Monday, April 18, 2011

Canadian University Uses of Social Media for Enrollment & Student Engagement

Universities and colleges are feeling the same pressure as companies in recruiting students & even further pressure to keep them engaged throughout a 4 year degree. It’s about targeting the RIGHT students & engaging them in student services to create a loyalty to the campus. I spoke at the SEMM conference last week put on by Brainstorm Consulting (Strategic Enrolment Marketing & Management) with an audience full of University & College enrolment directors, student service managers etc. It was a fantastic audience here in Toronto & I’m looking forward to presenting in Calgary on May 6th in just a few weeks.  I spoke on the topic of using social media to recruit & create connections with students.  This blog post will be a 1 of 2 series as the below outlines what universities are currently doing in the social media space and post 2 will outline what they SHOULD be doing.

As this was a new topic for me (I typically speak on how to use social media for company student/new grad recruiting vs college recruitment/engagement), I spent a full day doing an audit of the 52 schools in attendance. I looked at the following things:

-     Did they have social media links on their home page (Were they “above the fold” – meaning, did I have to scroll down the page to find them?)
-     Where there social media links on the admissions page where prospective students can learn about university life on that campus?
-     Did the school use widgets to feature Twitter feeds, Facebook updates or YouTube videos?
-     Was the school present on social media sites (even if not listed on their website) in terms of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, did they have a Blog?
-     If present, what where they doing right & what were they doing not so right?
-     Did I get a sense of the uniqueness of this campus via their social media efforts?

This was truly a quick & dirty audit as I spent about 10 minutes per school to understand what they are doing in the social media space.  Here is a quick summary of my findings:
-     77% of the schools had social media links on their home page or admissions page
o   Note: Most of these links opened in the same window (losing the audience) versus opening in a new browser
-     Though most schools were on the main social media sites (Facebook, Twitter), not all were listed on their sites
-     Only 1 school was on Foursquare (a location based platform)
-     Most of the schools did not use widgets to showcase social media efforts & most links were “below the fold” meaning I had to scroll & look for them
o   Ie: Did not have a twitter feed or have videos with campus or dorm tours right in their website but instead I had to go into YouTube to see them (risk of losing your audience to YouTube recommended videos is very high!)
-     Over 90% of the messaging on social media sites was PR orientated, which is against the nature of these platforms
-     At the conference, I polled the room and though 100% of the attendee schools were on social media only 10% of the attendees actually had a social media policy (SCARY!)

So, what do universities need to do? Stay posted for my blog post on Wednesday with Tips & Tricks for how universities/colleges should be using social media for recruiting & engagement purposes.

Are you involved with your University or Campus Enrolment or Student Engagement? Join me at the SEMM Calgary May 6th conference:


  1. This was a great post to read, and timely too. I just lectured to my faculty on the use of technology (SM) in the classroom and am providing hands-on training workshops as well. What I find to be overlooked, or neglected, in this realm is the call for change management methodology to ensure greater adoption and success. I wasn't surprised to read your stat on the high use of SM but low use of a SM policy! Wish more people could just pause and think more strategically and deliberately about what they are doing. The upside is huge - yes - but so can be the consequences.

    Glad to have found you via S.S.!

  2. Thank you so much for the response. How did you find my blog article? (I'm always interested!) It surprises me how few universities have a consistent voice across their social media platforms. Ensuring the right people are educated on the potential pitfalls and successes will help align universities to create social media committees to align all groups that use their online properties. I wish you luck!