The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 2 months ago

Tribe, Community, Belonging, Trust: Leveraging Peer-to-Peer Connection


Students don’t actually want technology to replace all human connection. What prospects do want is one-to-one relationships with student ambassadors who will tell them what the institution is really like and help create a sense of belonging even before admission. 

In this episode, we interview Diego Fanara , Cofounder & CEO at Unibuddy , about a platform to facilitate peer-to-peer connections that promote belonging. 

Join us as we discuss:

- The idea of affinity groups and student tribes

- The successful utilization of peer-to-peer platforms

- How the student ambassador can replace a campus tour

- What role admissions and technology should play in human-to-human connection 

Interested in a demo of Unibuddy? 

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts , Spotify , or your preferred podcast platform.  

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Higher Ed Marketer in your favorite podcast player.

Because today it's not any more abouttaglines or police marketing materials and impressions. It's about human connections, and sopeer to peer will become the platform where this can happen. You're listening tothe Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education.This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, don'tor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are lookingfor conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the High Ed Marker podcast.My name is Troye singer and each week, with the help of Bart Taylor,we try to bring to the high rate community marketers that we admire orideas that we think would be helpful to the higher rate community. Today we'regoing to talk about peer to peer platforms with Diego Fanara. He is theCO founder and CEO of Una Buddy, which is a company that is gainingmomentum here in the states. Yeah, try it's it's going to be agreat conversation. I really like Diego. He's got some he's got some firsthandknowledge and I think that his story, being an international student, he's originallyfrom and helped, he'll go into this, originally from France and and then grewup in Switzerland but wanted to to attend a UK or US school andkind of coming in as an international student, the idea of wanting to connect withhis affinity group even in the admissions process and the enrollment process. AndI don't think diegos alone, because obviously the platform that he has helped foundand build and it's, you know, one of many that are out there. But you know, buddy allows schools to be able to engage and providea structure and scalable experience for peer to peer networking so that, you know, a student who's coming in can connect with other students that are similar tothem, whether they're from this the same state, whether they're studying the sameprogram whether maybe they're an international student who we always talk about. That inhigh red marketing is that, you know, once we get somebody to apply,how in the funnel can we make sure that they get connected to theright group? Sometimes that happens on the campus tour, sometimes that happens with, you know, just student ambassadors can connections, but these peer to peerplatforms have emerged that really provide structure and scalability that allows the US, asmarketers, to be able to manage that and to kind of, you know, intentionally do that so that we can increase the yields throughout the funnel.Although Diego does represent a specific company, I believe he does a great jobof describing the advantages of the type of platform that they represent overall. SoI think there's a lot to glean from this and, without further ado,let's ring in Diego. We are honored... welcome Diego Fanera to the show. He is the cofounder and CEO of Una Buddy and he is also talkingto us from another continent. Welcome to the show, Diego. Hi Tryit's great to be here. Thank you, if you would. For our listeners, if you could tell us a little bit about you, your companyand your role as CEO of Uni Buddy. Sure so. I'm, as yousay, from another continent right now. I'm based in London. was actuallyborn in France. They grew up in Switzerland and, as an internationalstudents, dreamed of studying finance in the UK or in the US. Andthat's how the idea of Uni Buddy and peer to peer and marriage while Iwas going through this transition of looking for universities and being unsure of how todo this. And so the concept of UNIBODY is powering community, connecting perspectivestudents with current students to share attending information so that prospective students can have theright information and autentic insights to know how it's like to be in the university. And so unibody cells software to admission offices so that they can leverage thepower of community to increase their yelled while doing this connection happen. That's great. Thank you, Diego I. I've been following you a buddy for severalmonths now and I've been impressed. I know that you're developing quite a presencehere in the US with with several schools, and I'll just encourage the audience ifthey want to learn more about that, they can go to the unibuddy websiteand see that. But I think today we want to really kind offocus on, you know, this idea of allowing perspective students kind of aglimpse into into the student life and to what what you know, what everydaylife is like. And you know, schools have tried to do that overthe years with blogs and with even with some of their social media accounts.But I think there's something about the idea and the advantage of these affinity groupsin higher education enrollment, you know, kind of kind of with the ideaof being able to identify the perspective student and their affinity and then be ableto match them up with, I guess, what you would call student ambassadors fromthe university. So tell us a little bit about that. I mean, I think a lot of times it's kind of like the idea of connectingstudents with their tribe, that they are, you know, naturally a part of. Yes, that that's so true, and that come back to the purposeof what drove into this. It's the importance of community and tribe.We believe that students consider an institution because of their course, because of theirlocation or a lot of parameters, but they convert for the community and theystay at the institution because they feel that they'd belong. And so what theyneed these to be able to see what the community is like, to meetpeers and appear someone of the same age,...

