Confession: I’m 47 years old and my Instagram feed is filled with posts from college students. No, I’m not trying to relive my youth (though, I must admit it IS a fun trip down memory lane) - I have a high school senior getting ready to apply to college.
In our house, the most popular way to research colleges is using social media – and we’re not alone. Ninety-eight percent of college-aged people use social media and 73% of students will view content from colleges. However, this audience doesn’t necessarily want to view or engage with content from universities on every social media platform they use. In a 2021 report from Niche.com, only 32% of respondents said they were interested in engaging with college content on any of the social media channels. For example, 75% of students reported using Snapchat; but only 18% said they want to view and 7% said they interact with college content on the channel. And as a parent - but still an influential secondary target - I don’t even have or use Snapchat!
This is why it’s not only essential to know where your prospective targets are engaging with content on social media - but also what sort of questions they want to be answered by your institution and when during their college search journey they need it. Understanding how your students make the choice to apply and ultimately enroll is imperative to distribute the most effective messaging at the right time.
At Vennli, we partner with institutions of higher education and marketing executives to test messaging and creative prior to launch, identify their right-fit audience segments and critical touchpoints within their decision-making process, and even take a deeper dive into why their ‘customers’ may be choosing the competition. Our partners have seen an increase in applications and enrollment as an outcome of our student-driven primary research.
While we believe it’s best to get these insights straight from your students (which also helps improve overall student satisfaction, by the way) – we’ve gathered some of the top content that students are looking for as they make their choice to apply:
Campus tours. What better way to entice new students to your university than to show them what makes your campus so special? This can be in the form of a traditional video tour or via beautiful images around campus during different times of the year. Don’t forget the surrounding town and areas where students might like to frequent - this can be a huge deciding factor.
Course offerings. Sure you likely have a list detailing the courses you offer at your institution on your website, but social media channels allow you to display these courses in action. Video snippets of popular classes or students in action are great ways for interested students to get a sense of what it’s like in the classroom at your institution.
News and achievements. Frequent updates about upcoming events, sports teams' big wins, academic achievements, program announcements, and top rankings are great ways to nurture your followers and also brag a little about what makes you different. Students are likely following a number of schools that they are interested in so it’s critical to stay relevant and top-of-mind during this time.
Stories from current students... When nine out of ten customers say they read reviews before making a purchase, you can imagine that this may be an even greater number when making a decision as big as which college to attend. Content from your current students offers an authentic look into the experiences a prospective student might have at your university.
…as well as your alumni. Prospective students (and their parents!) will want to know how an education at your university will help them find a job when they graduate. By highlighting the success stories of your former students you create excitement for the future ahead. This can also be an opportunity to create connections between interested students and those that have graduated by way of submitting comments and questions for alumni to answer.
Snacks, swag, and security. There’s a lot to the college experience besides academics and dorm room layouts - showcase the other important details of interest like your dining halls, fun fan gear, student perks, and the measures taken to keep the campus safe. We nervous parents really appreciate this last one!