The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 1 year 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 about taglines or police marketing materials and impressions. It's about human connections, and so peer to peer will become the platform where this can happen. You're listening to the 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 looking for 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 or ideas that we think would be helpful to the higher rate community. Today we're going to talk about peer to peer platforms with Diego Fanara. He is the CO founder and CEO of Una Buddy, which is a company that is gaining momentum here in the states. Yeah, try it's it's going to be a great conversation. I really like Diego. He's got some he's got some firsthand knowledge and I think that his story, being an international student, he's originally from and helped, he'll go into this, originally from France and and then grew up in Switzerland but wanted to to attend a UK or US school and kind of coming in as an international student, the idea of wanting to connect with his affinity group even in the admissions process and the enrollment process. And I don't think diegos alone, because obviously the platform that he has helped found and 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 provide a 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 to them, whether they're from this the same state, whether they're studying the same program whether maybe they're an international student who we always talk about. That in high 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 the right group? Sometimes that happens on the campus tour, sometimes that happens with, you know, just student ambassadors can connections, but these peer to peer platforms have emerged that really provide structure and scalability that allows the US, as marketers, 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 job of describing the advantages of the type of platform that they represent overall. So I 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 talking to us from another continent. Welcome to the show, Diego. Hi Try it's great to be here. Thank you, if you would. For our listeners, if you could tell us a little bit about you, your company and your role as CEO of Uni Buddy. Sure so. I'm, as you say, from another continent right now. I'm based in London. was actually born in France. They grew up in Switzerland and, as an international students, dreamed of studying finance in the UK or in the US. And that's how the idea of Uni Buddy and peer to peer and marriage while I was going through this transition of looking for universities and being unsure of how to do this. And so the concept of UNIBODY is powering community, connecting perspective students with current students to share attending information so that prospective students can have the right 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 the power 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 several months now and I've been impressed. I know that you're developing quite a presence here in the US with with several schools, and I'll just encourage the audience if they want to learn more about that, they can go to the unibuddy website and see that. But I think today we want to really kind of focus on, you know, this idea of allowing perspective students kind of a glimpse into into the student life and to what what you know, what everyday life is like. And you know, schools have tried to do that over the 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 groups in higher education enrollment, you know, kind of kind of with the idea of being able to identify the perspective student and their affinity and then be able to match them up with, I guess, what you would call student ambassadors from the 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 connecting students with their tribe, that they are, you know, naturally a part of. Yes, that that's so true, and that come back to the purpose of 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 their location or a lot of parameters, but they convert for the community and they stay at the institution because they feel that they'd belong. And so what they need these to be able to see what the community is like, to meet peers 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 higher education. This is an incredibly powerful notion because, all in all, it don't furs the more level playing field and uses the power of student diversity to connect people. So having those trusted voice for students who of who they can assimilate themselves, this is where you can rise above the those to meet someone who's currently experiencing this life and and aspires for themself, and that's when that connection happened. It unleash students to have clarity and confidence to make their leap and make the right decisions. I think that's great and it reminds me of the 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 who do a campus visit will matriculate, and I think what's fascinating to me is that you've created a platform that kind of takes a lot of the aspects that happen in that campus visit, which are people kind of recognizing and identifying that I can fit in here, I can see my tribe. Maybe they're engaging with tribes and a lot of schools like to kind of have a kind of immersive campus visit where they maybe spend the night in a dorm with some student hosts. Well, that's a chance again to do that peer to peer connection and I think what's fascinating to me is that you're kind of taking some of those aspects that we would find traditionally in a campus visit and especially in light of Covid in light of maybe international students or even students who are, you know, not within a constant, centric, real close location. You're taking this peer to peer platform and really turning that into an advantage for the schools to really start creating some of the same emode of connections that they have on those traditional campus visits. Is that? Is that kind of what you think? Yes, I mean definitely. This is where we're trying to use digital and technology to make what universities were already doing, but at scale, and not that scale in a way so that we just allowed them to spend less time and so we just use technology to replace all human connection. It's actually to scale one to one intimacy, and that's what students wamped. Students don't want scale, and that's why thousands of perspective students email the admission team because they prefer this intimacy of a wantowin conversation, either by email or by coming on campus. And so student to student marketing as the role of allowing effectively scaling intimacy of those campus visit for students that are not able to join the campus because they leave far away or out of first states or internationally. And so when we think of building Uni Buddy...

