Technology has become integrated into our daily activities. Whether it is for information, entertainment or social engagement, millennials are glued to their phone screens. In fact, at least one research study found that young adults spend about one-third of their day on their cell phones. So, the question becomes this: What does that mean for Campus Fitness and Recreation Centers?
Students are preoccupied. Instead of walking around campus looking at posters and announcements, millennials’ attention is focused on their phones, and they expect timely updates to be available in the palms of their hands. Therefore, websites, posters, banners and other forms of traditional advertisements are viewed as outdated, becoming virtually invisible to a traditional millennial. In an informal study, Author Yuyu Chin found that 84 percent of Millennials don’t like traditional advertising, nor do they trust it.
Now Rec Centers are not only faced with the challenge of creating programs and events to get students in the door, but have the added obstacle of adapting its messages to reach millennials. After seeing the popularity of social media platforms skyrocket, marketers have found a way to take advantage and turn this desire for attention into a tool with the development of smartphone applications. In June of 2016, Apple’s App Store reported having two million apps and Android, 2.2 million.
Considered the social media generation, millennials have become accustomed to constant social engagement and find comfort in community atmospheres. According to “Millennials in the Gym: How Do They Play into the Remodel?”-an article in the digital magazine G Brief-46% of millennials participate in community-based fitness courses and are more likely to bring a fitness partner or small group. This information provides REC Centers with a unique opportunity. If Rec Centers can adapt to students’ digital, high-tech, instant culture and find a way to update students on events, tournaments, classes and other fast and easy information, they will respond. The easiest and most effective way to engage that group is through an app.
Establish a Digital Presence
In terms of a digital presence, you don’t want to be invisible. While you could print flyers promoting your upcoming event and hope students run across them or you could share an advertisement in the school paper and hope that enough students viewed the message after it had been printed and distributed, you are not guaranteed that most of your student body will see messages in those traditional formats. In other words, you are spending a great deal of time and energy-both of which could be put into developing the actual event-and you may not be effectively sending your message.
With over 85% of millennials owning a smartphone, spending over 90 hours a month on their phone using apps and 59% claiming that they use social media to find information -there really is no reason to resort to outdated ways to reach your target student audience. Students do not want to be bothered with navigating through browsers for information. Apps provide Rec Centers with visibility and students with the convenience and easy access to information. This direct route for information sets applications apart from social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, where you are competing for students’ attention. In other words, these mediums have too much noise in them for your Rec Center’s voice to be heard. An app provides you with a direct, effective and efficient line of communication to motivate students to engage in Rec Center programs.
Communication is Key
A 2014 Report from NIRSA, the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, noted that 67% of students report that campus recreation programs influenced their decisions to continue attending their chosen college/university. From that data, you can infer that developing early communication in the students’ relationship with the Rec Center is crucial. When first-year students enter your institution, they are likely experiencing their first phase of “freedom,” which can be healthy for some, but detrimental for others. If you provide students with a social and fun environment, they will be exposed to like-minded individuals which can lead to long-term friendships. This sense of community will have your students not only coming back to the Rec Center, but also remaining at your university until graduation.
The issue is determining how to best reach your entire student body, while keeping it personalized and ensuring they don’t skim or skip the message like they may do with other campus-related emails. Features such as push notifications, live alerts and updates allow Rec Centers to reach students with just one message. Instead of offering just another subject line in their already full inbox, push notifications-because they are sent directly to students’ phones-can engage students on a more personal level. These outlets help streamline communication and inform students of regularly scheduled activities as well as live updates to class schedules and hours, including unexpected changes, new programs, alerts for holiday hours, and upcoming events.
While group emails may certainly offer similar benefits, they also require more work from staff and-quite frankly-are less effective. Flooded inboxes have become an issue for establishing clear and effective communication with students. Students may not review their emails on time or, even worse, they may delete them before opening them, which wastes your energy and doesn’t accomplish your goal of communicating clearly and quickly with your student body. Instead, you can make it far easier on yourself by eliminating email contact lists, as well as the workload that accompanies updating and maintaining those email lists every semester. Instead, you can reach all current students with one push of a button.
Learning About Your Options
I know what you are likely thinking at this point. Perhaps you already have a website, so you may be wondering if any app is necessary. Many administrators, staff, and students at colleges and universities seem to think so. In 2014, Campus Computing Survey found that 83% of participating campuses had developed and released a mobile app, which was a 23% increase from 2012.
If you are creating it from scratch, software development companies will charge upwards of $100,000 to create a personalized app; more importantly, this upfront cost does not include the required upkeep and routine updates. As with anything else related to technology and software development, apps also need time to have “the kinks” worked out, and that de-bugging time may lead your students to think the frustration outweighs the benefits. They have enough frustrations; they need their apps to be user-friendly and effective.
As such, you should look for a way to get the benefits of an app without having to create your own. You can look for an app that can give you the ability to create an effective digital presence without adding the overhead and time involved with managing another project. Fitness apps that are already developed and debugged allow organizations to sign up for low monthly fees while providing students with an exceptional digital experience. Now your fitness and recreation center can have your own Fitness and Recreation Center mobile app without any of the hassle.
We understand that running a Fitness and Recreation Center requires constant work; directors are also required to wear multiple hats to keep everything running smoothly. In short, you don’t want to add to your hat collection. You want something that requires minimal effort with maximum added benefit. To remove unnecessary stress and added cost, administrators can choose a third party for the mobile app for your Fitness and Recreation Center. Even more importantly, perhaps, investing in a mobile app can offer you a way to stay relevant, while increasing student engagement, getting more students involved, and streamlining communication.