Professional recruiters have been using social media to reach out and recruit potential clients. What works for the corporate world usually has a place in the private industry and often in the public sector as well. This might explain why more and more colleges and universities are using social media marketing techniques to reach out and recruit future students.
How do they do this without seeming to simply pander to a select few? By using a variety of social media networks to promote their programs, putting control firmly into the hands of their existing students.
Students are encouraged to create YouTube videos, Twitter, Quora and FourSquare accounts. Just about every school has an official Fan page on Facebook, but this is meant more as a portal than a lure. The real power of social media is flexed by the students themselves who push content out to their friends, siblings, neighbors and perfect strangers. This content, when created competently, is often enough to intrigue potential students about just what might be going on inside the classroom there. If they search for the school they will likely find the Facebook portal page to learn more, or even a web site, where they can learn more about specific programs and tuition costs.
This is the power of social media for education. Not so much about empowering the schools to attract new students, but empowering the students to demonstrate what they know as a way of luring others who might want that same knowledge for themselves.
The University of Kentucky recently sent out tweets to some of its accepted students saying, “Congrats and welcome to our Big Blue family.” Baylor University keeps its students updated on student affairs through its Student Activities Twitter account. And the admissions office of George Washington University has a Twitter account that messages applicants about interview weekends and decision dates.
But other universities are still slow to catch on. While Lehigh University regularly tweets updates through its LehighUNews account, its main LehighU Twitter account hasn’t been updated since September 2009. And it’s not the only one. Some universities neglect their websites, tweet too infrequently or fail to reply to student questions.
“It’s not enough to be satisfied that your school is on Facebook,” Barnes said. “Students will make a judgment about the university if it is not current and responsive online. When their post doesn’t get answered, they are not interested anymore.”
James Mueller, a University of Oregon senior, said he finds it annoying that many colleges do not use Twitter effectively.
“Why have a Twitter account if you only have four tweets in the past few months?” he said. “Also, colleges sometimes don’t understand the difference between Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes they tweet clones of Facebook posts.”
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