive a pre-populated, customizable introductory message from the school. Some examples I have seen with the click-to-message option include booking a reservation from a restaurant ad and talking to a sales rep from a software ad, but I have yet to see an ad for a school with the click-to-message option. The click-to-message call to action will only display on mobile search, but feel free to send over some examples if you have experienced a school using the click-to-message functionality.

Example of click-to-message from my phone… I need to recharge my battery!

Today, business call centers and student contact centers are shifting to a more mobile-centric office space. Facebook, another popular social media advertising platform, is promoting their own version of click-to-message. If your school is using Facebook as a communications tool, or thinking about using it, take a look at our post “6 tips for schools using Facebook Messenger.” People now expect quick responses and prefer messaging to picking up the phone, which is a big reason why companies like Google and Facebook are encouraging schools and companies to actually engage in messaging conversations.