...background or ability as another person.It could be someone who shares experiences and similarities with yourself and in highereducation. This is an incredibly powerful notion because, all in all, itdon't furs the more level playing field and uses the power of student diversity toconnect people. So having those trusted voice for students who of who they canassimilate themselves, this is where you can rise above the those to meet someonewho's currently experiencing this life and and aspires for themself, and that's when thatconnection happened. It unleash students to have clarity and confidence to make their leapand make the right decisions. I think that's great and it reminds me ofthe classic statement that I hear from from enrollment officers and admissions professionals is that, boy, if we can get them on campus for that campus visit,we can usually. I mean statistics show like eighty ninety percent of students whodo a campus visit will matriculate, and I think what's fascinating to me isthat you've created a platform that kind of takes a lot of the aspects thathappen in that campus visit, which are people kind of recognizing and identifying thatI can fit in here, I can see my tribe. Maybe they're engagingwith tribes and a lot of schools like to kind of have a kind ofimmersive campus visit where they maybe spend the night in a dorm with some studenthosts. Well, that's a chance again to do that peer to peer connectionand I think what's fascinating to me is that you're kind of taking some ofthose aspects that we would find traditionally in a campus visit and especially in lightof Covid in light of maybe international students or even students who are, youknow, not within a constant, centric, real close location. You're taking thispeer to peer platform and really turning that into an advantage for the schoolsto really start creating some of the same emode of connections that they have onthose traditional campus visits. Is that? Is that kind of what you think? Yes, I mean definitely. This is where we're trying to use digitaland technology to make what universities were already doing, but at scale, andnot that scale in a way so that we just allowed them to spend lesstime and so we just use technology to replace all human connection. It's actuallyto scale one to one intimacy, and that's what students wamped. Students don'twant scale, and that's why thousands of perspective students email the admission team becausethey prefer this intimacy of a wantowin conversation, either by email or by coming oncampus. And so student to student marketing as the role of allowing effectivelyscaling intimacy of those campus visit for students that are not able to join thecampus because they leave far away or out of first states or internationally. Andso when we think of building Uni Buddy...

...softwarees, either if it's our peerto peer chats or Uni Buddy events platform that we have, it's always withthe mind of how can we scale intimacy, and the best way to date everthis it's to invite students to be marketers themselves and be able to positionthe institution. I love that idea, as the student be marketers. Imean so many times I think that even thirty, forty years ago, whenI was in college, I remember being working in the admissions office as astudent. I would go on the camp teams or I would be there forstudent visits and I was, you know, kind of a student ambassador, butI think this takes it to a different level because, you know,I was I was there, but I was I think what your software isallowing them to do is to build those relationships in a dynamic way that fitstoday's world, and the student ambassadors really become more of the true ambassadors,where they're actually rather than just giving a tour, they're actually, you know, speaking on behalf of the university, and I think that, if I'mcorrect, you know, your platform and probably others like yours, create systemsthat allow the students to be able to have the freedom to have those conversations, but within the context of having some checks and balances in there as well. That is that is so true. And a conversation on a peer topeer platform like Uni Buddy is like chatting with your future and with someone thatyou can you can trust, and so that's where you feel the freedom toask anything in a safe space. That really will shape your decision. AndI think that when, by accepting that we're no longer in control of theof the student decision making journey, we open ourselves to the diversity of studentto student conversation. At the end of the day, when people feel thatthey can hear from others like themselves. That's where trust the marriage and trustis what great communities are built on. That's great. I love that andit really sounds to me like you're empowering the students, the perspective, students, to make the right decisions, but you're also empowering those student ambassadors toreally buy in more to the school themselves, and I think that's going to reallylead to a better relationship as an alumni and as a donor and thingslike that. So that's that's great. I think that's been a's that's wonderful. Wonderful Way to kind of take advantage of the's affinity groups. Troy,would love to hear some specific examples. You the concept sound wonderful, butto help the listeners understand by offering some things that have happened that were windsfor enrollment teams utilizing UN buddy. Yes, so it's a great question, Troy, and what we're always asking institutions is impact on the value proposition ofwhy they're buying anybody and why they're buying you anybody in the first place.It's to increase enrollment, build and also the summer melt. You know thatdrop out before enrolment and of course this is where the power of tribes,community, peer to peer comes in,...