...softwarees, either if it's our peer to peer chats or Uni Buddy events platform that we have, it's always with the mind of how can we scale intimacy, and the best way to date ever this it's to invite students to be marketers themselves and be able to position the institution. I love that idea, as the student be marketers. I mean so many times I think that even thirty, forty years ago, when I was in college, I remember being working in the admissions office as a student. I would go on the camp teams or I would be there for student visits and I was, you know, kind of a student ambassador, but I think this takes it to a different level because, you know, I was I was there, but I was I think what your software is allowing them to do is to build those relationships in a dynamic way that fits today'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'm correct, you know, your platform and probably others like yours, create systems that 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 to peer platform like Uni Buddy is like chatting with your future and with someone that you can you can trust, and so that's where you feel the freedom to ask anything in a safe space. That really will shape your decision. And I think that when, by accepting that we're no longer in control of the of the student decision making journey, we open ourselves to the diversity of student to student conversation. At the end of the day, when people feel that they can hear from others like themselves. That's where trust the marriage and trust is what great communities are built on. That's great. I love that and it 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 to really buy in more to the school themselves, and I think that's going to really lead to a better relationship as an alumni and as a donor and things like 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, but to help the listeners understand by offering some things that have happened that were winds for 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 of why 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 that drop 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 build that sense of belonging and this affinity with the institution. And so we've seen an or case case study with some institutions like Sant John's university USC that's seen there the rise of yield true unibody from fifteen percent to twenty seven percent or or at deposit rate or sixty six percent increase of involvement yield. It's been awesome to see those case studies across so many institutions. But it's also definitely on the number. But then when you talk to the students, that's where we 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 student ambassadors when they joined institutions because they took so much pride in hearing about the student to student that then when they enroll at the university they come and that I hey, can I also become a student ambassadors? I want to give back and I think that's what Bark your mentioning that then we can follow this still 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 to twenty seven percent on the yield them. I'm sure there's different places in the funnel, whether it's, you know, like you said, from you know accepted to deposit, what those being able to have the student ambassador program and the kind of the peer to peer conversations at that point, and then even from from that deposit to the enrollment in the matriculation there's I think it's so powerful for that. But I have to probably even believe, and you might have some case studies for this, that those students who participated through a tool like this probably are going to be better retention students because they feel a part of the community. I mean, I know one of the challenges a lot of a lot of schools have is that you know you have that, you know they have a summer melt already, but then you have kind of that melt from first semester to second semester where a lot of students never really got plugged in. They never really got connected in that tribe and so they end up, you know, leaving and retention rates go down. And so I have to believe that a peer to peer network like this, even at the beginning, in the prospect of student stage and then the enrollment stage, really impact 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 education journey. 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 more like you would for them to stay before enrollment, post involvement. They just feel these ex tray irrational affinity with your with the institutions and and be part of 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 a quick hit or maybe a thought that you would give them in order for them to think about it differently or become more interested enough to look into peer to peer platforms that try it's a good question. So if they believe that community can change and impact the way students make decisions and how we can shape their confidence in enjoining their institutions, then I see that peer to peer becomes the platform for any student admission officers or marketer who are like to say could the community architect and be compared to to the director of a play, which means that they would set the stage, the environment and give their student community the platform, which means the tool and training refer sources so they can talk to prospective 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 where this can can happen and they can architect this community to shape the the the student belonging. I love that and I love the fact that you're talking about as 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 years ago and you know, it was a platform that we used. It was something 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 virtual agency. But during zoom, the during a pandemic, zoom became a whole different thing. It became kind of a ubiquitous tool that was just part of everyday life. I mean, I might have a either Microsoft word or Google docs that I use every day. Now I'm using zoom every day in the same way. It's just it's just part of my entire tool set and I kind of believe that platforms like you know, buddy, are going to be part of that entire tool set as well. I mean, you know we talked about you. Every admissions office has a nice crm, whether they're using slate or something like lead squared or sales force. You know, they've got those tools. They've got the tools of male tools, they've got, you know, texting, they've got all these different tools. I think that platforms like you know, buddy, are going to have to be one of those tools 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 mean decrease and campus tours are going on. You know, test optional is going on 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 to be 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 a foot 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 mention not replacing anything, but more as an enabler that that's something that was already existing. And so today two thirds of marketing happens in touch points outside of our control. But even if we are not on this stage, because students talk to each other on those new tools, we're still very much part of the production, and so it's not about sharing our knowledge and help turn the student ambassadors into powerful content creators. So the more powerful the community, the greater its ability to move its members to belong, and so it all comes down 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 like appear to be your platform and you anybody, Diego, we appreciate you bringing the information about peer to peer platforms and introducing our constituency to them. Before we sign off, would there be any other points that you would like to make on behalf of the community that you represent? Now I look, I think the market is adapted so well during this pandemic. They really adapted to a digital well that was unknown for a lot of people, and I feel we're all going in the right direction at the right speed, and so I'm very pleased to see how the market is getting together themselves as a community to make it happen so that we can really impact students lives and as leaders of this sector, we're setting the stage. We want our student communities to do what it does best. It's shaping the decisions that set young people on the path to their future, and so I'm really confident that will make it happen by leveraging everything that we have around us. Thank you, Diego. If someone would like to reach you, but would be the best way for them to reach out to you? So my email is diego at unibuddycom. But and and the best world. The wise to reach our team is to go on 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 out and announcer all the the deepest question that prospects might have. Love it and thank you very much for again bringing the peer to peer platform ide enabling us to get it out to our listeners. Bard. Well, you have any comments before we sign off this episode? Yeah, I really like a lot of what Diego talked about. I think that this peer to peer platform is such a great idea and such a powerful...

...way for institutions to be able to really increase and enhance the relationships and really increase and enhance. You know that that a lot of what's already going on. I loved the Egos Point about the fact that, you know, it's like a play and we might be the directors in the enrollment office, but at the end of the day we're not the actors that are that are actually doing the the communication, that the emotion, that the dynamic tribe building. But I think a tool like you, nobuddy, allows allows that direction to take place. It provides a platform for that. It provides the means and tools to be able to manage those student ambassadors in a way that's that's meaningful. It's a way that kind of keeps them in boundaries. You know, certainly one way you could do peer to peer networking is just to say hey, student ambassadors, the end of the tour, you know, give out your text you know your cell phone numbered everybody on the tour and let them text you. Well, that's certainly one way to do it, but a tool and a platform like you know, Buddy, actually allows you to scale it. It allows you to make it more professional and allows you to kind of put those bumpers in place so that you know, you know what's going on, you can understand it and you 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 so I 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 going forward. I Agree Bart. I also would invite anyone who either has experience with peer to peer or has done research on it, to share with us what your opinions or your experience is. So thank you, barked, and also thank you Diego, and good luck to you and UNA. Buddy. Thank you so much driving me. It was great. That brings us to the end of another episode of the Higher Ed Marketer Podcast, which is sponsored by Kalis solutions and education, marketing and branding agency and by thing patented, a marketing, execution, printing and mailing provider of Higher Ed Solutions. On behalf of my cohost Bart Taylor, I'm troy singer. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never 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 quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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