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Online Trends

Published August 23rd 2018

Data Lessons: 8 Social Insights from A Level Results Day

The Brandwatch React team tracked the #ALevelResultsDay hashtag (and associated terms) to see what insights could be pulled out.

This year’s A Level results day generated more than 100,000 mentions across social media.

It’s an event that sees emotions run high and a day where many find out the pathway the next three years or so will take them. You can see why people might be compelled to discuss it online.

The Brandwatch React team were keen to take a look at the conversations going on and to see what helpful insights universities might draw from the conversation.

Here’s what we found:

1. Happiness is the dominant emotion online

When we took a look at emotion-driven conversation between the day of the results and the day before, we noticed that happiness was the overriding emotion, although all kinds of feelings were on the rise.

Anticipation began peaking at around 8am on results day with many rising early to go and nervously collect their grades. We noticed that Loughborough, one of the most tweeted about universities on the day, took the initiative to post a reassuring message to prospective students early in the morning.

Happiness being a strong emotion is likely linked to our next insight:

2. Students are more likely to discuss positive results than negative results

We took a look at three-letter combinations of grades from A*A*A* to CCC (we avoided combinations with D and below, mainly because D can stand for Distinction in other qualifications that people were also discussing). We removed retweets so that the numbers we got were more representative of individuals talking about their own grades or those of someone they knew.

AAA and A*A*A* (which we grouped together) were the most common result people were discussing, followed by AAB and ABB.

BBC came fourth (we did not include mentions like “BBC Breakfast or “BBC Radio” in here, so each mention refers to a grade), which bucked the trend slightly, but generally speaking it was the highest grades that got the most discussion on the day.

When we broke down the conversation by gender we found that female tweeters were slightly more likely than male tweeters to discuss results.

3. The Student Room is a resource students flock to

We saw The Student Room (TSR) appearing in almost every search we entered so thought it definitely warranted a mention here. In fact, it was the website’s busiest A Level results day yet, with 1.6 million page views and more than 1,700 new threads generated.

TSR is a forum-based site where students can go to ask for and share advice. We reached out to the TSR team to ask about their experience this A Level results day and what universities might get from paying attention to discussions on these pages.

“Universities could have an incredible impact by meeting students where they’re at, really listening to what they’re saying, and providing the kind of advice that could genuinely change a young person’s life.

The conversations on TSR have an authenticity universities are unlikely to find anywhere else. Students come to this community to share their fears, their successes, and to find genuine support from others who’ve been there and done that. This is the perfect place for universities to connect with young people, get invaluable feedback, and share in a genuine conversation that can benefit both the universities, and importantly, the students themselves.”

– Mhairi Underwood, TSR Community Manager  

4. Addressing common questions could help students with the confusion of the day

Using BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer we found that “Results Day” and “Clearing” were generating lots of questions on the TSR site over the last month.

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Universities could use insights like this, as well as common words and questions found on social networks and other forums, to ensure that students can easily find the information they need to make those vital decisions.

A decent SEO strategy that works to address these common questions in advance of A Level results day could direct more traffic to a dedicated admissions website. It might even mean more students consider your university as a choice.

5. Humour and celebrity generates the most engagement

When we looked at the most successful tweets of the day, we found that the top three were humorous and encouraged those collecting results not to worry about bad grades.

The above theme was fairly common.

We found the most mentioned educational institution on the day was the University of Cambridge, given a huge boost by Stormzy’s scholarship scheme.

References to Cambridge University made up nearly 5% of all the A Level conversation we captured on the 16th. By contrast, Oxford was mentioned in less than 1% of the conversation and UCAS (the organization that manages admissions processes for colleges and universities in the UK) was only mentioned in 2% of it.

6. Mental health is a huge topic of conversation around A Levels

When we looked at the most common phrases discussed on A Level results day we found that “mental health” was trending.

The popularity of the conversation around mental health came from a number of sources, with many people sharing their own experiences and struggles as they worked through their classes.

We also noticed Mind tweeting about mental health and transitioning to university life as well as educational institutions discussing support systems for anyone needing them after the stressful day.

7. God was thanked more than teachers and tutors

Another huge topic was “god” and we found plenty of people posting screenshots of their UCAS statuses (often with the course they’ve been accepted on to) along with messages like “thank god!”

On August 16th we found 1,134 posts that mentioned similar phrases relating to god, while phrases like “thanks to my teachers” totalled just 152. Parents got just 76 thankful mentions.

8. Parents also took to the web to discuss A Level results

A quick glance at mentions of A Levels on Mumsnet revealed a whole bunch of parents sharing their thoughts on results day.

Since parents’ concerns are also incredibly important to students’ decisions, it’s definitely worth universities keeping on track of the issues being discussed on forums like these, again to ensure that answers to questions are easy to find and pain points can be alleviated.

There’s so much universities can get from social data around A Level results day

From judging the emotion of the day to alleviating parent and student worries way ahead of time, universities can get plenty from social data when it comes to results day.

Maggie Garabedyan is a Customer Success Manager at Brandwatch with experience of working in the university sector. She said:

“In the ever-changing landscape of student recruitment, especially with a declining number of students applying to go to university, social media is a more important resource than ever before for universities.

Educational institutions can use social listening all year round to prepare for and monitor the admissions period as well as to track key trends and examine conversations around their rival universities. It can also be used as a tool for optimizing owned social media channels ensuring that content is engaging for prospective and current students and alumni.”

With thanks to The Student Room for their input and for Maggie Garabedyan’s comments and guidance on this research.

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