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Social media creates an impact on almost any type of business and industry. Less than a decade ago, with its rapid development, social media represented a huge opportunity for businesses to build their brands as well as increase their market share online. Not only that, social media is also becoming a part of the lifestyle of the younger generation, who are the “digital natives”. Understanding this cue from the students, universities and colleges across the US are investing more time on using social media to connect with prospective and engage current students. Social media also support universities to have a more “international atmosphere” by advertising their names all over the world, having more chance to get in touch with international students and following up potential applications. As compared with the traditional media, universities are able to save much on traveling and advertising expenditures as well as labor and time resources, by using social media. In fact, the question is not whether universities and colleges should adhere to social media, but which sites they should embrace and how to use them effectively. It has always been a time-tested approach to “go to where your customers are”. The target market of universities and colleges are students, who, most likely own a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account, or even all three.
Facebook: Most social media users are active on Facebook also. According to the The Verge, 2014, Facebook has 1.28 billion monthly active users and over 1 billion monthly active mobile users. This is always the potential site for schools to engage with students because a large portion of their targeted market is at their fingertips. According to Deseret News, 2012, as of August 2012, eighty-five percent of colleges said they use Facebook to recruit students. And in reverse, according to the 2012 Social Admissions Report, almost seventy percent of students have utilized social media including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube to research colleges, and approximately forty percent using these tools to decide where to enroll. One of the great examples for the success of schools in using social media for their recruitment is Brock University. In just eight months, Brock has sixteen Chinese students enrolled via Renren (a copied version of Facebook used in China) and less than one year more than 1600 Chinese students have expressed their interests in Brock. (Macleans, 2011).
Youtube: Youtube is a wonderful online advertising tool. Video posted on Youtube regarding campus tour, student testimonials, sport events and experimental sharing will leave the impression for the audiences. If the video is impressive enough, it has a high potential to go viral, that means thousands of people will share the video link with their people – a type of “word-of-mouth” advertising. A UC-Berkeley page provides viewers access to full class lecture on a variety of subjects instead of a greeting to welcome newcomers.
LinkedIn: This is another potential social networking site that universities and colleges should invest on. LinkedIn is currently holding the number one position for the professionalism among all of the social media sites. If Facebook was purposely designed to encourage almost everyone to join regardless of their social status in life, LinkedIn has its reputation in college students and in the community with professional occupations. Which means schools can find its targeted market through this social site, especially targeted market for higher education.
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Another potential social media site that is becoming more and more popular as a school recruitment support is Instagram. Instagram is leading the mobile sharing application among the young people with more than 200 million users nowadays. Michigan University’s Instagram account has more than 23000 followers and grows by 700 percent a year. With about 35000 followers, Instagram of Boston College is currently one of the most popular Instagram accounts among the US universities. (Inside Higher Ed, 2013). With the advanced feature, Instagram is the great mobile phone app for colleges and universities to show off their campus photos and videos to the public, as well as engaging online with their students on campus and around the world.
According to the Campus Technology, 2012, U.S schools spent thirty three percent less on print media, twenty four percent less on newspaper advertising and seventeen percent less on TV and radio marketing in order to invest more on social media. Social media is considered as the key to student recruitment in the digital age as the statement of Chris Larkin, University of Salford’s Director of Communications: “Engaging students across those platforms which today form an integral part of their daily lives is an essential part of any marketing, recruitment and brand strategy. Ignore it at your peril.” (An analysis of UK universities on social media, 2013).
Dehaas, J. (2011 May 20). Brock recruits Chinese students on social media. Macleans. Retrieved from http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/brock-recruits-chinese-students-on-social-media/
Head, P. (2013, September 20). An analysis of UK universities on social media. The Uni Pod. Retrieved from http://www.theunipod.com/making-your-choice/university-rankings/social-media-rankings/theunipod-social-media-rankings-2013
Straumsheim, c. (2013 November 27). Experts of engagement. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/11/27/institutions-recruit-students-reach-students-social-media