Valentine’s special: matchmaking as student recruitment with the University of Salford

What links dating and student recruitment? Matchmaking. Think about it; both parties want to find the ideal partner, the ideal match.

This podcast’s ideal match is the University of Salford, who made headlines a couple of years ago with their Match Made in Salford app, a Tinder-style app that helped recruit students during clearing. They then made headlines again when they jumped on Tinder itself to try and bag themselves a few matches.

For this episode, I speak to Hannah Burchell and AJ Handley-Rowe from the University of Salford to dig into their matchmaking campaign a little further. We’ll talk puns, cheesy chat up lines and being Tinder’s unwanted suitor – it’s the perfect subject for a podcast being released just before Valentine’s Day.

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Show notes

You can see the University of Salford’s matchmaking app, now called Future Finder, on their website.

You can follow Hannah on Twitter and find her on LinkedIn. You can also follow AJ on Twitter and find her on LinkedIn.

Prior to clearing 2015, Salford had gone down a very classic route for clearing – lots of outdoor advertising. Lots of doing as much as possible, without looking too much at audience. But in 2015 they decided to go where their students were and focus on digital.

We take a lot of inspiration from outside the sector – we very much try and pride ourselves on doing not what you’d expect from an HE institution.

In 2015, Salford launched the Match Made in Salford app – partly to cause a bit of a splash and gets some coverage, but it also attempted to solve a very specific problem around clearing being a distressing time and being quite intimidating. Having a comparison tool, such as Salford offered, made life so much easier.

Tinder came up very quickly once the team started talking about comparison sites, and that’s where the idea for the app came from.

The app was a web app, mobile-first, and was tried to be as low as possible when it came to being labour-intensive. You put in your options and then were given a number of choices that were delivered in a Tinder-style way, meaning you could swipe left or right depending on if you were interested.

Salford has always been a trailblazer in terms of advertising and marketing, so it wasn’t difficult to get signed off within the marketing team.

In 2015, Salford recruited 1,137 students through clearing, which was around their target. They had an almost 10% in traffic to the clearing section of the site and a 19% increase in calls year-on-year.

The campaign won a couple of awards – a HEIST award and a Digital Communications Award in Berlin, beating off competition from some big brands.

The 2015 version was a bit like Tinder…in 2016 Salford actually went on Tinder itself, but it wasn’t an official advertising presence.

We were very much the unwanted suitor on Tinder. We’d looked into some formal partnerships with them, but we didn’t have the budget and it didn’t really fit with who we are. So then we looked at guerrilla tactics!

They partnered with a local agency and looked at how long their test profiles would last before being taken down, so they knew how much time they had to play with it.

Some of Salford’s chat up lines on Tinder were quite exceptional – drawn from a mixture of experience and creativity within the team!

We’re known as a team for loving puns!

Working on Tinder wasn’t really that different from any other social space, aside from not knowing how long they would actually have on the platform – Salford had around 72 hours in total.

The 2016 campaign amassed plenty of national press coverage, which was a massive boost for Salford’s national profile at a vastly important time of year. They were in all the major dailies and on Sky News.

If it hadn’t been for those pesky Olympians winning so many medals, we’d have even been on the BBC sofa!

The campaign helped cement in people’s minds that Salford is innovative and embraces pushing boundaries.

In terms of results in 2016, the matchmaking app and Tinder had very different purposes – the stunt of going on Tinder drove people to the app, which then drove calls and applications. But the value of the app was the most important thing – without that, it would have been pointless doing the Tinder stunt.

While it was never the intention to get leads from Tinder, we did end up with three direct leads from that platform.

The coverage of Salford’s campaigns was 85% positive, which showed that people understood the University was sending people to a solution, and not just having a laugh.

In 2017, the app had a small facelift and became the Future Finder. For the rest of their campaign, Salford did something a bit safer for a change and still had another successful year – while not forgetting to include plenty of puns!

We deliberately didn’t have a stunt in 2017 because there’s no point in doing one just for the sake of a stunt.

In 2017, Salford piloted making offers on social media itself and is likely to push that further in 2018.

Hannah and AJ’s top three tips for making someone swipe right with your institution

1. Have a good pun

2. Have a quality offer

3. Segmentation and personalisation – be as nuanced as you can possibly be


This section is how we end every episode, with some quick-fire questions to help us get to know our guests a little better.

5 apps on your phone you use the most

Hannah: Messenger, Facebook, BBC Sport, MoneyBox, CBeebies

AJ: Outlook, Twitter, Instagram, Trainline, booking.com

4 celebs you’d love to invite round for dinner

Hannah: Sir Alex Ferguson, Barack Obama

AJ: Either Thomasina Miers or Tom Kerridge, and then Vivienne Westwood

3 words to describe what it’s like working at BBC Sport

Hannah: frenetic, fun and occasionally frustrating

AJ: challenging, exciting and collaborative

2 places in the world or big events you’ve never visited but would love to

Hannah: New Year in Sydney and then climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the football World Cup

AJ: I’d like to spend Christmas somewhere really hot, on a beach with a beer and plate of noodles, and I’d like to spend Christmas somewhere incredibly snowy and wintry.

1 social media channel you love more than the others

Hannah: Facebook

AJ: Instagram

Find out more

You can see the University of Salford’s matchmaking app, now called Future Finder, on their website.

You can follow Hannah on Twitter and find her on LinkedIn. You can also follow AJ on Twitter and find her on LinkedIn.

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The Native Podcast is hosted and produced by Dave Musson, our editor-in-chief.

Our music is by Broke For Free and is used under Creative Commons.

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