The goal of this article is to give admissions officers a chance to step back from the ‘day-to-day’ of the various social media channels they are using and to reflect on the overarching social media strategy deployed by their office.
Nearly every admissions office makes use of various social media outlets in an effort to engage with the applicant pool. Of course, given the fast-moving nature of social media, most schools have taken a somewhat piecemeal approach (as they race to add new social media outlets to their portfolio of outreach – often scrambling to add each subsequent channel). This can make it hard to develop a coherent approach and strategy across a portfolio of social media outlets.
In order to keep things relatively simple here, I am going to merely outline five key questions that each admissions office should be asking about social media campaigns. These questions stem from the current research study that Southwark recently concluded on the use of social media at 35 leading business schools across the world. The findings from this research will be presented next month at GMAC’s regional conferences in Hyderabad, India (APAC Conference) and London, England (EMEA Conference).
Five Questions About Your Social Media Outreach
- What’s the goal? Are you seeking to increase application volume? Improve yield? Target specific demographics? Energize your alumni base by involving them in social media interactions with candidates? Provide better ‘applicant service’ to today’s more demanding applicants? Something else?
- What’s the content focus? In light of your goals, what sort of content do you hope to provide in your social media channels? Are you hoping to use your posts to offer detailed information about life on campus? The latest news about professor research? Admissions tips? Information about admissions events? Highlight student accomplishments? Showcase business knowledge? Run contests or quizzes? Some combination of all of the above? If you are using multiple categories of content, how will you weight your content portfolio to draw the optimal mix of candidates into your campaigns?
- Where do you want to expend your efforts? Should you participate in every channel that emerges as the social media ‘flavor of the month’ or devote your limited resources to just a few channels? How should you select those channels in which you participate? Are you looking at publicly available demographic information for each channel so as to align your goals for the next incoming class with the channels most likely to deliver the applicants you seek?
- Who’s running things? Who is producing all the content you publish? Someone in the admissions office? In marketing and communications? An outside third party? Do you control each social media channel you are working with, or is this done at the program or university level? [Note: a major question that we will be discussing at the aforementioned GMAC conferences is whether or not it makes sense for schools to have multiple campaigns/pages/accounts in each social media channel – e.g. an ‘admissions’ Twitter feed and a ‘general’ Twitter feed. This is a critical decision with many implications.]
- How can you measure success? Are you counting followers and setting goals for headcount in each channel? Are you looking at the ratio of followers/fans to total applications received? Are you measuring how engaged your audience is in each channel? Are you surveying prospects and admitted students to better understand the role that your social media channels play in their experience of your school/decision to matriculate?
I recognize that the five ‘simple’ questions above actually raise countless more complex questions, but it’s clearly important to be asking these questions as you design (or take stock of) your current strategy. For more information about the Southwark social media study and our work with schools in this domain, email [email protected].