Connecting with prospective college students today requires the strategic and successful use of social media. There are a couple of things you can’t lose sight of, though, when using these platforms to reach today’s students. To be effective, your plan has to fit the way they actually use social media. To sum it up, the experiences should be 1) interactive and 2) personalized.
A recent white paper from Ruffalo Noel Levitz describes the mindset of today’s students regarding communication:
Educated in flipped classrooms, interacting through gamified experiences both online and off, and hashtagging through social media, the students you’re recruiting today are driving precisely how, when, and why they engage—with everything from friends, to brands, to colleges.
IvyWise, an organization that counsels students on their college search, encourages students to use the information on social networks to “build a bigger profile that organizes what you like about a particular institution.”
So how can we move from simply pushing information to creating the kind of authentic interaction they’ve come to expect?
- Engage current students. Launch a social media campaign to get current students sharing about a major event or initiative on campus. You can be sure high school students are watching and forming opinions about life at your college. When they see your students posting photos and videos about campus life, the interest of prospective students will grow.
- Create channels for prospective students—and parents— to share about their experiences with your school. Encourage posting photos and comments about the exciting steps in their journey toward college, such as campus visits and acceptance news. Share your institution’s hashtag at campus events so that prospective students will use it and generate interest from others.
- Set up forums that promote Q&A. Allowing students to post questions and comments—and then promptly responding—creates a communication flow that’s more “real” than your scripted posts (but those are still important, too!).
- Establish a variety of accounts. Having separate accounts for various departments of your school allows students to follow what’s most interesting to them. (But be careful to maintain brand identity across the board.) But, be sure to maintain and monitor any accounts that you establish. Nothing is worse than coming across an inactive social media account or for contacts to go unanswered due to an unmonitored account.
The more that prospective students engage with you—in ways that interest them—the more they begin to see themselves as part of your school’s story.
Ruffalo Noel Levitz, “Why It’s Time to Throw Away Your Communication Plan.” 2017. RuffaloNL.com/CommPlan.
IvyWise, “How to Use Social Media in Your College Search.”