College recruiters are turning to interactive social media platforms such as Snapchat to communicate with prospective students.
Snapchat—a mobile app that allows users to send and share temporary photos and videos—is commonly used among high school students, which makes it a prime platform for recruitment purposes.
Ma'Ayan Plaut, the manager of social strategy and projects at Oberlin College, says when harnessed correctly, Snapchat can be a powerful tool for connecting would-be applicants to current students.
"Speaking to an admissions officer, you'll get information about the school," Plaut says. "You can ask very pointed questions, but if you're asking about student life, you're going to get a different perspective from someone who's actually living that" life.
Colleges are testing different approaches to tap into that market. West Virginia University's (WVU) Snapchat account, which has accumulated 22,000 followers since its August 2014 launch, is run by a social media team. But every Tuesday, the account is taken over by a student or someone not involved with the day-to-day oversight.
Other schools, such as Duke University, rely on student-led Snapchat accounts.
Students running the school's Snapchat account can post pictures of residence halls, dining hall food, and classrooms along with live videos of sporting events, musical performances, and more. The Snapchat footage is raw and authentic, which is why prospective students favor it to flawlessly edited admissions footage.
Snapchat is "about as close as you can get to actually being here," says Candace Nelson WVU's social media editor.
How to use social media for student recruitment
Further, prospective students can use the app to communicate with school officials, asking them specific questions or requesting to see certain parts of the school.
Jared Stoller, a higher education thought leader, consultant, writer, and speaker, recently gave a lecture on digital marketing and social media to college students in London. At the end of the lecture, the students shared their perspectives about social media apps and their usage.
When it came to Snapchat, the students said they were surprised their school did not have its own Snapchat account.
Still, some marketing experts say recruiters could be overestimating Snapchat's reach.
"While I think that Snapchat is a valuable tool for institutions to use, it's not clear to me that students they're trying to reach are actually using it to do research on colleges," says Michael Stoner, president of the marketing communications firm mStoner. "Paper brochures, conversations with parents and other influencers, all these resources are still important and still used more than Snapchat is being used" (Dried, Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/12; Stoller, Inside Higher Ed, 10/13).
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