An Interview with IUPUI’s Bobby Bell About College Search Social Media Sites

Bobby Bell, Assistant Admissions Director at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) answers six questions about his department’s approach.

How is IUPUI using college search social media sites?

We use a mix of several college search social media sites to turn prospects into applicants. We also use Facebook and Twitter to get the IUPUI story out.

What do you see as the key benefits of the sites?

They allow us to reach out to students who we might not normally be able to meet through the conventional methods. For example, when George Hill first signed with San Antonio Spurs, we sent a message out through one of the sites saying he went to school here – see where he got his start. Response was almost instant: The San Antonio prospect pool quadrupled within 24 hours.

It’s nice that, with Cappex, we can call our rep and say hey we want to send a message like this out, and within a day, we’ve got a message out there.

College search social media tools account for about 2% of our total apps, however we primarily use those tools for targeting our nonresident populations – an area we’re trying to grow. For those non-resident populations, they account for 6% to 7%.

How are you integrating online tools with traditional off-line recruiting programs?

We’ve used the tools to make students aware of our presence at a particular event such as college fairs. It can anywhere from a small high school visit, like if we’re going out to California, and we can search out students from specific high schools to let them know we’re coming out there. We’ve also used them to promote national college fairs and campus events.

We have been been fortunate at IUPUI to have some very unique undergraduate majors and academic schools, and we regularly use tools including Cappex to push out messages to students who have similar academic interests. For example, Music Technology was something we launched two years ago, and when that school was just getting started, we sent out a message to any students who had similar interests and got a great response from it. We also send out these messages through traditional postcards and email. So, the messaging through the college search social media sites complements the emails and offline mailings.

Once we’ve made initial contact with a student through the sites, we usually put those students into a more heavy email stream.

How can college search social media be used to provide a campus experience online?

What we can do is talk about the in-person opportunities as much as we can but we also realize that, if you’re in California, it’s going to take a large commitment to get you out here to check us out. To get you to that first step, we’ve got our interactive Web tour that our communications marketing office developed. We’ve got our videos through UniversityTV. Since it’s all Web based, we can push any of that out to students. And then you have the YouTube experience as well.

I think those things have eventually led to more students taking the next step by submitting an application (we have a lot of stealth applicants) or taking the next step by participating in one of our on campus events. For us, the hardest thing is getting people to understand who we are, and I think those tools give us a lot more flexibility to do that.

Recently, I’ve been working with a California a student who sent us a message through Cappex that she had a question about the IUPUI application. We’ve been able to continue the dialogue. And now we’re going to have our California recruiter meet with her.

What do you think the future holds for college search social media?

I could see college search social media not just introducing students to schools, but taking a more active role in helping see that student through application and matriculation.

What advice do you have for other admission officers to best integrate the sites into their recruiting programs?

Come up with a plan on how to qualify and respond to inquiries generated through the tools. Would it be a follow up message trough one of the sites, an email sent directly from the university, or should they start receiving your letters and postcards?

Have fun with it, too. Don’t sound forced. Don’t make it sound like you’re 18 because that always fails. You can still have fun with it while keeping a mature voice.

For more on this topic, read our latest white paper with trends on how college admission offices are integrating college search social media sites.

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