Colleges Race Ahead in Social Media Adoption

New research shows that educational institutions are leveraging social media far more effectively than businesses in finding and recruiting their key constituents: students.

Perhaps in recognition of the fact that high school students are already thoroughly invested in social networks and online video, college recruiters are using these techniques to identify candidates. The tools are particularly popular at small institutions, which probably appreciate the cost efficiencies that online promotion provides.  For example, the research found that nearly 8 in 10 private colleges use blogs for recruitment.

“Social Media and College Admissions: The First Longitudinal Study” was conducted by Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D., a Senior Fellow and Research Chair of the Society for New Communications Research and Chancellor Professor of Marketing at the University of Massachusetts and Eric Mattson, CEO of Financial Insite Inc., a Seattle-based research firm. It compares adoption of social media between 2007 and 2008 by admissions offices of four-year accredited institutions in the US. The findings are based on 536 interviews with college admissions officers.

Among the top-level results:

  • Adoption by admissions offices grew from 61% in 2007 to 85% in 2008.
  • Forty-one percent of college admissions departments have blogs, compared to 13% of the Fortune 500 and 39% of the Inc. 500.
  • Nearly two-thirds of college admissions officers now say they are “very familiar with” social networks and 17% use social networks to research prospective students. These tools are often used to protect the school from potential embarrassment.
  • Video is now being widely used to deliver virtual tours of campuses, virtual visits to the dorms, and sample lectures from the faculty.
  • Seventy-eight percent of private schools have blogs, versus 28% of public schools; 50% of schools with undergraduate populations of less than 2,000 have blogs.
  • Four out of ten of institutions not currently using social media plan to start a blog.
  • Nearly 90% of admissions departments feel that social media is “somewhat to very important” to their future strategy.

You can download the executive summary here.

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