...where we allow prospective students to buildthat sense of belonging and this affinity with the institution. And so we've seenan or case case study with some institutions like Sant John's university USC that's seenthere the rise of yield true unibody from fifteen percent to twenty seven percent oror at deposit rate or sixty six percent increase of involvement yield. It's beenawesome to see those case studies across so many institutions. But it's also definitelyon the number. But then when you talk to the students, that's wherewe also go back to the user and see how meaningful those conversation has been. And what we love seeing is when our prospective students and become themselves studentambassadors when they joined institutions because they took so much pride in hearing about thestudent to student that then when they enroll at the university they come and thatI hey, can I also become a student ambassadors? I want to giveback and I think that's what Bark your mentioning that then we can follow thisstill the alumni and feeling really part of the institution community for life. Yeah, I think that's great and I really love the fact that I'm guessing.I mean you've governed some great, great statistics there with kind of fifteen totwenty seven percent on the yield them. I'm sure there's different places in thefunnel, whether it's, you know, like you said, from you knowaccepted to deposit, what those being able to have the student ambassador program andthe kind of the peer to peer conversations at that point, and then evenfrom from that deposit to the enrollment in the matriculation there's I think it's sopowerful for that. But I have to probably even believe, and you mighthave some case studies for this, that those students who participated through a toollike this probably are going to be better retention students because they feel a partof the community. I mean, I know one of the challenges a lotof a lot of schools have is that you know you have that, youknow they have a summer melt already, but then you have kind of thatmelt from first semester to second semester where a lot of students never really gotplugged in. They never really got connected in that tribe and so they endup, you know, leaving and retention rates go down. And so Ihave to believe that a peer to peer network like this, even at thebeginning, in the prospect of student stage and then the enrollment stage, reallyimpact student life later on with with retention. Was that? Is that correct?Yeah, definitely, and and that's related to do uni buddies mission,which is to empower every students to make the right decisions through their higher educationjourney. And so it's about a journey and wherever you catch the student journey, we seen your community to belong, that's where you want to have morelike you would for them to stay before enrollment, post involvement. They justfeel these ex tray irrational affinity with your with the institutions and and be partof this Diego for and en Roman executive.

That the sounds interesting to however,maybe not knowing if this would be applicable to them, what is aquick hit or maybe a thought that you would give them in order for themto think about it differently or become more interested enough to look into peer topeer platforms that try it's a good question. So if they believe that community canchange and impact the way students make decisions and how we can shape theirconfidence in enjoining their institutions, then I see that peer to peer becomes theplatform for any student admission officers or marketer who are like to say could thecommunity architect and be compared to to the director of a play, which meansthat they would set the stage, the environment and give their student community theplatform, which means the tool and training refer sources so they can talk toprospective students. And then that means they can get out of the way,because today it's not any more about taglines or police marketing materials and impressions,it's about human connections, and so peer to peer will become the platform wherethis can can happen and they can architect this community to shape the the thestudent belonging. I love that and I love the fact that you're talking aboutas a platform, because it's interesting. I mean post pandemic. Now,I remember we had started using zoom in our business maybe four or five yearsago and you know, it was a platform that we used. It wassomething that was helpful for us because we have kind of, you know,different people around different locations. We're not we're not centralized. It's a virtualagency. But during zoom, the during a pandemic, zoom became a wholedifferent thing. It became kind of a ubiquitous tool that was just part ofeveryday life. I mean, I might have a either Microsoft word or Googledocs that I use every day. Now I'm using zoom every day in thesame way. It's just it's just part of my entire tool set and Ikind of believe that platforms like you know, buddy, are going to be partof that entire tool set as well. I mean, you know we talkedabout you. Every admissions office has a nice crm, whether they're usingslate or something like lead squared or sales force. You know, they've gotthose tools. They've got the tools of male tools, they've got, youknow, texting, they've got all these different tools. I think that platformslike you know, buddy, are going to have to be one of thosetools going forward post pandemic. Because mean, whether we like it or not,there's been a shift in the way that traditional enrollment happens. I meandecrease and campus tours are going on. You know, test optional is goingon as far as the way students are being able to be marketed to,and so I think that the importance of increasing that yield percentage is going tobe so critical to admissions professionals and enrollment professionals. It's going to be,you know, because a lot of students...

