Switching on to social media matters on clearing day

Antonia Windsor
Getting the message: universities realise their audience is best reached via social media. Photograph: filadendron/Getty Images

Clearing day used to be about spending hours on the phone – often on hold or in a queue. And although clearing hotlines are still a big part of the process, universities are realising that if they are going to reach the text-happy generation, it makes sense to open up social media, live chat and text to start the application process and even make offers.

“Speaking on the phone is not something many students do in their everyday lives,” says Charlotte Renwick, associate director of customer marketing at Leeds Beckett University. “We want to make it as easy as possible for students to talk to us comfortably. Of course we will still have lots of people on the phone lines, but we will also have provision for people to text in, use live chat and message through Facebook and Twitter – and the teams on all those channels are trained to make offers.”

Joe Field, social media manager at Sheffield Hallam university, says last year was a bit of a lightbulb moment: “We used Facebook Messenger to initiate the application process, giving applicants an alternative route. This year we’ll offer Facebook Messenger and Twitter DMs as ways people can enquire about course availability, and for us to get basic information about applicants’ suitability. We’ll also field questions on Snapchat, but won’t use it for applications.”

In Birmingham, both Newman University and Birmingham City University will be making offers through Facebook and Twitter messages.

Renwick believes social media also enables people to ask questions they might be otherwise reluctant to ask: “Last year we had questions like: ‘Can I bring my guinea pig?’”

Facebook Live broadcasts will also be featured throughout the day at several universities; Leeds Beckett plans to use the story features on Snapchat and Instagram to keep people updated about how the day is progressing.

Newcastle University, meanwhile, will keep prospective students updated via WhatsApp. “Students sign up for personalised information on the clearing process, course places and help and advice around results day – and this year we’re extending that to WhatsApp, so they get alerts straight to their phones,” says Matt Horne, digital marketing and social media officer at Newcastle University.

“We’re using Snapchat influencers to encourage our target audience to sign up for alerts,” he adds. “Students will also be able to contact us through WhatsApp to ask any questions they might have about clearing, results day and coming here.”

Top tips

  • Find out if the university you are interested in is offering places or taking application enquiries through social media by looking up their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages.
  • Follow the institution on Twitter or “like” the Facebook page, enabling you to send messages.
  • Send a private message with your name, phone number, email address, Ucas personal ID, your subjects and grades, Ucas points and the name of the course you’re interested in.
  • When you get an offer, watch Facebook Live broadcasts, or go to the website to check out videos and virtual tours of the accommodation options and the facilities.
  • When you get offered a place you’re happy with, accept it in Ucas Track.
  • Take a selfie and post on social media to tell everyone you’ve got on a course you wanted.
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