30 January 2020

How influential are student conversations? 5 things we learned from Intead’s report

Strategic marketing group Intead work to develop and execute marketing strategies that effectively engage hard-to-reach student segments. In partnership with Unibuddy, they have released a new insight into prospective students from around the world, and how student conversations influence their decision making.

The full report is available to download straight from the Intead website. These exclusive insights are based on a survey of students from 57 countries, as well as over 370,000 messages exchanged from over 26,000 student prospects.

The stand-out finding of the report? Peer-to-peer interactions matter. A lot. Student decision making is influenced in a powerful way by online conversations with peers.

Here are five other key findings from the report – but be sure to download the full whitepaper on Intead’s website to get more insight.

1. Peer-to-peer is international

Across the board, in all the territories Intead researched, students were influenced by peer-to-peer interactions. In Asia, 51% of students said chatting online with a student ambassador influenced their decision about whether to apply to a university. And in Africa and Europe, that number rose to 69% and 62%, respectively.

Peer-to-peer was also influential at both undergraduate and graduate level. The latter found it significantly impactful: 56% said it affected their decision about whether to apply to university.

As the report summarises: “Student ambassadors instill confidence in prospective students and provide encouragement along the way. This provides a unique and honest perspective about academics, student life and local culture.”

2. Student Conversations are a more valuable resource for decision making than family and friends

Students have an abundance of resources available to them when making decisions about their Higher Education journey: brochures, marketing materials, comparison websites.

But common logic dictates that the most influential resource for students is the opinion of their family and friends.

Intead’s research proves this isn’t necessarily the case.

In Asia, as many students said Unibuddy was ‘very helpful’ for decision making as those that said their family and friends were very helpful.

In Africa, 57% of students found Unibuddy ‘very helpful’ compared to just 47% who said the same about their family and friends.

And in Europe, 58% of students found Unibuddy ‘very helpful’ for their decision making. Just 37% said their family and friends were a ‘very helpful’ resource.

Clearly, young people are turning to online chat and trusting it as a resource. They want someone who has ‘been there, done that’.

3. Academic information is most helpful – with geographic variance

The report also asks what students found most helpful from their conversations with ambassadors.

What was most helpful overall was ‘Academic information’ – but there was significant regional and academic variance.

European students found academic information incredibly influential. But in Africa, students were most influenced by personal encouragement in their conversations.

There was also variance by level. Undergraduate students found more value in information about ‘fit’, whereas graduates were more concerned with their academic life.

The report dives deep into what topics students found most helpful across geographic region and level – use this data to ensure your marketing is personalised and targeted.

4. Students value honesty

What is it about peer-to-peer that makes it such a valuable resource for prospective students?

The authentic student perspective, the value of speaking to a peer, the desire for someone who has ‘been there, done that’.

But in a word: it’s about honesty.

As one respondent put it: “The Unibuddy student really told me what she thought about the study. And the admission representatives usually only tell you about the good things.”

Respondents overwhelmingly suggested that the information they got from student ambassadors was more honest than the information they would have got from an admissions representative.

And for almost half of students, that honest perspective was the best part of the conversation.

As universities become more corporate and more business-like in their behaviour, so they become less believable and less trustworthy. And so students will reach out to their peers – who they do trust – for their views and opinions.

5. Student conversations impact application and enrollment

Here’s the good news for universities and colleges: providing peer-to-peer is impacting the numbers. 65% of students applied to the universities where they were able to chat with a student ambassador.

Even when they chatted after applying, respondents reported increased eagerness to attend, feeling welcomed and encouraged.

The numbers were highest in Africa: 75% of students that chatted with an ambassador chose to apply to that institution.

Our own research backs this up.

Imperial College Business School found that nearly half of those who used Unibuddy as their first point of contact, went on to apply.

Queen Mary also found that those students who used Unibuddy were 34.8% more likely to go on and register.

And, 89% of students who use Unibuddy felt more confident about going to university.

Download the Intead report now and dive into the data, and discover how digital peer-to-peer can transform your admissions strategy.

Download the full report


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