For the past week and a half I have been writing blogs on higher education marketing based on a study about the online expectations of prospective students and their parents called 2011 E-Expectations Report: Students and Parents, by Noel Levitz and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions. One of the more interesting statistics was even though 80% of prospective students have a Facebook account, and 74% of students think that the school should have a presence on social media, only 27% of the students with a Facebook account actually viewed the school’s Facebook page. This seems even more alarming when you consider that 63% of the students with a Facebook account check their status at least once a day. This makes them, according to Arbitron and Edison Research, Frequent Social Networkers. Why is there such a big gap? It would seem that the prospective students would be more engaged with Facebook.
College Students Just not that into Facebook
Even though Facebook famously started as a platform for college students only about 9% to 12% of Facebook users are between the ages of 18 to 24. Nearly half of Facebook users are between the ages of 35 to 54. This doesn’t mean prospective college students are not on Facebook, 80% of them are, but it may not be the place where they want to interact with their prospective school. Facebook is a great place for people to join others in groups to interact and share. Teenagers join Facebook for the social interaction. They may join brands and businesses they like but they may not be ready to identify with your school. When they “like” your Facebook page they are telling the world they are a “Husky” or a “Trojan” or a “Badger” and when they are still shopping they may not be ready for that. On the other hand, 29% of the prospective students said they were positively influenced by the school’s Facebook page and 53% said they valued comments by current students on Facebook. So what is a school to do?
Use Facebook for Student Recruitment
A modern college or university is a big and varied place. Don’t make one Facebook page do all the work. The main Facebook page can be the place where students and alumni claim their identity with the school but each department, student group and affiliation should have its own page. In that way prospective students can investigate those areas that interest them. Remember that Facebook pages are places where fans can interact with a school or institution. The institution controls the conversation and it is a great place to post announcements and events. Group pages are places where likeminded people congregate on Facebook to exchange ideas, share experiences and connect with others. Consider having Group pages for incoming freshmen, high school students thinking about the college or some other special interest unique to your school. This could be a great forum for prospective students to interact with current students.
If you have Facebook pages and groups they should get connected with other Facebook pages and groups where your prospective students hang out. For example when I worked with the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University their Facebook Page was connected with other pages such as AmeriCorps, New Global Citizens, and Peace Corps, because students involved in those organizations where the type of student we wanted to recruit for the Spirit of Service Scholars Program. Part of our strategy was to make sure the other Facebook pages and groups were included in updates, events and announcements.
The study 2011 E-Expectations Report: Students and Parents recommends being active in Facebook but to “keep that content less formal and marketing-oriented so that it sounds more like a conversation than a sales pitch.” I would like to know how your school or organization uses Facebook. Do you have special group pages or pages dedicated to special interests? Share them in the comments section below. If you would like to know more about how we can help you contact Image Media Partners for a free website analysis of your school or educational organization.
Photo Credit: Sonya Etchison