A Level Results Day as a spectator sport

A Level Results Day as a spectator sport

We’ve already reflected on what clearing 2017 has taught us, but what really caught our eye? We gave our social media and content expert Dave Musson a watching brief last Thursday and here’s what he reported back.

Well, last Thursday was fun, wasn’t it? And by fun, I mean obviously it was a stressful, demanding and long day – that’s how we define fun as marketers, right?

This year was my first clearing since joining the education sector where I wasn’t working in-house, so it was fascinating to swap a list of subjects that still need pushing for an environment where Viking hats and masseuses were a perfectly normal part of that day.

It was also great to be able to keep a broader view of what was going on online, what schemes different institutions had cooked up and how A Level Results Day 2017 panned out.

Here are a few things that caught my eye…

A tale of two hashtags

The two busiest hashtags on Thursday were #alevelresultsday and #clearing2017 and they both offered a very different view of the day.

While the latter seemed to be a place that, ultimately, was being populated by posts from various marketing teams up and down the country, #alevelresultsday quickly started trending nationally and became a fascinating and terrifying window into the mindframe of our nation’s students.

And, of course, because it was trending brands were quick to get on board – usually sticking to the formula of ‘good luck message +hashtag + gif’, even if some of them didn’t quite nail the terminology.

Last time I checked you don’t really graduate A-levels but, still, it’s the thought that counts.

Football teams, in particular, seemed to enjoy using this tag as an excuse to use a gif of one of their players celebrating, while those cheeky folk at Nando’s used it to flog their offer of free chicken for any students wandering into their restaurants with their results in hand.

Classic Nando’s, what a total legend.

Oh, and I can’t leave #alevelresultsday without a mention of what has become an A-level results day tradition; the ‘I did rubbish but am still incredibly rich’ tweet from Jeremy Clarkson, which this year included truffles.

As mentioned, #clearing2017 generated less noise but was packed full of useful links and was undoubtedly a tag students would have spent time reading, if not contributing to.

Making offers via social media

If there were still any doubts before Thursday, clearing 2017 has proved that using social media to actually make offers to students is definitely a thing and will only continue to become a bigger thing.

DMU, Aston, Coventry and Staffordshire’s efforts to remind people that they could talk offers via a mixture of Twitter DMs, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp all popped into my social media consciousness, while Leeds Beckett’s chatbot Becky was given front-and-centre promotion on their website as well as some coverage on the BBC too.

From my point of view, this is a Very Good Thing. Sure, we could bemoan the fact that students today are somewhat phone-shy, but just because they’re awkward at talking to strangers doesn’t mean they won’t be a brilliant match for a course at your institution. If their conversation comfort zone is on social media, join them in that space.

And, don’t forget, it costs far less dealing with interactions on social media that it does to do the same thing over the phone. The more offers you can make digitally, perhaps the more money you can divert into boosting your paid advertising campaigns and really maximise your ROI.

Celebrating YOU

Of course, results day social media activity isn’t all about clearing – a big part of it is about celebrating people’s results and welcoming them to your institution. The brownie points you can get by replying to a thrilled student who has just tweeted that they’ll be joining you in a few weeks are massive.

This year, there has been a rise in the personalised reply – an extra touch that, while requiring a bit more work, will make your new students feel important, loved and welcomed before they even set foot on your campus. 

There were a few notable examples – Glasgow, Newcastle and DMU all made personalised gifs, while Oxford Brookes went one step further, making bespoke welcome videos where students would hear their name and subject. Brookes deserve a huge high five for such an effort, especially as some of them even included an Olympic legend Katharine Grainger, who also happens to be their Chancellor.

But, my favourite in the ‘personalised celebrations’ category has to go to the team at Sheffield Hallam and their giant retweet campaign, where they created huge, real-life versions of people’s tweets and gave them a red carpet treatment. Really wonderful stuff.

Let exams be exams

I’m finishing my round-up on a moan, in many ways the strangest of moans that I certainly didn’t expect to have to vent about when I got out of bed last Thursday morning – the mainstream media’s desperation to apply gender stereotypes to exams.

Take the Telegraph’s assertion that boys did better than girls this year because of the revamped, ‘tougher’ exams in 2017 and their very unsubtle and very deliberate linking of words like ‘tough’ with boys…how pathetic. Sure, boys have spent the last 17 years getting lower grades than girls because the exams they took failed to meet a minimum level of toughness (a very manly descriptor of course) for them to really perform – that’s obviously it!

You want us to believe that, because things like coursework and modules are so emasculating, girls were bound to do better under that system? Give me a break, and show me some proof! As a male human being who got good grades under that old, feminine system of ongoing assessment, I struggle to believe what the media has been peddling this week.

 All of this reporting was, of course, accompanied by photos of students getting their results – almost entirely white, blonde girls to be precise – because despite how tough and masculine these new exams are, editors can’t miss a chance to fill their page with some pretty young girls, can they?

Enough of this bullshit. In fact, why should it even matter what gender a student identifies as when it comes to their exam results? How about we just celebrate their achievements instead and support them as they take the next step in their lives. Let’s face it, they’ve had a lifetime of battling gender stereotypes to face up to so far, and that doesn’t go away post-University, so how about we just let exams be exams?

 And finally

Sorry, one last thing – but I can’t actually leave you on a whinge. I just wanted an excuse to include these words of tweeted wisdom. Sure, they might come from a fictional character, but they have a certain magic to them.


If you’d like to speak to one of our experts about your 2018 Clearing strategy, or any other aspect of your digital marketing strategy, get in touch.

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