(May 23, 2016) – The following is a transcript of a March 2016 interview with Brent Brooks, marketing representative of Olivet Nazarene University

Brent Brooks

Q: What’s your background and focus for your app?

A: I’m a consultant working for Olivet’s Student Life department, so we’re all about engaging students. The big goal is to retain them at Olivet. We do this by helping them connect with each other and the university especially in their first six weeks at college. So our app content and related push notifications are all about student events, activities, and clubs.
Q: Why do you use push notifications via your app?

Because it cuts through best for events, it’s fun, and students like notifications.

Q: Any advice for newbies on how to get started with push?

A: Just do it. Students today don’t perceive notifications nearly as invasive as they did a few years ago. As long as the information is engaging and relevant, push is a welcome addition to their lock screens.

Q: How does your use of push compare to how you use other tools to engage students?

A: Push notifications align with our social strategy. It’s best tool-best purpose for us. When we think about an event we use print to advertise more than one week out, a tweet 48 hours before the event, then a push two hours before the event. Post-event we use pictures on Facebook to recap the fun. The unifying purpose of all tools is to set our tone with students. That we want to talk with them instead of “at” them.

Q: So how often do you expect students to open/use the app overall?

A: We expect the typical student to open the app one to two times per week. So far, this has played out. In the past 12 months, we have had over 100,000 app opens.

Q: Does push drive students to get into the app?

A: Absolutely. We are happy with our push open rates compared to the industry average. For us the rate is higher this year compared to last year and as are our app opens. This shows that the power of push isn’t just if a student opens a notification. Since every push makes your phone ding, we know most students take the three seconds to read the push subject and make a mental note to open the app later.

Q: How do you write a great subject line for a push?

A: The subject starts with a word in all caps, moves to a statement about the experience they’ll have, and ends with a call to action to open it to see the details. Example:

We use this same format every time. Doing this conditions students to expect and look forward to these types of messages via the app.

Q: Wait, so you’ve never heard from students complaining about getting “spammed” by the app?

A: No. We currently send four to five pushes per month, and we plan to increase that.

Q: Is there any surprising feedback you have heard on campus about push?

A: Definitely. Students tell us they want MORE notifications. And the stats tell us that as our push volume has increased over the past three years, the student open rate has also increased.

Q: How do you plan to send pushes?

A: I set aside time each Monday to schedule pushes, but only five days in advance since events can change. I can always go back into the Mobile App Studio and edit or delete a push. As for the actual push send time, we stick to the “day of” for events since push is the best way to remind them to come.

Q: What about app content?

A: I update app content weekly with a focus on dates and featured content. We especially make sure events and clubs have accurate contact info. It would be nice to see a “pageview count” in the app to see what students are visiting and what they aren’t (coming soon).

Q: What’s your favorite story/reaction about a push?

A: I sent a push about a job fair that ended up being cancelled. So then I sent another push pretty much making fun of ourselves in missing the mark. In response, it got huge open rates and students posting the push screenshot on Twitter. That was because the push was honest and hilarious and it felt human.

Q: What does the next year look like with your app?

A: Like I said, we’ll increase the quantity of push. We’ll also more consistently use push categories.

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Author: Michael Vasey

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