Today, instant messaging platforms are capturing the time and attention of students all over the world, and WhatsApp is a key player. Around the world, WhatsApp is the default channel for personal communication, offering features such as group chats, video and audio messaging, and graphics. And the best part? Your school can get on board with this service to communicate with prospective students.
Using WhatsApp for education marketing is an easy addition to your school’s recruitment strategy, and one that can give your school a competitive edge. Traditional marketing channels, such as social media and email, are quickly becoming saturated. Prospective students are being flooded with information and ads from schools vying for their attention. With WhatsApp’s instant messaging service, your school’s message can cut through the noise and meet applicants on their own turf.
From faster response times to more personalized conversations, there are numerous reasons to use WhatsApp for education. Read on to learn more about how your school can leverage WhatsApp and all its benefits to engage applicants and increase enrollment.
Why Is WhatsApp for Education Becoming Popular?
More and more schools are gradually realizing the potential of WhatsApp as a marketing strategy. When building your school’s digital presence, the goal is to meet students on a platform they’re comfortable with and active on. In today’s mobile environment, students are looking for fast channels of communication on the go. As a real-time instant messaging service, it’s no surprise that WhatsApp was the most popular global mobile messenger app as of January 2022.
WhatsApp’s speed and ease of communication have a lot to offer your school’s marketers. While it may take weeks to deliver key information to prospects over the course of an email campaign, you can send short and informal messages that provide the highlights they need. Similarly, if a prospect has a question at any stage, WhatsApp is the perfect platform for them to get a quick response without going through the process of formulating a proper email.
Even better? WhatsApp is free to download and use, so your school can start making the most of its service at no additional cost. Unlike other marketing channels–which involve a constant stream of communication–a content strategy isn’t essential to get started on WhatsApp for education. You can add WhatsApp to your school’s social media accounts without having to plan and measure the success of your content. All you need to do is be active, promote your WhatsApp number as a resource for prospects, and answer questions as they come.
Reach More International Student Applicants
Much of WhatsApp’s appeal is its ability to connect people instantly across international borders. Free worldwide messaging is a big attraction at a time when international calls and global time zone differences can be a barrier to communicating effectively. This is an even bigger issue in countries with high SMS rates. India is currently home to the largest number of WhatsApp users, followed by Brazil and Indonesia.
Thanks to this kind of global usage, WhatsApp can be a particularly effective channel for your international student recruitment efforts. Through WhatsApp, connecting with your school’s international prospects becomes even easier. Those applicants who have admissions questions are far more likely to reach out on a free and user-friendly service rather than taking on the burden of international calls. In turn, your school can meet audiences around the world on an accessible platform.
The best way to get started is to identify the international student markets that your school wants to target. You can then create a WhatsApp number that students in specific countries can reach. If you know you’re working with a multilingual audience, think about setting up a profile in a specific language and running communications in that language to make it even easier for a diverse pool of prospects to reach you.
Example: Northumbria University in the UK operates separate WhatsApp numbers for Nigeria and India, the US, and the European Union. Prospective students can see when advisors will be available on those numbers through the school website.
Source: Northumbria University
This is a great channel for international students to ask relevant questions about life in a new country, visa applications, and local support. Remember, these prospects will want to get accurate information about the application process for their country. In that case, it’s a good idea to assign an informed advisor to each WhatsApp number who can be available at the right hours and provide relevant advice.
Be sure to include the correct country code when setting up your school’s WhatsApp numbers and promoting your contact information online. With a little effort, your WhatsApp marketing strategy for schools can be used to complement your international student recruitment efforts.
Use Instant Messaging to Establish a Personal Connection With Prospects
WhatsApp’s instant messaging service is one of the more effective means of lead generation in education. Most prospective students will be inundated with marketing content telling them why a specific school is the best. But few schools will have established two-way channels of communication with prospects–especially one with real-time instant messaging.
WhatsApp for education is not only a more efficient means of communication but also a more personal one. Providing a WhatsApp number for potential students to reach helps to build trust and investment in your school. Through real-time messaging, prospects can feel that they are connecting with a specific person from your school rather than engaging with automated campaigns.
On your school’s side, WhatsApp’s popularity as a mobile app means that your school can build a more direct relationship with potential students on a platform that they use daily. Given that 80% of WhatsApp messages are seen within five minutes, you can be sure that prospects are engaging with your messages quickly and on the go.
You can use WhatsApp for education to send regular updates on-campus events, new courses, application deadlines, and more to nurture a prospect’s interest in your school. In turn, you should encourage them to ask questions through the chat to boost their active engagement with your school.
