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Recruiting Intelligence

State of the Media: What It Means for Higher Ed

We are experiencing a moment when two technologies and media trends have reached critical mass and are reinforcing each other. Social media and mobile technology are affecting society. Nielsen, a research firm, and Incite, a specialized consumer research consultancy, published the data compendium State of the Media: The Social Media Report 2012. We reviewed this report with both domestic and international student recruitment in mind.

We are highlighting two facets:

  • Chart 1 shows the increased frequency of social media activities. Consider your student population. Prospective students visit your campus and post their impressions and views on the tour instantaneously on Facebook, Twitter or Hobsons' CollegeConfidential. Current students post their views on classes and your faculty on www.ratemyprofessor.com.
  • Chart 2 highlights the fact that much of the online conversation and social media activity happens via mobile devices. 34%, in fact.

We have a number of take-aways from these mutually reinforcing trends and activities of social media and mobile:

  • In general, we think it best for you to be aware of and monitor activity. We don't suggest that you worry about every post or that you join every new social network that comes along. There are "alert" options that will keep you informed as relevant posts pop up.
  • Develop a flexible marketing environment allowing you to publish, monitor, analyze and respond as situations or posts merit. This kind of monitoring and analyzing can keep you on top of trends and prompt improvements in many campus and academic areas over time. A simple example you could apply to any area of your school: students will always post humorous and critical things about campus food - it is what they do and is not really concerning. Yet, if those posts are continuously increasing over time, you might want to take a look at what is causing the trend and find solutions. You can imagine more significant issues on campus where this monitoring might be extremely important to your marketing.
  • Foster collaboration between marketing and IT to be sure your marketing content is nicely accessible on mobile devices. Mobile websites are a first step, but adjusting your content for mobile use is equally important.
  • The ease of access to your own friends and acquaintances' opinions on virtually any device and through any channel will increase as search engines and social networks incorporate these views as search results. Your happy or angry student will influence even more prospective students; the negative review of a tired, bored or uninformed student tour guide will be more widely available - far beyond the group of students and parents on that particular tour. And the Chinese student publishing a harsh review of her experiences will have a negative multiplier effect at home. Generally, it will not be the single post that matters but the multiplicity of views, comments and activity describing a positive, passive or negative atmosphere.

Every institution is affected by the speed of information sharing. With social media's rise, the fear-based response became: "How can we protect our brand?" This is not the right place to start the conversation. The right questions are:

  • How can we be aware of what is said about our brand? (Listening - identifying customer trends and opportunities).
  • How can we participate in shaping and influencing our brand perception? (Classic marketing - promoting your positive differentiators).
  • How can we provide information via the best channels and in the best formats to be accessible on the go? (Content delivery - reaching your audience where they are).

Participating in the conversation, creating useful content and building long-term credibility is different from producing view books. The "new normal" challenges all of our "old school" marketing vehicles and planning.

We like the simple definition: Brand and reputation is what people say about you when you are not in the room. That's exactly what social media is all about. And now, you can be the fly on the wall when everyone else is talking. What steps will you take with the new information now available?

Chart 1

Chart 2


Topics: Insights