Converting through Social Media
At Birmingham City University, we've been paying close attention to students who had applied to us. We understand there are a lot of ways to fill our pipeline with interest but we wanted to engage with offer holders - the 'hot' leads.
When reviewing the student journey from application to enrolled student, we discovered that there was a significant amount of emails that we were sending out. These varied from reminders about completing their application, marketing communications, enrolment prompts, updates from agents, and more.
On top of this, the emails we were sending were not always relevant to the student. Not all of our internal systems talked to each other so it was hard to segment email communications with different messages.
We had a countless number of touchpoints with students via email. We knew we needed to do something different to engage with students, to ensure we were being heard and that they were being heard too. But diversifying from email wasn't a challenge - we introduced a conversion calling team and began our first official Facebook group for offer holders. The challenge would be resourcing these two new areas effectively.
The challenge would be resourcing these two new areas effectively.
Establishing a group
First, we set up a Facebook group for students who had received an offer. Facebook is a 'free' resource and is used in most countries around the world, so it was a no-brainer.
We set up two questions to gain entry:
- What subject are you coming to study?
- When are you joining us?
This helped us monitor the group, keep out other university applicants (we have a similar name to another university) and it also kept out any unwanted members trying to sell services (although someone did manage to slip through the net and post an advert to recruit escorts!).
The management of the group was left to me. I answered questions, posted updates, accepted requests, etc. When we achieved over 300 members in a few weeks, the workload really took its toll. I became an 'agony aunt' for those people waiting for updates on their visas and the affordability of studying in the UK. As we all know with social media, this isn't a 9 to 5 job. I was receiving private messages at different times of the day, past midnight, and at weekends.
When we achieved over 300 members in a few weeks, the workload really took its toll.
It was time to build a team of administrators for the group. I thought, "Who better than our student conversion team?"
Once we had recruited five students and another member of staff to help with the workload of the group, life became much more simple. It allowed us to start live streaming to the group, which brings the campus to the student. We live streamed about 30 different videos in the group, from campus tours to academic Q&A's. It was amazing to see the group come to life. Students posted questions and got on the spot responses. These were then documented on a weekly basis and included in a weekly report to the vice chancellor's office (VCO).
We live streamed about 30 different videos in the group, from campus tours to academic Q&A's.
The difficulty with a Facebook group is establishing ROI. There are basic analytics including group growth and engagement, but unless you're manually matching group members to your enolment list, you have to listen to the qualitative feedback. The individual messages of thanks and students saying 'I chose BCU because of this group' was enough to say it was worth it.
The group now has over 1,400 members. We decided to keep the group open and change the title of the group each year for new starters. We wanted to give groupies the choice of staying or leaving the group, and we made it clear we would love for them to stay and be part of the conversation with future students. It's been incredible to see that the original members wanted to stay and help new students with their questions, showcasing how supportive the BCU student community is.
Below is a quick snapshot of some of our stats from July 2017 till April 2018. Needless to say, we're delighted with the results!