Reaching Prospective Students: The Case of Facebook

You may have heard about the declining popularity of Facebook among high-schoolers. As the story goes, grownups discovered Facebook and teenagers fled like rats from a sinking ship about five seconds after receiving friend requests from their moms.

Ruffalo Noel Levitz’s most recent E-Expectations report sheds some light on this story. Is it true that Facebook is becoming less relevant for your teenage target market? In one sense, yes—but only in a very limited sense.

In 2014, 74.6% of high-school seniors responding to the E-Expectations survey reported that they used Facebook. This year, 70.4% of seniors identified themselves as Facebook users. A 4.2% decrease in one year is a significant drop. Nevertheless, you’d better not give up on Facebook just yet. While YouTube has passed Facebook among high-school juniors and seniors according to the E-Expectations report (73.5% of this year’s seniors say they’re YouTube users), the next-closest contenders—Snapchat and Instagram—are well behind Facebook at 53-54%. (Though Snapchat, with 15.6% growth in usage last year, is gaining fast.)

Facebook’s loss of market share is worth paying attention to, but another finding from the E-Expectations report is much more significant. When college-bound high-schoolers were asked which of the social media platforms was best for researching colleges, Facebook won hands-down over YouTube, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram.

Stodgy old Facebook may be slipping in the popularity race, but when prospective students go looking for reliable information, they’re still choosing stodgy old Facebook over its competitors.

Furthermore, when it comes to that other crucial audience—the parents of prospective students—no social media platform is in the ballpark with Facebook. Actually, according to this study from May 2015, no other social media platform is even in the parking lot of Facebook’s ballpark.

As the ghosts of MySpace and LiveJournal can tell you, a social media platform’s dominance can evaporate very quickly. Nevertheless, it’s not yet time to replace your Facebook specialist with a Snapchat guru.