Taking Chats to a new level

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Analytics, Blogging, Higher Education, Lifecasting, Recruitment, Research, Technology, Thoughts, Video, Web | Posted on 10-30-2008


Last night we had our Butler Bloggers Chat, which we do once a semester. It always has more students join than any other chat we do (What is Diversity at Butler University? Chat, Admitted Student Chat, Pharmacy Chat, International Student Chat, to name a few).

Last night the chat was from 8-10pm (I’ve done 7-9, 8-10, and 9-11pm.  8-10pm has been the most popular.) and we had 132 students come through. Last week’s diversity chat from 7-9pm had 22, for comparison, with the same group of students invited.

To learn more about the methods of promotion/emailing about the chat, read this post from last April.  For this post, I’d like to touch on some new methods I experimented with last night.

During last semester’s chat, I learned a few things:

  1. The chat moves fast. Very fast. Last night’s chat had 3,948 lines entered. That’s 1 person saying something every 2 seconds. so the chat screen fills every 20-30 seconds.
  2. When the chat moves fast, questions get missed out, people get frustrated, and they leave.
  3. It’s hard for the Bloggers to keep up with everything as well and make sure all questions are getting answered.

So with that previous experience in hand, I conjured up a new component: video chat.  By using the Butler Bloggers uStream channel in addition to the web-based chat, I think we successfully extended the effort and added value to the students’ experience.

Unfortunately, my chat provider would not work with me to implement this directly into the chat because of ‘development cycles’, ‘product releases’, etc.  so I just had to have students click to open in a separate window. Another technical glitch was installing the drivers for the webcam. I didn’t get it going until 9:15pm, so this was only utilized for the last 45 minutes of the 2 hour chat.

So here’s what we accomplished by using video in coordination with the web-based chat:

  • Chatters could put a face with the ‘name on the screen’.
  • Chatters could see the other side of chat and the college kids they were talking to.
  • If their question didn’t get answered, they could call in and ask it.
  • If they didn’t want to type a longer question or had something more specific, they could call.
  • When students were watching video+chatting, the chat seemed to slow down some, allowing the Bloggers more time to get questions answered.

I think it went over great, and heard several comments from students about how much they enjoyed it.  (I also found out that ~75% of students in the chat room had seen the Butler Blue II video!)

So here are a few quick stats on the night:

  • 132 chatters logged in during the 2 hours.
  • Only 3 were in last week’s chat (98% new visitors)
  • 30% were ‘app complete’, 20% were ‘app incomplete’, 40% were ‘prospect’, and 10% were ‘suspect’.
  • 10% were international students.
  • Every student who called in was ‘prospect’ or ‘app incomplete’.
  • 11 ‘app incomplete’ students finished their application after the chat last night.

And here are some sample videos from what the students saw!

Comments/Thoughts/Questions? Leave a comment.

Comments posted (11)

Congratulations, Brad! Great idea to add the ustream videos.

Really really great info. You may be reviving my faith in the value of admissions chats!

Thanks for the comments! It was really, really, really good. Just a whole new energy with the prospective students. Any chat providers reading this would be silly to not implement the feature, IMO.

[and email me about that royalty check... :) lol]

Cool way to utilize Ustream. I have to imagine putting a face to a question makes a student feel more comfortable on deciding on a school.

Very millennial and great stats. Curious as to how many prospects on the chat will sign-up for a campus visit as their next action (maybe late in the year for this though).

Perhaps a follow-up “thank you” email personalized from a student blogger could be sent to each prospect on the chat with a link to the campus visit form or online application. Drive them to that next action.

Could a similar approach be used for yielding deposits? So many schools stop doing the “cool” web stuff once you apply. This seems like a great way to help admits make the final decision.

Our follow-up call to action is the BUForums, where we encourage students to continue discussion with the Bloggers. Then from there we can drive students to the specific next-step that’s right for them, since a blanket ‘visit/apply’ won’t work for everyone.

We do another chat during the spring for deposit/yield, and it was also well attended last year. Our ‘cool’ stuff helps a lot with yield; the Bloggers/Forums were 40% of traffic last May/June.

This is a brilliant idea!

I’ve been to two chats in the past month and I despised the experiences because 1)it was way too hectic with everyone trying to get into the action and 2) I only got a couple of my questions answered. As you said, more colleges should be implementing these types of chats. Not only does it make the experience much more personal, but it also makes it easier.

We’re just starting to think about chats for our campus. Would you mind letting me know what software you use for chats and if you have any old blog posts about your experiences.

Nancy – thanks! Always good to hear a student perspective.

Natalie – Shooting you an email right now. Thanks for the comment!

Thanks for sharing stats. 132 attended… How many invites were sent?

Innovative way to slow things down and hold attention. It sounds like you are beyond a critical mass for this particular chat. Admittedly, some students lurk on these chats and still learn about/make a connection with the school, which has value.

You could also make things more manageable by splitting the invite list in half and holding two chats…

Also curious if the non-Butler kids started chatting with each other, as tends to happen with any live chats in the spring.

I’ve used proprietary chat tools which have a lot of great features. For those with no budget or wanting to take a simpler approach, launching something as simple as an AIM chatroom for a scheduled chat can be highly effective since many kids already use AIM. Plus, it is budget-friendly :) (Simply create a landing page on your Web site with a hyperlink to launch/enter the room.)

Here’s a chat tool I’ve always wanted to see – live chat within Facebook groups :) I’d pay for that one. (There are workarounds to that, of course…)


Write a comment