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The effect social media has on student recruitment continues to be a highly debated topic. Many colleges and universities have welcomed social media into their recruitment initiatives, not so much to replace more traditional recruitment strategies, but more so to complement them. But because it is hard to trace a safe return on investment, many colleges think social media is more of an effective branding tool than it is a recruitment tool. In order to bring some clarity to the issue, we have compiled some of the questions we get asked the most regarding social media and student recruitment. Topics include deciding on the right platforms to use and measuring the exact ROI of social media.

If you still have questions or if you want to discuss anything, please feel free to ask us through the Comments box below.

Q: We have a limited budget and are not sure if we should prioritize social media. What can social media do for me that I am not already doing with traditional media?

 A: Social media offers you a way to reach students at home and makes it possible for you to keep track of your efforts, thus continuously improving them. Social media also helps shape brand perception. In the end, it can help bring traffic to your site and thus, further down the funnel, help recruit students. Does social media guarantee new recruitment? No, it doesn’t. But with social media becoming intertwined with search engines (i.e., Google merging its search engine with Google+), not using some social media may be detrimental to your other online marketing efforts in the long run.

Q: Should our college have a separate Facebook page dedicated to student recruitment?

A: Many colleges maintain a general Facebook page for current students and host a separate one for other audiences or purposes (Q&A page, Recruitment page, International page, etc.). While this tactic may work for large universities, it is not always efficient for smaller community colleges. There is definitely a need for answering all student questions rapidly. However, many of these Admissions pages do not create much engagement and are unlikely to be followed by prospects. That is why we usually recommend having a general page open to students that all students can contact with a Contact Us page and using private Facebook groups for incoming students to share information.

Q: My team does not have much time for social media. Is there one specific social media initiative we can focus our time on?

A: This isn’t a single answer for this question. The right social media platform really depends on your school and what you goals are. Many colleges jump onto Facebook, thinking that it is the primary step in initiating their social media presence. But a Facebook account with hardly any shared content and virtually no Likes or traffic, amounts to no page at all. Creating a community on social media can be time consuming. So if you are running on a tight schedule, we suggest you follow these steps, one at a time:

  • Optimize your website: This may sound like a twist for a question about social media, but if the goal is to get prospects to your site and you have little resources, your first efforts should focus on what should remain the hub of all activities: your website, and, if you have one, your blog. Have all of the info about financial aid and admissions easily visible on your site. Have clear program pages with calls to action. Make it easy to talk to someone, but do not only list names and a phone number: put a face on the contact they will speak with, and a warm picture, like University of Winnipeg:
  • Focus on the platforms used by your students: sample your students to determine what platforms they use and where they would like to see their college share information.
  • Create or share content that is useful to them. Social media is not about shouting news about your school or programs, but about being useful to your students and community. Once you have identified the platforms, make sure you share relevant content only. One sure way to do that is to create a student blog and have student discuss their experiences at your school.

Q: Not many of our students are on Twitter or LinkedIn. How can we choose the best platforms to reach new students?

A: Choosing the best platforms involves understanding key factors:

What information or resource your students are looking for: if your students are looking for a professional network, LinkedIn and Twitter may be great tools, even if not many of your students are using platforms as they offer a lot of info and network you will be able to share on other platforms.

Once again, Google+ should not be underestimated. Even if it is not widely used by students, many agree that it will become essential to search in the coming years.

If you can produce visual content such as videos and images, use a platform such as Tumblr or YouTube. In fact, Google Hangouts allows you to broadcast edited versions of your hangouts directly on YouTube. This makes for very cost-efficient videos.

Continuously test new platforms or new feature while keeping a close eye on social media analytics.

Q: What are the best platforms to help us increase international student recruitment?   

A: Once again, the best platforms will depend on the type of programs you want to advertise for (general, professional, technical, etc.) and the countries you are targeting. International recruitment is a growing stake for Canadian colleges. Although social media will not replace the traditional international fairs and recruiting agent work, it certainly helps give a direct feel of your school and its people (current students, faculty, staff, etc.). Skype is great to book interviews including enrolled students, preferably from the same country as the interviewees, to answer questions.

How have you been using social media for your student recruiting efforts?