Put the emphasis on social

Building an arsenal of social media to reach prospective students? Got your Facebook page, Twitter handle, YouTube channel? Maybe Pinterest and Instagram accounts and Tumblr too?

It certainly makes sense, since research indicates that two-thirds of high school students use social media to research colleges and more than a third of those students use the sites to help decide where to enroll.

But a recent article in Inside Higher Ed offers this advice: “The number of social media accounts might not be nearly as important as what colleges and universities do with the technology.”

Reporter Alexandra Tilsley talks to some of the people behind the research, and they recommend that you delve into the findings and perhaps reconsider your social media strategy. While it might be free and easy to create accounts on these popular sites, recruiters should focus their efforts on getting the highest return on investment. And the way to get the best ROI, Tilsley writes, is to concentrate on engagement.

Prospective students want to be able to communicate with people; they want to be connected with other students. “You can post a picture of an athletic event,” she quotes one of the researchers, “but you also want to be able to connect students to ways that they can be part of that event or be part of that campus.”

What’s interesting — and a challenge for those in charge of social media content — is that different groups of students want to connect in different ways. For example, the research shows that white students are more likely to want to communicate with current students, while Hispanic and black students want to connect with admissions counselors.

So, the lesson may be that it’s OK to have a huge social presence, but be prepared to work a lot harder to truly engage students and to offer them opportunities to connect with your campus community in ways they prefer.

Read Alexandra Tilsley’s “Social Networks and College Choices”

View an infographic detailing social media’s growing role in the college admissions process

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