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Recruiting Intelligence

Is Social Media Really a Competitive Advantage?

A few weeks back we shared our insights (What Millennials Really Want) on a report by Boston Consulting Group focused on understanding differing perceptions about Millennials and how enrollment managers might adjust their efforts to attact this group. We offered ideas about interacting with Millennials in ways they prefer. This week, building on the theme of understanding Millennials, we found a recently published report by The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Salesforce Foundation: "College Admissions in the Social Media Age" (requires registration).
Social media continues to be one of the most challenging communications channels for universities (and companies) to manage. The medium offers tremendous ability to segment audiences and customize automated outreach. It also offers unparalleled opportunities to track and analyze your marketing efforts/investments.

For example, when a Korean student clicks on a link embedded in your local language tweet about your engineering program, you know a lot about that visitor already. When that student goes on to request additional information on the specific landing page connected to that tweet, you now have the ability to track the student's travels on your website and future visits. Automated and customized communications are now possible as this student makes his or her university selection. And if this student applies or enrolls, you know the path taken to reach that decision.

Imagine having that kind of analyzable data compiled for every single prospect, applicant and enrolled student. Better yet, imagine having a small team of analysts pouring over that data and feeding you the insights gleaned from it, guiding your enrollment marketing decisions. Believe it or not, this kind of marketing program is possible. But let's get back to that report by the Chronicle and Salesforce Foundation about Millennials, college decisions and social media.

The report we reviewed offers the following noteworthy ideas:

  • Social Media is the best source for students to see life on campus (and may we add that for international students, social media will most likely be the only way to see life on campus).
  • Authenticity is essential -- the Millenial generation demands authenticity; they will find it with or without your help. This survey, and many other research efforts, show that students seek and find multiple sources of information online. They will find out what a university is really like.
  • Authenticity in social media messages is key.
  • Avoid copying another college's style. Social media success comes from quality over quantity. Let the true nature of your campus environment shine through.

Figure 1 highlights students' social media and digital behavior during their college search processes. We find it noteworthy that 66% of them search for scholarships using social media. Additionally, a majority of prospective students read posts or watch YouTube videos during their search phase.

We noticed in much of our work that the large video sites, domestically and internationally, have become powerful information sources for students. Chart 2 confirms that video sites, e.g., YouTube, are visited by 36% daily and by 75% several times a week. Why read detailed information when you can watch a video?

Please keep in mind that chart 2 shows the frequency and not the percentage of usage or impact. We know from other research that search engines play a critical role in identifying information sources.

The survey results also showed that 21% of students were more like to apply through meaningful social media interactions while 53% of students said that social media had no effect on their decision to apply.

As all experienced admissions officers know, no one single item will lead to an application and enrollment. A multitude of touch points and channels have to be considered. These channels each need some level management and coordination. High school visits, college websites, college counselors, parents and of course campus visits all influence application and enrollment decisions. Each of these communications channels requires come kind of budget commitment.

Social media is another influencing factor that, according to the report, universities cannot neglect. We are all competing for applicants as national and international demographics are changing. More and more students are swayed by what they read, see and hear online. And what they read, see and hear online is translating into word of mouth marketing as they share - using social media, while chatting with friends over a slice of pizza at the local hangout.

Oh, and have we mentioned mobile lately? Because you know, as they chat and share a pizza, they are checking and posting on Facebook (US, India, Korea, Brazil), Sina Weibo, QQ, Ren Ren (China), Cyworld (Korea), Orkut (Brazil, India), Mixi (Japan), among others.

Bottom Line: The Chronicle/Salesforce report concludes that offering students an opportunity to connect and engage with the college community before they make a final choice can give an institution a competitive edge over institutions that haven't adopted the practice. This window is closing and the new normal will be engagement via social media. Can we buy you a slice of pizza and discuss this? ...On skype?

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education: College admission the Social Media Age

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education: College admission the Social Media Age


Topics: Insights