In today’s world, social media rules. Most people these days gather the bulk of their information through social media and networking channels. Social media and networking sites have become a crucial tool for finding jobs, relationships, hotels, destinations for travel, reviews of businesses, and pathways to education.
Educators at all levels have embraced the use of technology both in and out of the classroom, and some have discovered that social media can be a valuable tool for recruiting students and driving enrollment for their programs and institutions.
According to a study published by Sprout Central, “Two-thirds of high school students say that social media conversations influence their decision on where to enroll in college” This means that colleges can use social media to teach interested students about their schools, providing them with information about campuses and programs that can be crucial in their decision-making process. According to this study there are four simple tips educators can use to enhance student recruitment through social media:
- Make sure the admissions team for the specific college is centered towards social media success and draws in the public eye
- Build a large number of followers
- Make content creative and interesting as well as post often so content can drive impressions (likes, comments, shares, etc.)
- Make sure the social media accounts have an easy-to-follow application process linked so that potential students can directly apply to the university from each post or social networking site
The Pew Research Center states that 73 percent of Americans who are 12-17 years old are using social networking sites every single day, spending up to 9 hours daily on these sites. Since many students begin thinking about what universities to apply to as early as their freshman year and then apply during their senior year, they can become well-versed over these four years in the programs and colleges that catch their interest. Many of them share this information with friends and classmates, creating exponential exposure among interested parties. Pew adds that, “From the admissions perspective there is a known power that comes when students begin to recruit one another-viral marketing.”
Credo Higher Ed elaborates about how to implement a successful recruitment strategy via social media, asserting that “The key is to match the student recruitment goals with social media.” Here are some tips from Credo for enhancing student recruitment:
- Identify the most-used social media platforms on campus (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat.) Which platform is the targeted demographic spending most of their time on?
- Form a well-developed social media team that not only has an in-depth knowledge of social media, but the university’s recruitment strategy as well.
- Take the strategies that are already being implemented and analyze how well things are or are not working. Are the current channels aligned to meet the enrollment mission?
- Look at the university’s biggest competitors and how active they are on social media or what unique methods they use.
- Analyze what the most innovative colleges are doing.
According to the 2018 Global Higher Education Digital Marketing & Web Survey, higher ed recruiting professionals state that Facebook and Instagram are the top social media tools used for recruitment. In 2016 a study showed that 62 percent of those surveyed said that Facebook was the top platform for student engagement.
Higher Ed Jobs states how staff at universities like Texas A&M have specific accounts to connect with prospective students. Nick Wilson, the social media coordinator at Texas A&M states, “At Texas A&M, we have @aggiebound, a Twitter and Instagram account specifically dedicated to prospective students. They share pertinent information about applications, housing, financial aid, etc., as well as carry on informal discussions about what life is like at Texas A&M. With a separate account, @aggiebound can be more focused on customer service and helping prospective students through finding their way to Texas A&M.”
In the article Why More Colleges Are Using Social Media to Recruit Students, Higher Ed Jobs records that In addition to Texas A&M, the University of Michigan also uses Snapchat, another social media tool to engage with prospective students. Nikki Sunstrum, the director of social media at the University of Michigan, explains how their university uses Snapchat to share timely information with students, parents, alumni, and prospective students.
“We have nearly 30 community geofilters to engage students across campus and regularly create other custom filters to showcase specific events. This immediate sharing of events and happenings on campus increases prospective student engagement in new and more efficient ways,” says Sunstrum.
Here are some tips from the Pew Research Center on making different channels of social media stronger to drive student enrollment for your university:
- Create interesting content (videos and pictures) that draw in the public
- Host contests that encourage users to share content, comment, like, and tag others as well
- Create hashtags which will enhance Instagram algorithms so that content will appear on the explore page and is more noticeable to the public (who is not already following your account)
- Engage with prospective or current students. Direct message, comment on posts, like their content (be sure to create a direct relationship and seem personable through Instagram)
- To increase the audience and amount of people reached, you can boost your post to create larger audiences. The study says that “60% of people say they discover new products on the platform while 75% take action after being inspired by a post”
- Make your posts creative so that the information posted is displayed in a way that will make viewers want to read on (a new development, offer, blog post, etc.)
- Pose questions that encourage users to comment and offer feedback
- Utilize paid ads to promote content
- Post visually appealing content with headlines that also encourage users to read on
- Engage on current trending topics or things going on in the news/ media; use relevant hashtags that will be more noticeable by the public
- Personalize tweets with students or tag people
- Make hashtags that are trending
- Use paid advertisement to drive engagement
Following these tips can help universities tap into the vast potential of social media to inform prospective students’ decisions about where to apply to college. Indeed, in today’s complex and sometimes baffling world of mass communication, skillful use of social media has become a necessity in helping institutions recruit students whose skills and interests match their institutional goals.