There are about 4,500 colleges and universities in the United States and most – if not all – use social media for marketing and recruitment. At least that’s what the surveys say and you’ll be hard pressed to find ones that don’t. Trust me. I tried.
There are varying degrees of interest and participation, certainly. Harvard University, which prides itself on being at the top of every list, boasts the most college fans/followers on Facebook (2.4 million) and Twitter (199,500) and receives regular accolades for its social media prowess. Conversely, Rice University does not consider social media to be an important part of its enrollment playbook.
“Rightly or wrongly, I tend to be a little bit old fashioned in that I really believe that social media is personal,” Vice President for Enrollment Chris Muñoz told Time Magazine. “Visiting the campus is everything. If you’re really trying to influence a decision, that’s how it happens.”
Colleges admittedly had a jump on other industries in the social media marketplace. The leader in these web-based platforms, Facebook, was invented in a college dorm room (again, at Harvard) and an .edu email address was initially required to join – which college administrators as well as students possess.
Five Reasons Colleges Should Be on Social Networks
But, just in case there are still colleges or universities out there trying to decide whether to open their first social network account, here are five reasons they should already have done so.
1) It’s Where the Customers Are. About two-thirds of high school students use social media to research colleges. More than one-third of those employ the networks to help decide where to enroll. And, once matriculating, college students say they check Facebook an average of six times a day, so schools better have a presence if they want to reach them.
2) And the Competition Too. Other colleges and universities are connecting with potential and current students through social media, and not just on Facebook. The top 100 colleges, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, use an average of 3.7 social networks, with some as many as seven, according to a recent survey. Even college mascots have loyal followings on Twitter.
3) Print + Broadcast Media = Big $$$$. Social media has not replaced traditional college recruitment methods, such as glossy Viewbooks and brochures, and print and broadcast advertising. While students are looking on social websites, their parents likely are checking out information coming through the mail and over the airwaves. But some colleges are cutting back on expensive advertising campaigns and investing in staff to manage free social media networks. One in three colleges reports that social media is more effective than traditional media in reaching prospective students.
4) Mobile Is on the Move. Smart phones and tablets are becoming the devices of choice for checking in on social networks, as advances have made them increasingly fast, efficient and portable. Most high school students have a cell phone; about one/third have smart phones and the number is growing. By the time they get to campus, more than half have acquired smart phones. Many of these teens are using the phones more for social networking than making calls.
5) Everyone Is Doing It. We tell our kids that is no reason to do something but, in this case, it is. As consumers demand that all businesses have a website, they are starting to expect to find them on social networks as well, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel. Our institutions of higher learning, which collaborated to create the World Wide Web, must continue to be at the forefront of these new technological frontiers.