Posts Tagged ‘digital media and admissions’

How to Personalize Admissions at a Large State University with Social Media

Categories: Admissions Advice

Stacey Kostell University of Illinois AdmissionsStacey Kostell, director of admissions at the University of Illinois, is in a unique position: With Illinois being one of the largest state schools in the country, how does she provide prospective students with a personalized view of the campus? From Stacey’s experience, the answer is showcasing the broad diversity on campus and communicating it through enrolled students. While students are still asking the basic questions–How do I get in? What ACT score do I need? When is the application deadline?—Stacey sees social media as an important lens for students to look through to get to know Illinois.

We spent some time talking with Stacey to learn about U of I”s social media program.

Q: Could you explain why social media has such a large presence on the Illinois undergraduate admissions site?

With a big place like this, we wanted our undergraduate admissions site to somehow represent all the different voices our current student body encompasses. After all, the students can sell the school better than we can. The social media integration, such as YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, WordPress and Facebook provide so many different kinds of channels for so many different kinds of students to tell their stories and provide their personal and authentic views of the University of Illinois.

We are also committed to continually improving the site based on what our hits are telling us. If the clicks tell us to make more students blogs, we’ll head in the direction.  We have millions of hits, and it only makes sense to keep reorganizing the admissions site based on what information, and in what form, prospective students want to see it.

Q: Why have you chosen to create multiple Facebook pages from Illinois admissions?

We decided that since we’re a big school with a lot of different sets of information to get across, three pages would get the right information to the right students. So we built three separate Facebook admissions pages: one for prospects, one for admitted freshman students and one for admitted transfer students since each group has different needs. The two admitted pages will essentially become their “Class of 2015” pages for students to communicate with each other, ask questions, and comment on posts. The pages work as another lens through which students can learn about the university.

Q: How has social media and online recruiting affected your recruiting strategies?

Traditional recruiting methods, although still useful for many of our needs, are limited and expensive. Online recruiting techniques have allowed us to cast a much wider net. Online college search tools gives us a way to geographically reach students we wouldn’t necessarily be able reach without spending a lot of money using some of the more expensive traditional methods. Cappex’s inquiry production, for example, is displacing some long-established list buys such as the PSAT search.

Q: What advice would you give other schools about online recruiting and social media?

On top of the traditional modes of communication, the social media produced by our own enrolled students provides another opportunity for students to connect with the school in a way they’re comfortable connecting. In the end, whether you’re using online recruiting and social media or not, it’s important to keep your information honest and authentic.

5 Questions on Digital Media and Admissions with Scott Jones of Wooster

Scott_Jones_CroppedNew ways to communicate with digital media are being explored every day in the recruiting world, and Scott Jones of the College of Wooster is determined to make sure that he and his team stay ahead of the curve.  Scott has incorporated digital media into the foundation of Wooster admissions, even setting aside a portion of Wooster’s homepage for its social media feeds.  By focusing efforts on essential digital platforms, most importantly Facebook and college search sites, Scott has found surprising success connecting with prospective students and getting them to join the dialogue about Wooster.

Q1. What are the latest social media or mobile tools Wooster admissions is using and why?

We wanted to be very deliberate with our social media presence and avoid jumping haphazardly into everything available.  So, we laid down the groundwork and devised a plan that would limit which tools we would use to reach out to students.  Ultimately, we wanted to use fewer social media platforms, but use them precisely and to their full potential instead of diluting our efforts across the Web.

This discussion led to us narrowing down our major efforts to Facebook and Twitter, which are pretty much the hubs of the social media scene. With our concentrated efforts we can really do it right and aim for consistency, making sure that even if a prospective student finds us through Facebook, or Twitter, or the official school website, we’re giving the same message.  So, our main focus at this time is Facebook and Twitter.

Q2.  How can “Facebook-ing” be done more deliberately to engage prospective students?

Before we even started posting from our Wooster Facebook page, we had to decide if we should make a separate Wooster admissions page apart from the community institution page. Eventually we chose to drive all traffic to one location, so our page’s audience is everyone from prospective and enrolled students, to alumni, family and parents.

As for posting to our page, we outlined the percentages of the different types of posts we thought would be the most powerful. The majority of our Facebook posts are questions that inspire conversation.  We like to give a bit of information while asking questions, but also allow room for the community to respond. This shows prospective students what alumni have to say and also gives prospective students the opportunity to ask questions and interact.

Many times, we drive our posts around Wooster’s Capstone Experience, our independent study program.  Alumni talk about their experience with the program and prospective students can get a well-rounded perspective of Wooster right from their computer.

Q3.  Are there other digital tools that you use, and how do you feel they complement what you’re doing on Facebook?

Again, it’s about using digital media not to spread your resources too thin, but to really target the audience you want to engage. College search sites make that part of my admissions job much easier to manage. With sites, like Cappex, we have the option to be very specific with the information we provide and target it to the specific students we want to reach. By far, though, the best aspect of college search tools is the follow up.  If a student is interested in a Wooster campaign, the follow up is crucial because that’s really where you can connect with them and drive them to our different sites.  To my initial surprise, a large number of enrolled students came from the online college search.

Q4. Do you think these tools help further the conversation, start the conversation, or help with yield?

All of the above! We focus in on a couple of tools, like Facebook, and really drive them home.  If schools put in the time, the tools will help them find the students, communicate with students, build relationships, and help with yield.  If you use these tools to their full potential they can help with the entire funnel: initial inquiry all the way through enrollment and keeping them engaged as alumni.

Q5. What do you think is the most important thing about digital media that admissions officers need to hear?

These platforms are great yield tools.  They encourage an organic conversation between prospective students, current students and alumni that never really could happen before.  It’s one thing for prospective students to hear good things about Wooster from admissions people, but it’s a completely different thing to hear from people who are simply expressing joy about their experience in college.  This happened a lot last year, and it paid off.  We enrolled one of the largest classes in Wooster history.

You can see how the College of Wooster has integrated social media into their site at: http://www.wooster.edu/