Why Students Are Using Social Media to Research Schools

Social media plays a growing role not only in how we maintain relationships but also how we evaluate institutions such as schools. 

Popular social network sites like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram allow students to develop impressions of prospective schools before they even set foot on campus. 

Schools, in a way, are brands marketing themselves to students seeking degrees or certifications.

A school’s brand is its product; schools are constantly trying to differentiate themselves and stand out amongst a competitive pool of institutions. One way they can stand out is by having a reputable presence on social media platforms on the web.

71% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand to others if they have a positive experience with it on social media according to data by Ambassador. 

social media inquiries
Source: Sam Suthar, Acquire

Proactive schools that provide relevant information, great customer service and unique online experience will generate positive publicity amongst students.

Students use social media to research schools

Social media is one of the main contributing factors to a school’s overall perceived image online. 

Before we get too carried away, official rankings and guides published online do play a significant role in the college admissions process. However, social media has become a powerful tool for both institutions and students seeking more personal experiences online.

The methods of communication by higher education institutions are constantly adapting. A recent study found that social media was one of the top communication methods used by four-year private higher education institutions in the U.S. in 2018.

Usage of communication methods
Source: Ruffalo Noel Levitz

This infographic illustrates a growing realization that social media has become a major recruiting and marketing tool for schools looking to attract the best and brightest students to their campuses.

Why connect with students on social media?

There are a number of different ways that popular social media sites impact the college search and selection process. 

Data collected by Statista shows Facebook is by far the most popular mobile social networking app in the United States. In March 2019, 89.8 percent of U.S. mobile users accessed the mobile app. 

The company’s other mobile social media properties Facebook Messenger and Instagram were ranked second and third with 64.6 and almost 57.9 percent audience reach respectively.

most popular mobile social networking apps
Source: Verto Analytics

Facebook allows students to keep up with current events and news via photos and videos, easily join prospective class groups to learn more about student life balance, connect with like-minded students who have similar interests, and increase their social interaction with the community.

Schools that want to figure out their target audience need to conduct the right kind of research into social media platforms that fit their brand and image.

While an MBA program may be more active on LinkedIn, a nursing school should look toward Facebook for engagement. 

Part of the appeal of platforms like Facebook is their ability to broadcast relevant information to prospective students in a stylish and efficient way.

Facebook allows students to do the following: 

Keeping with this theme, many institutions have opted to enhance their own presence on larger social media platforms with:

These platforms allow schools to promote themselves to a wider audience of people. In addition, comparison sites focus on helping prospective students navigate the college admissions process. 

For example, sites such as UniGo, StudentsReview, Niche, and BestCollegeReviews allow students to see what their peers think about specific schools. 

While colleges and universities should avoid getting directly involved in the conversations, marketing directors and school admins should be aware of web-based interactions and what is being shared about their recruiting process.

Facebook Messenger  case study


Student & School Trends

Marketing on social media, in particular, has grown over the past decade. This can be attributed to a rising trend in social media platforms popularity amongst teens and young adults.  

social media popularity
Source: Piper Jaffray, Business Wire

The takeaways from this infographic are that social media platforms are always changing and evolving. A platform could be popular one year and be irrelevant the next. 

This means schools should conduct the necessary market research to capitalize on the right trends in the industry.

Spending is projected to continue climbing as more schools implement their social media marketing plans.

Social media mistakes to avoid

First appearances are everything when it comes to finding the right school. The same can be said for a schools social media presence.

While being active on social media is important, there are ways social media can hurt your chances at appealing to new students.

Keep in mind: most people browse social media on their phone. This means optimizing your website and platforms for mobile devices will set you apart from the competition. 

In fact, 85% of students researching colleges visited their websites on their mobile phones according to an NRCCUA study.

College research on mobile devices
Source: Gil Rogers, NRCCUA

Other factors, like websites not loading properly or students having a tough time obtaining information, can leave a negative impression on students. 

Additionally, if your Messenger response time badge indicates a lengthy wait, students might avoid engaging with your school.

The more information your school can quickly and efficiently provide, the better the overall experience will be for the user.

Students also notice when a school doesn’t regularly update their website or social media platforms. These small details can be a huge deciding factor for students who are split between two similar schools.

Why Does This Matter

Social media should be a tool for students to help make the college admissions process easier. 

With this in mind, schools that put time and effort into planning content for their marketing strategy will stand out amongst their competitors. 

To recap:

  1. Schools that produce more content on social media stand out more.
  2. Visually appealing websites and platforms can drive more engagement.
  3. Attention to detail on both mobile and desktop devices enhances the user experience.

The demand for higher education is forcing schools to adapt to a younger, more tech-savvy generation of students seeking degrees.

While social media alone isn’t the deciding factor for students attending a school, it plays a major role in the decision-making process.