Another Social Media Strategies Summit for Higher Education has come to an end… but not without making some new friends, learning some new trends, and understanding more about the role we all play in the world of social media for higher education. There were many outstanding panels, but let me try to provide a recap of what occurred with our amazing panel for those that missed it or simply could not be there this year…

The panel, which was called, ‘Student Recruitment Efforts and Authenticity – Strategies for Reaching and Engaging Prospective Students,’ was led by our marvelous moderator, Kirsten Clark, who is the Associate Director of Enrollment Services Communication & Marketing at the University of Houston. She kicked things off with a few slides on how UH capitalizes on trends and hashtags through social listening. Did you know they actually got Lizzo to visit campus from a tweet?

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Kimberley Stern, Director of Social and Digital Media at Colorado State University, discussed how CSU has created a student vlog series on YouTube called, A Ram’s Lifethat’s all about student life including virtual tours of campus and teaming up with admissions. BTW, Follow their blog, you won’t be disappointed. It’s outstanding!

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Webb Lewis, Digital Content Specialist at The University of Mississippi, shared how Ole Miss uses Snapchat to reach prospective students to apply, but also to increase attendance at their Fall visit day. Ole Miss also has a family Facebook page they use to share all kinds of info from financial aid to greek life, which helps increase awareness and recruit new students.

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I showcased our Instagram takeover series #ThisIsUNH, which shares a day in the life of a UNH Wildcat. It’s unscripted, authentic, and showcases what it’s like to be a UNH student. I also briefly discussed that Gen Z is on YouTube and Instagram, and Snapchat more than any other social platforms, so we must fish where the fish are.

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Next, the panel was asked how we measure ROI, or a return on investment, and how we go about measuring the impact of our work with recruitment. When it comes to measuring ROI with undergraduate admissions, at UNH we look for an increase in campus visits and tour registrations, even a swell in applicants and an increase in Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter messages. We also look for an increase in mentions, hashtag use, and check-ins via social media platforms. All of these act as KPIs, and let us know that what we’re pushing out via social media is working. We also communicate our strategy and an analytics report to the recruitment marketing team and the undergraduate admissions team on a monthly basis that shows data on many levels — from vanity metrics to demographics and in-depth click through rates. What we still need is the ability to access the CRM in which our admissions team uses, so we can get a better sense on actual ROI and further prove what we’re doing works. We need to keep working at breaking down silos because we’re all on the same team.

For Gen Z in particular, parents play a role when it comes to selecting a college. Engaging parents on social media is definitely part of the strategy. The student affairs office at UNH runs a Facebook group for parents, which #UNHSocial is not responsible. We do look at the undergraduate admissions audience and how it’s made up. Instagram being mostly prospective students whereas Twitter is mostly high schools, guidance counselors, and other schools but Facebook, which is home to many audiences, is where parents tend to be more than anywhere else according to our own insights.

Authenticity is also important and at UNH we try to be transparent and show authenticity through our social media channels every day. For example, our student team creates and shares a weekly series that’s made up of questions about trending topics. They interview actual students, unscripted, for their production of ‘Cat ChatsOn The Spot, and Take A Closer Look on Instagram Stories.

One question that we didn’t have time for was about engaging with Reddit. I’m not sure how others use this platform, but we think it’s an influential space that prospective students and current students use a lot. While we don’t post to Reddit, we listen and try to understand how to reach students in a more authentic, better way. If you have the chance, check out the subreddit /applying to college and also look and see if your institution has a subreddit — chances are it does.

Thanks to Breanna Jacobs for putting this entire summit together and for allowing us to share with our peers across higher education. #SMSSummit