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Recruiting Intelligence

Your Social Media's Impact on Recruitment Activities

Source: Top Colleges Online (shortenend version displayed -- for full version click here)

Does this chart make you think of another university ranking? Don’t. The purpose of this week's chart is to look at the diversity of digital channels and introduce Klout, one of several social media impact measurement tools. Klout helps gauge digital reach and social media impact. We admit that the infogrpraphic was called "the most social colleges" by the creator: TopColleges. The graph displays five different digital channels and sites: Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pininterest and YouTube. All these sites attract large audiences, but differ in their characteristics as they relate to user experience, content presentation and use case (why you would want to use them). Note the diversity of institutions in this list.

As university marketers and admission officers, we have to decide whether social media will help us reach and influence our target audience. And then we need to evaluate each social media channel in terms of its specific reach (user base) and the institution's capacity to use that channel effectively.

The digital media world of reaching your audience is getting more complex as the chart indicates. When we started our digital careers in the early 1990s (yes, we are that old), the internet was in its infancy and marketers were excited and concerned about adding another marketing channel into the mix. The questions in 1993-1995 were along these lines: "Do we really need a website?" Turns out, the answer was, "yes." Who knew?

Today, digital marketing including banner ads, email campaigns, and yes, social media presence and campaigns, have become a mainstream activity. This, on top of the university marketing mix of high school visits, college fairs, direct mail, print ads, radio, billboards and TV advertising. During the last few years, the internet has made another qualitative transition. We moved from a one-way website and search engine optimizations to a complex web of interactions within a social web of relationships, which prospective students and parents use to investigate and validate their educational choices.

As companies and institutions, we are faced again with the question of marketing effectiveness and return on our investments in content production and advertising dollars spent. When the internet started, we were excited by its capacity to measure impact, count unique visitors, page views and time on page, ad impressions and so forth. Today, we know that these measures do not go far enough. We need to track engagement as it relates to actual conversions (sales). Similar to tracking PR impressions when all news was print. The number of impressions might be impressive - yet might be meaningless if they do not relate to market share and sales. Be gentle if you say this to your marketing staff or agency - they don't like to hear it.

Klout assigns the individual, or an organization, a score that measures social influence. Harvard received the highest score with 97 of 100. The higher your score, the greater your influence. We hear that only Justin Bieber reached 100.

The variables to calculate the score include number of followers, frequency of updates, the Klout scores of your friends (because they are influencers too), number of likes, etc. Any score above 50 is above average. And note that social media reach, as measured by Klout, is not limited to the biggest academic brands.

  • Purdue University reached 89.
  • Temple University reached 86.
  • Howard University reached 84.

Klout is by far not the only one out there measuring the social media strength of a brand. Others include Kred and Peerindex. If you are interested in more details, here is the best research report we could find on this topic: The rise of digital influence by Brian Solis.

Our take-away for university enrollment marketing and admissions - especially when considering international student recruitment:

  • You have to be active in several social media platforms domestically and internationally depending on your recruiting areas, but you don’t have to be everywhere.
  • Use these channels to share valuable and influential information with prospective students, and their parents, to help them with their education choices.
  • Be authentic, present and engaged. When was the last time you wanted to read anything boring, insincere or perfunctory?
  • Don’t be intimidated by the challenge of gaining huge numbers of followers/views or comparing yourself to other institutions with big numbers. You need to have meaningful engagement with your geographic area/target student segment.
  • Identify meaningful metrics for your institution. Measure the impact with a variety of variables. Recognize that no single score will do justice to measure impact.
  • Don’t neglect your website development, search engine marketing and search engine optimization. Make your website user-friendly and easy to navigate for domestic and international students (think multi-language). Your website is still the hub of your information, a key influencer, for students and parents. Your social media effort will ultimately drive traffic to your website, as well as your phone and email inbox.

So, in answer to the question: "Do we really need an active social media presence?" Turns out, the answer is, well...we think you know.


Topics: Insights