Has your campus tweeted today? Balancing social media options for college student recruitment

Vaughn Shinkus

Assistant Vice President, Digital Marketing Services

October 7, 2014

For college and university marketers, the array of online options for reaching prospective students can seem nearly infinite. In the past several years, the proliferation of social media platforms—and shifting trends in their use by traditional-age prospective students—has created new challenges in budgeting and staff deployment. To help illustrate the ever-increasing number of platforms being used by prospective students (and their parents), just take a look at this data from our 2014 E-Expectations Report (the following graph includes responses from seniors and parents in the 2014 survey and seniors from the 2013 survey):

What social media channels do college-bound high school students use?
Responses from seniors and parents in the 2014 survey and seniors from the 2013 survey (Click to enlarge)

Although the array of potential channels has increased, the size of most marketing teams (and the number of hours in a working day) has not. So what’s a college marketing leader to do? Jump on the latest trend to meet prospects where they live? Or stick with tried and true techniques and risk losing relevance in the eyes of young people? These, among many others, are the challenging questions many college and university marketing teams are tasked with answering.

Making the optimal investment in time and social media content: The example of Twitter as an e-recruitment tool

As with all potential marketing strategies, much of the answer depends on what you hope to accomplish in relation to your audiences and high-level organizational goals. It can be tempting to experiment with emerging platforms, but entering a new social space is ill-advised until you have the bandwidth to truly build an engaged community.

A balanced social media program is built on a robust presence in established networks and fully-baked strategies for expanding your social footprint. Let’s consider an established network such as Twitter. Twitter may not be a main channel for recruitment, but it is a very worthwhile addition to a well-rounded e-recruiting portfolio. The 140 character limit per tweet makes it easier for campuses to plan and deliver multiple daily messages, helping keep their feeds active. Its interactive nature allows campuses to engage in ongoing dialogue with active Twitter users among students, prospective students, and other important constituencies. It also can turn users into advocates for your campus as they re-tweet to their followers, giving you valuable free marketing.

However, according to the 2014 E-Recruiting Practices Report, only two-thirds of four-year public campuses (68 percent) have Twitter accounts. That number drops to 48 percent for four-year privates and just 24 percent for two-year institutions. This means that many campuses are missing out on a cost effective and manageable tool for their e-recruitment efforts.

Campuses without Twitter accounts should consider starting one as a means of sharing updates that strengthen their value proposition and engaging in meaningful dialog with students, alumni and other members of their community who are active in the medium.

If your campus has an existing Twitter account, look at the content you publish. Are your followers retweeting it or responding to it? Are you presenting engaging content that leads students to important information about academic offerings, campus life, or other items that may be key in their enrollment decisions? Do any of your tweets lead to places where students can make inquiries or offer information?

In our upcoming Noel-Levitz webinar, Maximizing Your Engagement With Students on Social Media, we’ll build on findings from our E-Expectations study and suggest strategies institutions can use to ensure their investment of time and effort provides returns in the form of increased community engagement. Please email me or comment below if you have any specific questions about your e-recruiting strategies.

About the Author

Vaughn Shinkus brings more than 20 years of higher education experience to his work with Ruffalo Noel Levitz campus partners. His areas of expertise include social media, website development, content strategy, email communication, public relations,...

Read more about Vaughn's experience and expertise

Reach Vaughn by e-mail at Vaughn.Shinkus@RuffaloNL.com.

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