03 October 2020
What’s the best chat app for universities?

You know the power of chat. Conversational marketing is all the rage, and research is time and time again showing us that human interactions are the most influential aspect of decision making. So, what’s the best chat app for universities?

When you’re considering getting a chat app for your institution, there are a few things you should consider. 

But firstly, who will be on the other side of your chat app? 

According to a recent survey of 32,000 prospective students from around the world conducted by the Higher Education search engine, educations.com, students, at both postgraduate and undergraduate level, are increasingly turning to student reviews to inform their decision about university. Their interest in rankings is waning, but their desire for digital content such as videos is “skyrocketing”.

We always profess the power of the current student voice as your best advocate. But whether you’re looking for a chat app for ambassadors to chat to students, students to chat to each other, or staff and students to chat – here are some things to consider. 

Is the chat app safe? 

The sad reality of any online chat platform is that it presents an opportunity for malicious actors which technology struggles to keep up with.

Fighting misconduct online is challenging for a variety of reasons. For one, the majority of inappropriate content is difficult, if not impossible, to detect. It is often more subtle and insidious than just explicit language. Not only that, but is often dependent on context. Just because a message does not contain explicit sexual content, it can still be inappropriate, excessively personal or irrelevant to a prospective student. 

Another, more unique, problem that chat apps for universities face is maintaining a professional purpose and tone without losing the informal and personal feel they strive for. 

Prospective students want to talk to current students in a way that is relaxed enough that they can be themselves, but nobody wants it to become a dating app. 

At Unibuddy, this was a priority as we developed our chat app for universities. We introduced a huge number of powerful moderation tools that keep students safe, and give them complete control over their conversations. As a university, you also get the ability to safeguard you ambassadors and your prospective students. 

Will you get insights from it?

It’s well established that Generation Z wants content that is tailored, engaging, cost-effective and smart. It’s another challenge altogether to actually do it. 

That’s where data comes in, to underpin the student journey and inform marketing. But much of the data being used today is flawed: based on surveys and focus groups plagued with methodological problems. 

So, why not harness your chat app for a rich source of authentic data? The real questions that students are asking, and the real concerns that they are expressing, can highlight the distinctions that exist between demographics and individuals in their fears, motivations and interests in the transition to Higher Education.

These insights can and should be informing marketing strategies – but it shouldn’t stop there. A better understanding of the student journey, underpinned by data, should inform every aspect of the university experience. From enrolment to beyond graduation.

At Unibuddy, we wanted to use our peer-to-peer chat platform to generate a more authentic insight. So we built an insights tool directly into our product – we call it Conversation Insights. It uses powerful machine learning technology and allows our university partners to filter and view the most frequent topics by course of interest and country of origin, and view data for a range of time periods.

Is it built for Higher Education? 

There are literally hundreds of chat apps out there. You could consider using Facebook Messenger or email, even, for connecting prospective students with a university advocate.

But what you really need is a tool that is built for Higher Education. And the reason for that is Higher Education is a sector like no other. You don’t have customers, you have students – and students have a unique decision making process, a unique set of challenges and concerns. A Higher Education is the biggest decision many young people will have ever made, and an enormous investment. 

So, while we might take inspiration from clothes stores and grocery stores, you can’t compare buying a new dress with picking an institution for your next four or more years of study. 

So look for a chat app that is built for Higher Education, where you will get support from people who know your sector, and the language of the app matches the language that your prospective student users are familiar with. 

Does it promote chat, or enquiries?

It’s 2020 – and the chatbot has taken over the web. As an enquiry management tool, they can help you filter questions to the right place and provide an automated answer where possible. 

But you’re looking for a chat app for universities, not an enquiry management tool. And what that means is you want students to keep coming back and keep their conversation going. 

It’s that engagement that will translate to increased yield. 

At Unibuddy, we spoke to hundreds of students about their experience with chat apps and we found a clear problem: sometimes, they don’t even know what to ask. 

So we built something! We call it QSS – a Question Suggestion System – to give prospective student users ideas for what sort of questions they can ask. 

The Question Suggestion System is more than just random ideas for questions, though. We use a pool of over 400 questions, individually written (and sometimes rewritten!) by our team. They cover almost 100 different topics.

But we don’t just display them randomly. QSS is intelligent, and was built by our machine learning team. It uses our extensive understanding of our users to display topics and questions that a prospective student is likely to be interested in based on data points Unibuddy processes. 

Plus, QSS is learning and evolving. The data it collects about the impact different questions and topics have on a conversation will help develop the tool further. 

How to pick a chat app for universities

As you’re evaluating chat apps for universities, you might be thinking: where can we find an app that ticks all the boxes? 

Book a demo with us and you might just find your answer! 

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