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Using SMS Messaging for Virtual Campus Tours

SMS messaging and virtual events took on a new meaning in 2020. In fact, these two marketing tactics soared in popularity as companies tried to navigate a “new normal.”

SMS was used for emergency alerts, last-minute reminders, and personalized communication as people socially distanced. In-person conferences, trade shows, meet-ups, and everything in between switched to a remote experience for safety. Yet, despite being slightly born out of necessity, each strategy doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

So, what would happen if you combined SMS messaging with a virtual event? Businesses who’ve already melded the two would say success. Schools and college campuses have found a blend of text message marketing and remote events beneficial in 2020 and look to keep up the new trend.

Curious to learn more? Keep reading to see how colleges and other similar institutions can use SMS marketing for virtual tours.

Recruiting Students for Tours

You can’t really have a tour, virtual or not if no one signs up to attend! For younger generations who prefer to communicate through their smartphones, an SMS campaign is the way to go. San Diego State University recognized this and empowered their enrollment services to send “personalized text messages and important reminders to incoming freshmen.” Reminders included information about campus tours, including the ability to sign up, ask questions, and confirm their time.

Other ways to use SMS for recruiting:

  • Always let them opt into your SMS campaigns (make it widely known it’s available throughout your site and other content)
  • Let them text back and forth with any questions about the virtual tour, like what to expect, considering it’s not the typical format
  • Allow them to confirm their time and date
  • Tease some of the areas you’ll be virtually touring through a video or picture (also known as MMS, multimedia messaging service)
  • Provide general information about the school and different parts of campus leading up to the tour to keep them engaged and excited

Make Your Virtual Event Rock

You should host any large virtual event on a platform with reliable connectivity and high-quality visuals. In other words: You probably shouldn’t Livestream your tour on Facebook if you have many people attending (this could work for a smaller audience, however).

More methods to make your virtual event stand out:

  • Ensure it adheres to the audience you’re going after – for schools, you’d want to be sure to hit up areas of the campus that students are interested in like the student union, bookstore, dorms, places to eat, library, different buildings where classes are, and more
  • Make sure your info is up to date – if a building won’t be open when classes can safely resume, be sure to mention that!
  • Use live data feeds that students can tap into during the tour, like social media feeds, live parking information, city details, and more
  • Integrate a live SMS feed so students can ask questions during the tour and other students can see what’s been answered
  • Get your tour guide to read any critical texts out loud during the tour so it’s interactive (it could also make that person more engaged while he or she gives a tour alone)
  • Try and make it feel as close to an in-person event as possible

Follow Up with SMS

Once their tour is over and enough time has passed, follow up with your prospective students. Some ideas for post-tour campaigns include:

  • Asking them how the tour went on a scale of 1-5
  • Asking if the tour met their expectations
  • Providing a space to ask any lingering questions
  • Having a 1:1 conversation if needed
  • Offering to transfer a text exchange to the phone for more interaction (works with toll-free SMS numbers)
  • Leveraging their contact information for other marketing communication like email, contextual website content, and more (works if you have a platform that integrates with your CRM, like SMSZap!)


Don’t let the fact that it may not be possible to hold an in-person tour hold you back! Prospective students deserve to get a similar experience that others have had in the past. Fortunately, SMS marketing and virtual technology make it possible. And with these guidelines, you should be able to host a great virtual campus tour, using SMS as the starting, middle, and ending points.