The shift in consumer preferences towards conversational messaging is hard to ignore. It’s how most people — and especially students — communicate these days.

Whether it’s Snapchatting friends, starting group chats on WhatsApp, getting text message updates from Lyft, or using Messenger to ask a college about student life, people engage and converse most often using mobile messaging.

In fact, studies are showing that folks all over the world prefer messaging over all mediums when speaking to a brand. 

Customer Service Texting

 In a study from 2016, 33% of Americans most preferred messaging for customer service. 27% said phone, 24% email, and only 2% preferred post mail.

This research on consumer preferences is in line with the well-known Medium post heralding 2016 as the year of conversational commerce. The article is now two years old, but it’s even more relevant and aligned in 2018.

Medium 2016 Year of Conversational Commerce

The marketers and brands that paid close attention to the shift in conversational messaging have seen impactful rewards by being among the first to move towards messaging.

As more companies, brands, and colleges are jumping in to messaging to meet people’s expectations, Facebook is responding by evolving their Messenger platform to make it easier to connect and engage. 

What’s the latest with Messenger, and why are we excited about their recent updates?

Before diving into some of the updates, I want to be clear we’re focusing on Messenger, Facebook’s spin-off messaging platform. In April of 2014, Facebook launched Messenger as a stand-alone service for chat that is available to people even if they don’t have a Facebook profile.

Messenger announced a number of new updates at the end of 2017, but before this update, there were a few ways for colleges to connect with students on Messenger. Their journey could take them from a Facebook page or email to chat. Now, Messenger has introduced Website to chat and Messenger Advertising to chat.

Messenger Chat for College Websites 

Messenger released a web chat widget for that takes two minutes to install on your website, and it’s free. It’s an avenue that connects your website with 1.3 billion monthly users, which are more monthly users than any other messaging platform.

AdmitHub Web Chat

What’s the Difference Between the Messenger plug-in on other web chats?

Let’s take a quick look back to the preferences for consumers outlined above. In the US, 33% of people prefer messaging, while 3% prefer web chat. While this Messenger chat can live on your website, it’s a messaging application so you can continue the conversation once they leave the site.

If someone visits your site and interacts with a web chat, they might need to wait to speak with someone, and it may prompt the visitor for their email address before answering the question.  

Web Bot Chat
Standing in Line gif

People generally don’t like to fill out forms to get a quick question answered. If they’re waiting for an answer, they might drop off, and if they return they are automatically placed at the back of the question queue.   And if they don’t get their question answered immediately on the website, they have to go back and forth on email, which is not the preference for many students. Some colleges I speak to that use web chat, only answer 50% of website sessions.        

Messenger’s Ability to Identify

Facebook allows a continuous and integrated chat. For someone that leaves a message, it will be answered immediately with a chatbot or will show up in the Messenger inbox if you’re not using an AI messaging platform. Since the inbound message was linked to someone’s Messenger account, the college will know who the person was that left the message.

Continuous Conversation without having to be on the website

If the person leaving the message exits the site (which is likely), the college can follow up with the student and continue the conversation with them on Messenger. Instead of just being able to chat with someone while they’re on the website, with the Messenger plug in, you can connect with them wherever they are.

This is extremely important. This method of conversation is convenient for students and it’s what people prefer because it reduces friction. 

Proactive outreach and nudges after

Something we’ve observed in our research working with colleges is that artificial intelligence is excellent for scaling support, but it’s the guided nudges and personalized responses that motivate students to act. Messenger makes it possible to send proactive messages to that person to follow up, which isn’t possible to accomplish on a mass basis on a web chat.

AdmitHub made a bet on the emerging shift towards conversation. When we began working with universities, texting was an effective way to engage and help students, but messaging apps continue to rise in usage as a preferred communication channel.

Here’s a quick demo video of what this service would look like on a website (here we’re acting as “AdmitHub University”).


You can chat with Oli, our own virtual assistant, if you’d like to learn more about implementing this type of messaging at your institution. Click in the chat bubble in the lower right corner of your screen to start!