Universities work toward effective social media strategies

Jul 13, 2011

Many colleges and universities are still trying to develop their social media strategy. A study by Noel-Levitz Higher Education Consultants shows one in four potential students drops a school from their prospective list after a bad experience on the university’s website.

Glenn Platt directs Interactive Media Studies at Miami University in Ohio. He says a bad web experience could be a deal breaker for a student’s college decision.

 “All of those things sort of make up a pastiche - this kind of collective collage of pieces that then gets put together in the head of that potential student and is the primary driver in their decision to go to a college,” Platt said.

Platt says students make decisions based not only on a university website, but Facebook and Twitter pages too.

Rebecca Hayes teaches communications at University of Michigan Flint. She says schools have to wait for students to come to their Facebook or Twitter sites before reaching out.

“Keep cool, current information on there that somebody wants to read and keep it really active all the time because in social media if you don’t update, you’re dead,” Hayes said.

Hayes says it’s up to the school to produce content that appeals to the prospective and current students.

Gabe Santi works in the office of admission at Michigan State University. He says students are mostly using the Facebook page to ask questions.

“That seems to just generate a ton of positive feedback for us,” Santi said. “We’re amazed at the number of students who when we answer a question on Facebook they immediately send us a ‘thank you.’”

Leah Zuber works in public relations for Grand Valley State University. She is in charge of monitoring their social media activity.

“Our Facebook page has nearly 14,000 fans and it’s growing all the time and I think a lot of that can be attributed to the type of content and how we interact with people on that page,” Zuber said.

She says creating original content spurs web conversations on Facebook and Twitter. Zuber says Grand Valley’s mobile application and live tweeting also work well to engage students through social media.

Noel-Levitz suggests universities recognize their website as their primary marketing tool and measure social media’s impact on enrollment.