The internet is awesome. We live in a world where access to knowledge and the ability to share information from person to person (or person to people) is like no other time in human history. Unfortunately, along with any new revolution in communication technology comes new complications and new literacies that are required to make it in the networked world.
Everyday I am thankful to work in two areas which I am extremely passionate about:
- Social Media
If you were to ask what my dream job would have been 3 years ago as a student of Ohio University this would not be far off. Yet, with all the amazing things happening online, I can’t help but wince at some of the misinformation, misperceptions and overall waste of time in what some colleges are focussing their efforts on.
I understand marketing is a “soft science” but these days in times of budget cuts and enrollment declines universities can’t be spending their time on things that don’t have a direct impact on improving the student to institution relationship. Two weeks ago I was in Orlando Florida for AACRAO’s Strategic Enrollment Conference. While we were excited to tell folks about our new Enrollment Intelligence capabilities, I was instead told by one gentlemen that “Pinterest was the future.”
The latest example of social media madness
According to him, the university had just started an account and already have 600 followers, many of them were prospective students he claimed. Skeptical, I quickly went to find the so-called miracle pinterest page. Turns out there were 46 followers, and very few pins or re-pins happening. As Michael Fienen already said on this blog, “Pinterest does have a purpose: it makes a great showcase,” Fienen said. “It just not the right medium with which to sell a prospective student to coming to your school.”
Although I am impressed by some of the creative uses of Pinterest colleges have come up with, I’m extremely skeptical this is the best use of a university’s time and resources if they want measurable and meaningful “social media” results. That’s why we decided to ask people’s opinions that do matter, and surveyed over 7,000 high-school students to see how they use social media in their college search.
The 2012 Social Admissions Report
In partnership with Zinch we surveyed 7,000 high-school and college age students to see which social networks they were currently using personally and during their college search. While I was thrilled when Mashable picked up on the research, I was a bit disappointed they titled it “students chose colleges with social media klout.” In reality, this couldn’t be further from the case.
If the reporter would have analyzed the full study she would have learned that students want to connect with current students, fellow students and admissions counselors, not hear updates from the institution. Students care less about the institution’s presence, but instead want to use it as a channel to get “an authentic window into student life.”
Below is a breakdown for which networks currently reported using “everyday”.
Note Facebook was the only network where over half of students use it everyday, followed by Twitter, which less than half of the students use and fewer than 20% use everyday. It’s also important to note that a vast majority of students (approximately 95%) who use Twitter or Pinterest are also active on Facebook.
Furthermore when we asked students which network they accessed a university’s social media account on to research the college, the following breakdown occurred.
Is Pinterest Right for Us?
Michael Fienen did a great job summing up a sensible approach to Pinterest in his post a year ago on Why You Should Ignore Pinterest for Now. Almost a year later, with the data on how 7,000 HS students use social media in their college search, can we definitely say Pinterest should be a no go.
Now I don’t have anything against Pinterest, it just happens to be the latest example of higher ed getting caught up in the social media industry bubble where Klout scores and buzzwords are out of control. While our survey found approximately 68% of students used social media in their college search, and 38% of them used it as a resource when deciding when to enroll, institutions must learn to separate social media signal from the social media noise.
What do you think about Pinterest for student recruitment? Is it a misguided approach fueled by the social media echo-chamber or is it the future of visual information consumption online? And if you’re interested in learning more about data driven approaches to social recruitment join me for a free webinar Wed. Dec. 5th titled What is Social Enrollment Management.