...are making decisions without ever setting afoot on campus. Is that? Is that kind of what you think?To Diegos, that kind of where you're going with it? Yeah, definitely, and and I definitely see unibody, all of the tools that you mentionnot replacing anything, but more as an enabler that that's something that was alreadyexisting. And so today two thirds of marketing happens in touch points outside ofour control. But even if we are not on this stage, because studentstalk to each other on those new tools, we're still very much part of theproduction, and so it's not about sharing our knowledge and help turn thestudent ambassadors into powerful content creators. So the more powerful the community, thegreater its ability to move its members to belong, and so it all comesdown to an enablement rather than replacing anything, and the once we see this way, then that's how we can leverage a maximum benefits from those tools likeappear to be your platform and you anybody, Diego, we appreciate you bringing theinformation about peer to peer platforms and introducing our constituency to them. Beforewe sign off, would there be any other points that you would like tomake on behalf of the community that you represent? Now I look, Ithink the market is adapted so well during this pandemic. They really adapted toa digital well that was unknown for a lot of people, and I feelwe're all going in the right direction at the right speed, and so I'mvery pleased to see how the market is getting together themselves as a community tomake it happen so that we can really impact students lives and as leaders ofthis sector, we're setting the stage. We want our student communities to dowhat it does best. It's shaping the decisions that set young people on thepath to their future, and so I'm really confident that will make it happenby leveraging everything that we have around us. Thank you, Diego. If someonewould like to reach you, but would be the best way for themto reach out to you? So my email is diego at unibuddycom. Butand and the best world. The wise to reach our team is to goon our website, Uni Buddycom you and I be you, double Dy.So yeah, we're trying to build buddies all around the world to reach outand announcer all the the deepest question that prospects might have. Love it andthank you very much for again bringing the peer to peer platform ide enabling usto get it out to our listeners. Bard. Well, you have anycomments before we sign off this episode? Yeah, I really like a lotof what Diego talked about. I think that this peer to peer platform issuch a great idea and such a powerful...

...way for institutions to be able toreally increase and enhance the relationships and really increase and enhance. You know thatthat a lot of what's already going on. I loved the Egos Point about thefact that, you know, it's like a play and we might bethe directors in the enrollment office, but at the end of the day we'renot the actors that are that are actually doing the the communication, that theemotion, that the dynamic tribe building. But I think a tool like you, nobuddy, allows allows that direction to take place. It provides a platformfor that. It provides the means and tools to be able to manage thosestudent ambassadors in a way that's that's meaningful. It's a way that kind of keepsthem in boundaries. You know, certainly one way you could do peerto peer networking is just to say hey, student ambassadors, the end of thetour, you know, give out your text you know your cell phonenumbered everybody on the tour and let them text you. Well, that's certainlyone way to do it, but a tool and a platform like you know, Buddy, actually allows you to scale it. It allows you to makeit more professional and allows you to kind of put those bumpers in place sothat you know, you know what's going on, you can understand it andyou can provide that that freedom for your ambassadors to encourage them to be themselves, but you also have a little bit more direction to it, and soI really really appreciated that. So, you know, I think it's great. I would encourage everyone to look into this, these types of platforms,because I do think it's going to be a big part of hired marketing goingforward. I Agree Bart. I also would invite anyone who either has experiencewith peer to peer or has done research on it, to share with uswhat your opinions or your experience is. So thank you, barked, andalso thank you Diego, and good luck to you and UNA. Buddy.Thank you so much driving me. It was great. That brings us tothe end of another episode of the Higher Ed Marketer Podcast, which is sponsoredby Kalis solutions and education, marketing and branding agency and by thing patented,a marketing, execution, printing and mailing provider of Higher Ed Solutions. Onbehalf of my cohost Bart Taylor, I'm troy singer. Thank you for joiningus. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that younever miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.If you're listening with apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a quickrating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcastdeserves. Until next time,.

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