By Stuart Davis
Social media’s growth dramatically alters the way enrollment staff interact with prospective students. While initially viewed as a leisure activity, prospective students increasingly rely on social media to research colleges. In 2015, 67% of high school seniors used Facebook to compare institutions. Nearly half or more have used platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter for the same purpose.
Despite social media’s widespread adoption by potential students, it presents two key challenges for effective student recruitment. First, social media’s popularity has splintered audiences across multiple platforms. Potential students regularly check more than just Facebook. They use Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat, among many others. For enrollment staff, this means increased time spent to attract a less captive audience.
More Than Just Selfies
Percentage of High School Seniors Using Social Media to Research Colleges
Second, college recruiters often struggle to calculate a reliable return on investment (ROI) for their social media efforts. For many community colleges experimenting with social media marketing, they overly prioritize “vanity metrics” including number of friends, followers, comments, and likes. These numbers are easy to obtain, but only express a superficial connection with target audiences. A small number of highly engaged followers will yield more enrollments than a large group that visits once and never returns.
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Crowdsource social media content generation
Clark College addressed these two challenges with their “Penguins Fly” social media campaign. Recruiters asked current students and alumni to post about their Clark College experience on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This effectively freed up staff time to focus on more substantive recruitment tasks, like individual prospect follow-up.
Storify, a social media aggregation tool, was used on their landing page to display a live feed of posts from all of the social media platforms. This eliminated the issue that prospective students engage on a variety of social media platforms.
Finally, the landing page included large “Apply now” and “Request information” buttons to drive prospective interest into concrete engagement with the college.
Recruiting with an authentic voice and personal touch
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College (SWTC) enhanced their social media recruitment efforts with six student social media ambassadors. SWTC found that most prospective students preferred to learn about the college from a current student instead of a staff member, especially over social media. These social media ambassadors not only provide prospects with a peer’s perspective, but a personal information source as well.
Each ambassador maintains his or her own Twitter account, and prospects can follow these accounts to better understand students’ daily experiences. These ambassadors earn part-time wages and receive basic training in social media practices.
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