December 15 2016
The methods that university enrollment and marketing professionals use to communicate with audiences are continually changing. Gone are the days when direct mail brochures and postcards were the most effective ways to reach students and their families. Today’s generation seeks opportunities to learn about your institution on their own terms, in the ways that matter most to them. While this can be achieved a number of ways, perhaps the most relevant is through social media.
Recruiting Through Social Media
According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of young Americans ages 12-17 use social networking sites every day (2010). According to CNN, teenagers spend as many as nine hours a day on social media. Social media allows students to connect with their peers, find out what’s happening in their communities and country, and seek out information that will impact their choices for the future. From the admissions perspective there is a known power that comes when students begin to recruit one another—viral marketing.
Millennials trust their friends, and they depend on social networks to stay connected. Yes — it is important for students to communicate in-person during an on-campus preview event, but social media allows them to continue the conversation with your institution and with other prospective, and current, students when they get back home.
To implement a social media strategy for undergraduate admissions that also serves as an effective recruitment and engagement tool, start by examining the following factors as they apply to your institution.
Identify the Campus Social Media Structure
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest… the list goes on. Which platforms does your audience spend most of its time on? While there are general industry-wide trends, take the time to identify where you have a high or low volume of followers and engagement. There will always be nuances.
Form A Univeristy Social Media Task Force
Start with individuals who cover the bases — a team that understands the core concept of social media — and pair them with the people on your team who understand enrollment, recruitment and strategy. You want your social media channels to appeal to all audiences, yet at the same time you want prospective students to get the information they need when they need it.
Answer Strategic Questions to form a university social media strategy
What are we already doing?
Take an audit of your presence on social media, how it is working and what holes/gaps exist. You do not want to duplicate efforts. Is your current social landscape aligned to your enrollment mission? How efficiently are they operating in this capacity?
What are our competitors doing?
Are they active on multiple social media sites, or just one or two? What types of content generate the most engagement? How do they differentiate content for diverse audiences? Do not limit yourself to just your own competition — in fact, look at colleges, companies, and individuals. Look to everyone, especially industry models who excel in their digital communications usage.
What are the most innovative colleges doing?
Look to the institutions that inspire. What is it they are doing that your target audience responds positively to? Why do they respond that way, and how can it be applied to fit your social media strategy? Think #aspirationalgoals.
Match Existing student recruitment Goals with Social Media
Recruiting through social media is not a one-way street — it is a forum for facilitating conversations. Think of it as a powerful listening device and sharing platform, not a place for lecture, or one-sided communication. Social media enhances your institution’s research and development. It gives you a platform to tell the stories and the core messages of your institution which is criticial to recruitment. Identifying how existing goals can benefit from social media will help your overarching enrollment strategy reach a new dimension of achievement and importance.
The key is to keep your university relevant, relatable and active on social media. Students want to see action in the digital space. They want the opportunity to explore what you have to offer as it relates to their needs, desires and aspirations. Social media is the ideal platform to provide that.
As you think about meeting students where they are, rest assured, they are on social media! Are you?
To learn more about social media as a higher education recruitment tool,
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