College Criteria: Academics, Facilities, and Social Media?

There is a 6 year age gap between my little brother and me. Being the 16 year old, “too cool” for his older sister, junior in high school that he currently is, he has sent me all of three text messages during my last three years of college. 1. “Don’t fail your finals Ha Ha” 2. “Mom said I had to say hi to you” and 3. “I think I am gonna apply to Texas A&M. All their posts look cool”. Although the first two text messages were a mix of mockery and forced love, his third text defiantly got my attention. At first I thought, typical of my little brother to start the hectic and complicated process of college applications based off what he saw on Instagram instead of serious research like my sister and I had suggested. But honestly, he may be on to something. He is defiantly not the only prospective college student looking towards social media to direct his or her college application decisions and universities defiantly know this as well.

Am ons.png

Texas A&M Instagram

Therefore, that simple text message inspired my blog for the week and sparked a series of proceeding questions such as: How are colleges optimizing social media to attract new students, which universities do it best, and of course, how well does Boston College use social media compared to other universities?

WHY USE SOCIAL MEDIA?

The “why” is pretty obvious in this case. Why do universities use social media as a platform? To promote themselves and attract talented and intelligent students to their campus of course. The generation of students they are attracting grew up with social media at their fingertips. Social media is part of their everyday life. Smart institutions use this to their advantage. Sure, any university can produce and print a beautiful booklet that highlights the best parts of their university. However, said booklet is then sent in the mail in the hopes that some perspective student will actually pick it up, take the time to look through it, and apply. However, social media not only expedites this process, but makes it cheaper and allows for multiple outlets of communication simoultaniously. Any university can throw together a social media strategy to attract students; the impact/point of differentiation comes in “how” they do it!

Texas.png

University of Texas Instagram

HOW DO UNIVERSITIES USE SOCIAL MEDIA?

Options. Universities have multiple options on how to go about their social media strategy and how they choose to do so makes all the difference. Examples of some potential platforms that universities could utilize include: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn, StudentAdvisor.com, universtiy websites, Gmail, ect…

Each platform brings  its own potential for unique approaches to grab a student’s attention; however, despite the platform being used,  I have found in the research I have conducted that there are five overarching necessities to a successful college social media campaign.

  1. FREQUENCY
    1.  Students feel strongly about the frequency with which an institution uses its social media. Students notice inactivity and even lulls of inactivity in a universities social media account. One student states, ” I signed up for X University twitter to learn more about them before applying, but I noticed they had only posted four times in the last several months. This made me think they did not care, so  I unfollowerd them and crossed them off my consideration list”. Students care about the frequency of an insta picture, tweet, or Facebook post becasue of the underline commitment frequency demonstrastes.
  2. ENGAGEMENT
    1. In addition to the frequency with which universities post, the content must be engaging, creative, and eye-catching. Universities want to post content that gives off a positive impression of the school and to do so they have to be innovative with their posts. Examples of engaging material which have been successful in the past include: Interactive videos, virtual campus tours, candid photos of student life on campus, ect…
  3. USER GENERATED CONTENT
    1. It is very important to prospective students to view content created not only by the university, but also by students who attend the school currently or have graduated from said institution. “This eliminates the sense of propaganda created to promote a university and allows me to get a real sense of what goes on at a particular college” -Student X. This sentiment of user generated content being more authentic and true than university created social media material is commonly shared among students. For a social media strategy to be truly successful, it is important that the merit of a universities come from its student body. User generated connoted exudes a sense of authentic pride, commitment, and spirit towards a university.
  4. DIRECT STUDENT COMMUNICATION
    1. The most successful social media strategies for a university allow for direct communication between current students and prospective students so that prospective students can get a genuine feel of student life and academic life at the university. Many universities have set up chats through their website which connect them with current students. In this way, students can get first hand information from someone who is not a university employee, but rather a university student.
  5. CROSS PLATFORM EXPOSURE
    1. It is not enough for a university to only be “good” at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, ect… in order for a university to be truly successful with their social media, they have to have a holistic commitment to all  social media platforms in order to reach and impact the maximum amount of potential students across maximum demographics. Social media is an effective strategy, but it requires constant commitment in various shapes and forms.

Harvard.png

Harvard Instagram

I BET YOU WANT SOME EXAMPLES RIGHT?

Below I have included some quotes, testimonies, and statistics of how social media has impacted university exposure and recruitment across various institutions.

“Social media has been key for us and has been a great audience connector not only with prospective students but with prospective parents.” – Kayla Germain, E-Media Coordinator. Rose College

“We want to engage and make sure the student voices are heard… It’s all about authenticity.” – Jason Boucher, Social Media Coordinator, University of New Hampshire

“We use social media to answer students’ questions, listen to their opinions and take action so that they understand that they are being heard. They call it social media for a reason – it can’t be a one way conversation. So if we have students who are asking us questions or giving observations on some of the things we have going on around campus, if we just take that information in and do nothing with it, we’re not only doing the students a disservice, we’re doing the institution a disservice,” – Stephen Boucher, Director of Marketing and Communications, Southern New Hampshire University

“I consider our social media ‘ours,’ not ‘mine.’” – Moira Gentry, Associate Director for Alumni Communications, UMASS Amherst

” A recent study by the center of Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, 100% of universities surveyed use social media to communicate with students, up from 61% in 2007-08. The study found that 98% of the responding colleges have a Facebook page and 84% have a Twitter account. Social media is past the fad phase,” said Nora Barnes, director of the center. “The numbers speak for themselves. Many students can’t afford to visit the campus, so they are depending on the podcasts and blogs to get answers.”

