Want More Students Attending Your School? Embrace Social Channels.

June 2, 2015  |  Pat McGovern

Education

Over the past six months, a number of us from BVK have been traveling across the country talking to schools about Millennials. This is the biggest demographic in the country, making it imperative for colleges to understand this generation. In each meeting, one of the key things we tell schools is this: focus on social.

Now, it’s not the magic bullet. It won’t solve all the problems you might be facing. But if you’re in the higher education space and are looking to increase your student enrollment numbers, or strengthen your brand image, you need to be all-in on social.

Why? Let’s go through some of the numbers.

According to a 2012 Bazaar Voice survey, Millennials are the highest users of social media at 84%.

84%! And that’s 2012. By now, I’m sure that number has gone even higher.

Here are couple more numbers to consider from U.S. News and World Report, again from a 2012 study. In this survey of 7,000 high school students, 68% of respondents indicated they used social media to research a school. 30% of respondents considered their social media experience a factor when deciding where to enroll.

Wait…what?

Yeah, nearly one-third of respondents are considering their social media experience when deciding where to enroll.

By now, I hope you are starting to think how much time, effort, staffing and support you are allocating in this area.

Our own research supports this data. In recent focus groups conducted by BVK to better understand Millennials and the importance of social channels in the college decision process, we heard this same message echoed loud and clear. Prospects turn to social channels to find out what life is like at the schools they are considering. And this applies to all schools from 4-year traditional colleges to the for-profits.

Which leads to the question: Why are these channels so important? The answer is authenticity. Millennials want it real, and social channels provide a raw, unfiltered view of what kind of college they are going to get.
Brochures, look books, your own website are all viewed as “canned” material. They are important, but for different reasons. It’s your content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that prospects seek out. And it’s this content that provides your school with the opportunity to establish an emotional connection with prospects — which can be the difference between getting your school in the consideration set or losing out all-together.

Once again, participants in our focus group revealed as much. If the content wasn’t there, they were gone. End of story. Now, in this day and age where capturing interest in your school is becoming harder and harder. Can you afford to let this happen? By not investing or not adequately committing to this channel you run the risk of becoming irrelevant or worse yet, invisible to your prospects.

So what can colleges do? Here are three points pulled from our Millennial presentation.

  1. Commit to the channel. If you want to connect and engage with Millennials in a meaningful way, you need to dedicate the time and resources in making this happen. It’s that simple. This commitment needs to extend beyond the marketing department to all areas of your school. If this point can’t happen, don’t bother reading on.
  2. Generate great content. Think about this in two ways. The first – establish your process for getting content out on a daily basis. Frequency matters with this group. Secondly, look to generate a wide range of content. Your prospects want to see all you have. If you are a school where sports are a big deal, show what life is like on game day. If your school specializes in a certain field of study, find the ways to showcase that aspect. The more diverse, the better. In order to capture all this content, recruit students and give them the latitude to show off their school through their eyes.
  3. Be Who You Are. Understand who your school is. Some places have the tradition and everything that goes along with it. Serve it up. Other schools have locations based in shopping malls — but they are making just as big of an impact on the lives of their students. Whatever your situation — embrace it. Be real. Be who you are. If you don’t, prospects will find out, anyway.

This post is excerpted from The Rise of the Millennials research study and presentation. Click here to find out about receiving this presentation at your school.

Pat McGovern works on the account service side at BVK. He has two Millennial daughters who keep him on his toes and make him feel every bit his age. You can follow more of Pat’s thoughts and findings by Following him on Twitter.

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is VP at BVK

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