Social Media Strategies to Boost Enrollment

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John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group, Inc.

Social media outlets are becoming a standard tool for college and university recruitment. A recent study indicated that 95% of institutions utilize social media as an element of the recruitment plan.

There are a variety of available mechanisms for social media being used by admission offices. Among the most popular are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and to a lesser extent Pinterest and Ning. Facebook is still the most popular outlook for schools followed by YouTube and then Twitter. Regardless of the outlets you are using, there are a number of effective strategies used by colleges and universities to make the most of social media.

Develop a Plan with Objectives

You should have an idea of what you hope to accomplish using social media and how you hope to meet your goals. Posting random activities and comments is unlikely to be sufficient. For example, you may wish to target your content to share the important aspects of student life on campus. Perhaps you want to focus your message on the quality of your faculty and academic programs. You may wish your content to tout the advantages of your location or attractive experiences available for students in the local community. After establishing your objective(s), you need to decide upon a strategy for educating prospective students. Your approach may emphasize photographs and videos. You may wish to rely on the testimonials of current students or graduates. Many schools use a combination.

Update Content Frequently

It is very important that you have a way to update your content often. A prospective student might visit your Facebook page once. If the student visits a second time and there is nothing new to see, the student is unlikely to visit a third time. You need to make sure that a particular office or individual is charged with updating content. Currently, admission offices provide content for most colleges and universities, marketing departments are charged with the task second most frequently and students provide content at the rest.

Despite the importance of updating content frequently, the majority of institutions do not report adding content frequently. Only 14% of schools update daily, less than a third of colleges and universities update social media content 2-3 times a week. Approximately 16% update sites at least once per week. The rest update social media content less frequently and sometimes only once every three months!

Consider Evening Coverage

While it may not be practical at many institutions, you should consider assigning an individual for evening work to respond rapidly via social media. This is particularly important if your school is using Twitter as a primary outlet.

Solicit Content Across Campus

It is common when beginning to utilize a social media outlet to send out a campus-wide email message to encourage faculty and staff to provide content. Often, campus colleagues are encouraged to notify a particular individual if they are planning an event or have accomplished a milestone that warrants coverage. The problem is that faculty, staff, and administrators get busy and will not always remember that content has been solicited.

– The individual in charge of content must communicate systematically with faculty, staff and administrators to solicit content throughout the year.

– Develop a relationship with the editor of the student newspaper on campus for content.

– If your college or university publishes a quarterly or annual magazine or newsletter for alums, this can be a good source for social media content.

– Telephone the chief academic officer monthly to find out if faculty have made any interesting presentations at conferences or published books or articles recently.

– Make sure you have a relationship with a student or two on the social activities committee on campus to stay informed about campus co-curricular offerings.

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