ND insta.png

Notre Dame Instagram

WE ARE BC: SO WHERE DO WE STAND?

In my opinion, Boston College has a strong social media presence. Their Facebook page is highly interactive and it is also divided between classes. Eagle Link has a direct connection to LinkedIn which gives access to wide a range of professional Eagle Alumni. I personally, do not have a personal twitter, but I have friends who have told me BC is an active tweeter. BC has a campus wide snap chat story which students contribute to and several snap chat filters which highlight the most iconic parts of campus.

Last but not least, BC has a strong instrgarm account. I have been following BC on instrgrapm since before I was a student here and I have alway been very impressed with their post. BC’s Instagram account is varied in content and always engaging. Some of the diverse content includes: video/ pictures of our gorgeous campus in each seasonal stage ( so beautiful and defiantly attractive to students), BC super fans traveling all around the world, events on campus, current events, and even celebration of alumni most milestone moment. Thinking back on it, BC’s insta account defiantly influenced my decision to come here even if I did not realize it. Campus aesthetics was defiantly on the “pro” side of my pro and con list, and it was insta giving me that exposure to BC’s beautiful campus.

BC insta.png

Boston College Instagram

BC was publicly recognized for their strategic use of Instagram to highlight the most memorable moments of their alumni, such as proposals on campus. Follow the links below to read more about how BC has been noted for leveraging Social Media

BC p.png

How Colleges and Universities are Leveraging Social Media

https://bostoncollegesocialmedia.com/category/instagram/

Overall, I think BC does an above average job in leveraging their social media platforms to engage not only their future students, but also their current and past students. We are BC!

WHO DOES IT BEST?

In case you are curious on learning more on what universities have been noted and praised for their use of social media, I have included links to some links which list successful social media optimizing institutions and in some cases describe why the have been successful. Although it is true that these lists can be subjective, it still highlights broad patterns and creative efforts to optimize social media to attract students.  One of the things I found most surprising about these lists is that IVYs do not always do it best. Often, southern schools with a large student populations and tremendous school sprit outdo the Harvards and Stanfords of the world.

The Stars of College Social Media

The Stars of College Social Media

How 10 Savvy Colleges are Using Social Media

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/how-10-savvy-colleges-are-using-social-media

7 Creative Ways Colleges are Using Social Media 

http://www.postano.com/blog/7-creative-ways-college-are-using-social-media

Stand.png

Stanford Instagram

Sources:

How Today’s Colleges and Universities are Using Social Media

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/20/tech/social-media/universities-social-media/

 

 

5 comments

  1. katieInc_ · ·

    Great post! I am always amazed by how quickly social media has progressed in just the past few years. I don’t remember looking at an of my prospect schools’ Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook accounts. The only feature remotely relevant to this discussion is that many created and posted promotional videos that showcased the beauty of each campus and attempted to convey the nature of the student body. I really like how you outlined the “why” and “how” universities use social media to recruit applicants. I think those universities who effectively utilize the opportunities that social media provides to communicate with applicants positively impact the recruiting process as a whole. I’d be interested to see impact between schools like BC and Texas A&M who use social media to enhance their university brands versus other universities with limited social media presences.

  2. gabcandelieri · ·

    Awesome idea for a post! I actually had the unique experience of interning for the “bcalumni” social media accounts on campus and definitely agree with your criteria for a college’s successful digital strategy. The challenge with running accounts largely viewed by both alumni and students was catering messages to both audiences in an appealing way. My supervisor would grant me more creative freedom with “bcalumni’s” Instagram account which was more commonly viewed by students. At the same time, she would encourage me a to use a more rigid framework for Facebook posts (use less emojis, more formal speech, etc.) considering this outlet was largely viewed by prospective students’ parents and alumni of all ages. Maintaining a sense of professionalism while also being cognizant of the lighthearted nature of social media was an interesting balance to meet.

  3. Wow this is fantastic. I had never thought about what a personal perspective you can get about a college from the social media they put together – and the user generated content in particular. I think I lucked out that I ended up in the right place, but it would have been such a powerful tool to really understand student culture and daily life at a school. It would have made my application process so much more informed.

  4. First off, the structure and organization of this blog was awesome! It made it so easy to read and I loved the social media feeds placed throughout as section separators and examples. Aesthetically: A+. I also did not use social media as an assessment when looking at colleges, but my 16 year old sister, who is currently getting recruited, looks through not only university accounts but curated accounts specifically for the field hockey team. From a perspective student point of view, I think you nailed all the potential social media hold for universities. What I also think it aids is the branding within the university and the connection it fosters with both current students and alumni. By using that user generated content, for example using a student’s Instagram and tagging that student, makes the student feel more connected with the university and that they are in someway contributing. I think social media provides universities, these large entities that otherwise may be challenged to connect with members of its communities, ways to reach out and continue and straighten connections with current members.

  5. Great post! We’ll be hearing more from the BC team in a few weeks, for a “behind the scenes” view of how things are done.

%d bloggers like this: