As I begin my last semester as an undergraduate Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications major at Pace University, I have started to take notice of university recruiting tactics from a more analytical perspective.
A university’s target audience is high school students who will be applying to colleges in the next year or so. High school teens are constantly digitally connected and highly active on social media. They turn to their various social channels to inform their peers about small things that happen in their everyday lives or to express their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
Most (if not all) colleges and universities are now taking social media efforts seriously. They are creating accounts on social channels where they think there is potential, increasing their involvement on various networks, hiring dedicated community managers and engaging with potential and current students on a one-on-one basis.
Here are a few examples of universities acing their recruiting strategies on social media:
Ivy League Competitive Landscape
Ivy league university tuition prices are increasing and applicant numbers are decreasing. In today’s competitive higher education landscape, Ivy League universities must redesign their marketing strategies to help drive more interest around their elite programs. “When you can only admit 5 to 10 percent, do you really need more?” said Sue Biemeret, a college counselor at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire. “How many kids do we have to reject to talk about how competitive schools are? I think social media is certainly a big deal for a lot of these schools.” With their target audience being very active on social media, it is important to be present.
Example: Harvard was able to attract 37,000 applicants by heightening their social media media strategy. One strategic approach was promoting scholarship opportunities on social media.
Social Media Savvy Mascots
— The Tiger (@TheTiger_CU) January 11, 2016
Many universities use their mascot in their marketing strategies. Mascots are often quirky and loveable with enthusiastic school spirit, making for an engaging on-brand messenger in direct promotion of the school and school events. School mascots present a huge opportunity to spread school spirit across the university’s online community and an engaging way to interact with students.
Example: One of the most personalized and tweetable college mascots is Clemson University’s “The Tiger”. He can be found on Twitter under @TheTiger_CU. His description is as followed, “Known simply as The Tiger, he gets props for capitalizing on the Drake-Meek Mill Twitter fight with a little help from Cocky, rival South Carolina’s mascot. The Tiger hits the gym like a boss and promised followers he’d skydive if he could get 1,981 retweets. At more than 1,500 retweets shy, The Tiger won’t have to jump out of a plane any time soon. You know he’d land on his feet, though.”
At Pace University, we have a “Cooking With The Dean” series where Marijo Russell O’Grady, the Dean for Students, creates cooking tutorial videos. These meals are quick, simple and tasty meals or snacks that can be easily made in a dorm. The videos are then shared by the university across all their social channels. This faculty involvement reflects Pace University’s engaging and open brand personality.
Responding & Activity
Students turn to social media for information before they check their email accounts. If students have university related issues or questions, they choose the communication medium where they spend the majority of their time: social media.
Example: Professor Sir Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, said “Students will tweet for help if something has gone wrong, or a prospective student will tweet a question about the requirements for a course and expect an immediate response.”