In the example below, you can see how the University of Calgary responds directly to prospect questions with the right information and resources. In the chat, they provide the date and time of their upcoming Open House as well as a link to the registration page, making it easy for prospects to take the next step.
However, be careful not to flood prospective students with too many messages. As a more personal line of communication, WhatsApp should not be overused if you want your school to stay on prospects’ contact lists. Be selective about the messages you choose to send to personal numbers. Instead, focus your efforts on answering questions in a timely and concise manner.
Set Up Chatbots to Answer Questions
Having someone available on the line at all times isn’t realistic for most schools. However, the goal of WhatsApp for education should still be to provide a quick and informative resource for prospects. Your solution? A WhatsApp bot.
A WhatsApp bot is designed to provide users with an automated conversational experience on the app, using WhatsApp Business API integration. Instead of having a human on the line, you can create a bot that does the work through responses that feel natural.
For the purposes of your school, a WhatsApp bot can be used to answer common queries and give prospects the information they’re looking for quickly. Potential applicants will likely have questions throughout the admissions process and will expect to get a prompt response through your school’s WhatsApp number. These chatbots free you from the trouble of having a live agent, without sacrificing on customer experience.
For many questions, bots are able to offer real-time responses that are personalized based on the prospect’s message. The result can be a back-and-forth conversation that targets relevant information in an efficient manner. Without having to dedicate extensive resources, your school can use WhatsApp for education to engage with prospects at their convenience and nurture their interest.
Make Use of Group Messages to Deliver Updates
Another way to make communications via WhatsApp easier is to take advantage of the app’s Broadcast feature. The Broadcast List feature allows your school to send a message or media file to several contacts, making it easier to reach a large number of potential applicants at once. If there is a last-minute change to events or deadlines, broadcasting a message via WhatsApp will increase the likelihood that it is seen more quickly than those sent via email or social media. The broadcast message will still appear to be an individual message from your school, so you can focus on building that personalized connection with prospects at greater convenience for your school.
You can also create WhatsApp groups that are segmented by program, entry year, location, or other factors. With your contacts segmented into specific lists, you can deliver more targeted messages to the right prospects.
Example: the University of Minnesota gives applicants the chance to join a WhatsApp group based on when they plan to start their studies, with an additional group for those looking to transfer.
Source: University of Minnesota
This is a great way to nurture lead interest based on which stage of the enrollment process they are in. For example, those prospects looking to start their studies in a few years won’t need to receive messages on application steps or deadlines. They are likely in the awareness stage and may want to hear about the programs your school offers or life in the area so they can begin thinking about their future. Other prospects who are in the conversion stage will need to receive prompts to begin and finalize their application.
Create a Community for Applicants
An added benefit of creating group chats on WhatsApp for education is the chance to bring prospects together and foster a sense of school community online. As an innately social platform, WhatsApp can be used to help potential students connect with others who are making similar decisions.
For example, the ANU College of Science has set up WhatsApp groups to encourage users to meet both current and incoming students. The groups are open to students who have already accepted an offer and those still making a decision.
Source: Australian National University
Creating these casual, social spaces is a great way to initiate prospective students into your school community. At the same time, they can get first-hand advice from real students and get inspiration from those who have taken the steps to enrollment.
Tips to Get Your School Started With WhatsApp
As mentioned previously, getting started with WhatsApp in education is a straightforward process; it can be as simple as setting up a mobile number for the app and distributing it to your contact list. You can generate leads for your WhatsApp channel in much the same way as you would for your email marketing campaign. While getting prospects to provide their email for more content on your school’s landing pages and ads, think about directing them to your WhatsApp number as well.
However, keep in mind that, unlike email, WhatsApp is a more personal channel of communication. It is not appropriate for “cold calling” prospects with unwanted marketing material. Before you start sending private messages, reach out to your school’s contacts through email or WhatsApp and ask if they would like to receive communications via WhatsApp.
Example: University Canada West gives users the chance to opt-in or out of WhatsApp updates when providing their contact details through the website.
Source: University Canada West
Since you’re working with users’ private numbers, it’s also important to avoid generic mass content. This is a surefire way to get your school’s number blocker. Instead, stick to targeted messages that appeal to prospect interests.
As the mobile environment continues to take hold, it’s clear that messaging apps are here to stay. Implementing tools like WhatsApp not only offers prospects an easier method of engagement but also places your school where student conversations are happening. At no additional cost, WhatsApp for education is an easy supplement to your social media marketing efforts, yet one that offers the powerful edge of instant, personal communication.