Nora Ganim Barnes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ava M. Lescault (email@example.com)
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research has been watching trends in social media usage at US colleges and universities since 2007 providing unique longitudinal data. The changes over time have been exciting as social media assumes a central role in the recruiting process.
A similar study recently released by the Center focused on social media use among top MBA programs. In many ways results are similar except for some interesting differences in how MBA and students at 4 year schools are recruited through social media. Some of those results are included in the highlights below.
This latest study of US four year accredited undergraduate schools (2011-2012) shows for the first time that social media cuts costs for the Admissions Office. As a result, schools are reporting plans to increase investments in social media initiatives that they believe are more efficient in reaching their target audience.
As in all previous studies, the colleges and universities were identified using a directory compiled by the University of Texas. All interviews took place from November to May of the 2011-2012 academic year, with those who managed social media in the Admissions Office at these institutions.
A systematic sample of Admissions Officers in all 50 states were interviewed. The final sample includes schools that are public (22%) and private (78%), ranging in size from 4 to over 54,000 undergraduates. Tuition (without fees) ranged from $1,700 to over $53,000. Admissions officers at schools that include Loyola College, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Clemson University and Brandeis University were interviewed as well as institutions with very small enrollments like Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and Lyme Academy. The findings presented here are based on 570 interviews and is statistically valid within the range of +/- 3.5%.
What emerges is the first data documenting a cost reduction associated with using social media to recruit and a decision to increase investments in these technologies. Admissions Directors report that social media is more efficient than traditional media and has changed the way they recruit. Colleges and universities are active participants in social media, but need to listen as well. Monitoring online conversations about their school outside of their own portals has been on the decline. This puts schools at risk of not being able to respond in a timely fashion to negative buzz, or inaccurate information.
- Reduced costs for traditional media are attributed to use of social media. Schools report 33% less spent on printing, 24% less spent on newspaper ads and 17% less spent on radio and TV ads.
- One in 3 schools say social media is more efficient than traditional media in reaching their target audience (this number increases to 44% for top MBA programs).
- 92% of undergraduate admissions officers agree that social media is worth the investment they make in it and 86% plan to increase their investment in social media in the next year.
- The most useful tools for recruiting undergraduates include Facebook (94%), YouTube (81%), Twitter (69%) and Downloadable Mobil Apps (51%). Mobile apps are a favorite of top MBA programs with 82% citing them as an effective recruiting tool.
- Monitoring the schools name and relevant online conversation has declined over the past few years. In 2009-2010, 73% reported monitoring their brand. In 2010-2011, that number dropped to 68% and now is reported to be 47%. This could have consequences for any school that becomes the target of negative online buzz and is unaware of that conversation.
- Less than half of those surveyed have a written social media policy for their school. In the 2009-2010 academic year 32% had such a policy. That number increased to 44% in 2010-2011 and stands at 49% now. While this increase is encouraging, it is disconcerting to note that less than half have such a policy and that 19% of the undergraduate admissions officer report they did not know if any such policy existed at their school.
- 29% of the schools surveyed report having NO social media plan in place for their Admission Office and an additional 15% report not knowing if there is a social media plan in place.
- 78% report that these tools have changed the way they recruit.