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Marketing opportunity for the University or Networking opportunity for the Student

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the members of the graduating class of 2011 are more technologically savvy than most admissions and recruitment officers. After all, most freshman-age students...

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PRLog (Press Release) - May 7, 2007 - The Value of Social Networking from the Perspective of the University
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the members of the graduating class of 2011 are more technologically savvy than most admissions and recruitment officers. After all, most freshman-age students in the US—young adults that were born around 1990—have been around computers all their lives.

Many college age students have been using social networking sites for some time now: Myspace with 130 million users, and Facebook with 12 million users. Towards the end of 2006, in an attempt to capitalize on the direct interaction with prospective students that these social networking portals offer, colleges and universities began launching marketing campaigns within these social networks. The results have been mixed.

In a cynical article entitled “Yada Yada Nada?” Robert Sevier makes a few interesting points that go against using social networking sites in order to market on behalf of higher education:

Observation # 1: It's about quality, not quantity. Big numbers attract attention, but the reality is this: As a college or university , you are interested in only a very, very small percentage of that big number. The challenge, of course, is sifting out the small percentage of students and others that are interested in your message in a way that is effective and efficient. So far, no college has cracked the code.

Observation #2: Members are very wary of the encroachment of business into what they define as personal, literally “my,” space.

Observation #3: You cannot control content. Colleges love to control the content of their messages. However, on social networking sites they cannot. In fact, many social networks are fueled by member-created content in which members opine, respond, and react to the world around them.
Sevier, Robert A, “Yada Yada Nada” University Business; March 2007

Mr. Sevier’s points are valid, but the fact remains—and Sevier admits as much—that the amount of people that use social networking sites make “cracking the code”, or coming up with an appealing way to market to prospective students within these social networks, extremely appealing.

The Value of Social Networking from a Student’s Perspective
Last week, the New York Times ran an article that described how a soon-to-be NYU freshman—Monique Yin—created the Facebook group “NYU 2011” with a short description: “Join this group if you are attending NYU next fall.” As of last week, the group had over 650 members.

Monique isn’t alone in her endeavor, colleges and universities  across the country have similar “2011” groups—larger schools even have more than one. From a student’s perspective, the benefits of social networking sites are obvious: students have the opportunity to meet other freshman before the first day of class, making the transition from high school to college less painful.

A Middle Ground?
The difficult part for colleges, as Sevier points out, is the fact that schools don’t have the ability to control the content that is displayed on these sites. To address this, some colleges have come up with their own social networking sites that allow them to access and change content. On the one hand, this may seem like a win-win for colleges and universities, but on the other hand, students tend to stay away from controlled sites.

At this point it still isn’t possible to determine how and when colleges and universities will “crack the code” to using social networking sites in order to market to prospective students. The fact that so many students use these sites, however, makes it certain that schools will keep on trying.

Want to learn more about Enrollment Management? Click here to sign up for the Innovation Ads Enrollment Management Whitepaper. (http://www.innovationads.com)

-Sources
Lombardi, Kate; “Make new Friends Online, and You Won’t Start College Friendless”; The New York Times; March 21, 2007
Sevier, Robert A, “Yada Yada Nada” University Business; March 2007

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