Best Investment: Digital and Social Media
Digital and Social Media
According to an EAB study 27% of first-generation students, 25% of Hispanic students, 24% of African-American students and 24% of students from households with $60K or lower income levels report they first discovered a college on social media.
Rise in mobile:
As of four years ago, 79% of colleges and universities had activated mobile apps or planned to offer them by the end of the past academic year, according to the 2013 Campus Computing Survey.
Campus leaders are finally coming around to the idea of social media and embracing mobile apps, not just as a communications tool or a source of news, but as an outreach tool.
A recent survey found 47% of high school seniors, 55% of juniors and 61% of sophomores and 33% of parents of high schoolers clicked on a search, display or social media ad for a college. Additionally, a recent EAB survey found 27% of first-generation students, 25% of Hispanic students, 24% of African-American students, and 24% of students from households with $60K or lower income levels report they first discovered a college on social media, compared with significantly lower percentages of legacy, Caucasian and higher-income students.
Social media is a low-cost outreach medium that everyone from the president's desk to the admissions office to financial aid, development and other critical support offices can and should be leveraging to engage and inform students. Research indicates that only 15.7% of private universities and 16.8% of public universities had someone on staff whose sole focus was social media. As schools continue to find uses for new tech to introduce students to universities, they must also invest in digital marketing to ensure they are reaching students where they are looking as they consider their choices.
Admissions officers can't possibly visit every high school in the country, but having an active digital presence and offering virtual tours and quick answers to questions students may have through social media and mobile apps could help provide a significant cost to recruitment efforts — while increasing the general public's exposure to and familiarity with the brand.
Nothing beats having representatives who are engaging on social media and responding to inquiries, capitalizing on popular conversations and helping to build the institution's brand online. It's of no use to spend money on social buys if there isn't a dedicated staff member to answer questions and interact with prospective students in the space. It is important, however, for leadership to recognize the time investment required to execute an effective social media strategy.
This isn't something which can be tacked onto a long list of responsibilities already expected of a member of the communications or outreach staff. It is, however, something which students can be employed to execute. Pulling an exceptional work study student or student intern to assist the office with social media can be one way to help bridge gaps between prospective students and staff members. Students know the platforms and the lingo, and with clear guidelines about what is considered acceptable engagement, they can help propel the brand in the digital space.
Those institutions that fail to invest in social media may lag behind their competitors in terms of marketing and outreach, as mobile apps and digital engagement become the only way to reach out to incoming students.
Follow Autumn A. Arnett on Twitter