Colleges Use Facebook More Effectively Than Students Do

Most students have a Facebook account. If not a Facebook account, they probably have some other form of social media that they use to stay connected with their friends, follow trends, and network themselves.
However, would you be surprised if 100 percent of U.S. schools that were polled say they are also using social media to do the same things? Well, according to a recent study conducted at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, you shouldn’t be surprised at all because this is completely true.
“Prospective students, parents, current students, alumni – one common area in which they are all present in one or another is on Facebook,” said Kevin Morrow, the executive director of public affairs at Syracuse University. This explains why 98 percent of the universities surveyed said they have a presence on this social media website.
So, most schools are using social media to reach a large audience. But the ways they are using it vary by school and by purpose.
“The book hasn’t been written [on how to use social media],” said Michael Kaltenmark, director of web marketing and communications at Butler University. “We’re still figuring it out on a daily basis.”
So how are schools using social media? Hint, they are not just posting pictures from last weekend’s football game. Here are the top seven ways they are connecting with their “fans” on a daily basis:

  1. Virtual Tours. There is a service on Facebook called YourCampus360 that allows schools to build virtual tours of their campuses. Fans can then browse through these pictures to take a virtual tour of the school and get a real feel for what it’s like to be there. This is very valuable for recruiting students who cannot afford to travel to the school for a college visit and also for allowing alumni to reminisce of their own days in college.
  2. School Pride. This one seems pretty obvious to me. Becoming a fan of your school, mascot, or sports team on Facebook is a great way to show your school pride while also allowing you to feel more connected to it. It also enables the school to communicate with students and fans on a quicker basis than mass emails or paper mailers.
  3. School Swag. The University of Kansas is dominating in this area. Their Facebook page has a lot of digital and print-out memorabilia that fans can access to show their school pride.
  4. Alumni Groups. This is a good idea because it allows the school to stay connected with their alumni. It also allows past classmates to connect with each other and find out what their peers are doing now that everyone has earned their degrees and moved on into post-grad life.
  5. Sharing Department Content. This makes it easier for all of the professors in a specific department to communicate with each other and plan events. There can also be different pages for each geographic branch of a school. For example, Syracuse University has a page for each branch, which allows the schools to share “content with one another, so they can kind of do some cross-pollination with different audiences,” said Morrow.
  6. Reaching Prospective Students. Schools can use Facebook Pages and Events to reach prospective students. There is also an app that allows the schools to create a “closed community of students within Facebook,” and it is very effective for recruiting students. The University of Texas at Tyler found that students were five times more likely to enroll at the school it they used the application than if they did not.
  7. Facebook Places Advertising. You now have the option to “check-in” at many college campuses and locations across the nation. When you do this, it serves as a type of advertising for the schools because the information pops up in your friends’ newsfeeds, which can serve as positive reinforcement for the school’s image. In short, if you are always at a cool spot on campus, your friends will probably want to go there too.

So now you know how colleges are using social media websites to reach their vast fan bases. It seems like there are more uses for Facebook than just avoiding my homework and stalking my friends. Who knew?