DemandEngine to Reveal New Research - Announces August Webinar Series
How Predictive Do You Want to Be? Enrollment Analytics and Easy Answers

Using Twitter in College Recruitment? On this One, Noel-Levitz Misses the Mark

using-twitter-college-university-recruitment Are you tweeting?

Seems like everyone’s doing it given the media hype. Even in higher education, there’s no shortage of ‘social’ experts proclaiming the virtues of social technologies (see my May 2009 post, OMG! If You Are Not ‘Tweeting’, You’re a Bad Enrollment Manager!). 

It’s easy to feel like you are not part of the ‘cool kids club’ if your institution has not joined Twitter-nation. Why even the enrollment management experts, Noel-Levitz, have jumped on the bandwagon.

Consider the following June 2009 excerpt - To Tweet or Not to Tweet? Is That the Right Question? – from the Noel-Levitz website:

Noel-levitz “So what’s the answer to our primary question of the day? What should you be doing on Twitter? Here are a few thoughts for establishing a pilot program for your admissions shop:

    1. Have your admissions counselors set up Twitter accounts and share their user names with prospective students via e-mail, business cards, and at college fairs or during high school visits.

2. Look into setting up a “Twibe” for admissions counselors by their territory entering class year, or by academic program.

3. Create methods for measurement."

Sounds reasonable, right?

The problem is that the social participation profile of teens doesn't support it. Teens don't tweet.

Consider the following recent research points from the Nielsen Company, as well as from my firm, DemandEngine.

Young Americans Snub Twitter (Nielsen Company)

In June 2009, only 16 percent of website users were under the age of 25 (see figure below), this according to David Martin, Vice-President at the Nielsen Company. Martin continues, “Bear in mind persons under 25 make up nearly one quarter of the active US Internet universe, which means that effectively under-indexes on the youth market by 36 percent.”


How Students Want to Learn About You … Twitter is at the Bottom of the List (DemandEngine)

In April 2009, DemandEngine asked rising and graduating seniors how they wanted to learn about colleges and universities at different points in their decision process (e.g. prospect, inquiry, and applicant). Students were given a list of communication channels ranging from direct mail to twitter and asked to rate their preference on a 1-4 scale, with 1 representing ‘Definitely not’ to 4, ‘Definitely’. We took the difference of the positive (ratings with a 3 or 4) and the negative responses (ratings with a 1 or 2) to compile the following index:

How students want to be contacted demandengine study

In this sample, graduating high school seniors prefer direct mail, email, talking with people, and search engines as the channels they want to use to learn about colleges or universities.

I Thought My Students Only Used Facebook …

Facebook college recruitment Yes, many of them do. They also use telephones, cell phones, email, and have been known to pick the occasional piece of paper.

Here's the big idea ... communications channels are proliferating rather than replacing previous ones.

Going Social in Recruitment? Should We Bother?

It would be easy to take the data points above and toss the idea of social out the proverbial window.  Tossing-out-the-window

Looking at our research at DemandEngine, I have a different read.

Students prefer the channels that colleges and universities have developed some competencies in, and are actively using today.

Social technologies?

In our research, the institutions that have jumped on the bandwagon aren’t doing a very good job.  The problem is that many are looking at these new avenues as ways to talk AT students, rather than talk WITH students.

It’s a paradigm shift that requires institutions to think about how they want to change their relationships with prospective students. Before you start choosing the ‘Twitters’ or other revolutionary communication medium, it requires understanding what your students are ready for (their online participation profile), what objectives you are trying to support, and determining the right strategies to employ.

The tools come last.

Going-all-in To be fair to the good folks at Noel-Levitz, they recommend establishing a pilot Twitter program, not go all in. But, should your effort be spent here or elsewhere?

Having a college football coach ‘tweet’ during a game? Interesting.  Getting an update on what Todd the admission counselor had for breakfast? Not so much.

Twitter is an event-focused medium that works well for breaking news (think Iran), celebrity gossip (think Ashton Kutcher), or running commentary during conferences or meetings.

Given the data, I believe Twitter is a bleeding edge recruitment idea that can be safely ignored for the moment, if not all together.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Hey Tim,

I think you and DE are right on with this one. Very few high-school students care about Twitter, much less hearing tweets from a perspective school. The combination of admissions offices desperately trying to keep up with the times, and new "social media experts" leading their way, schools are asking "how can we get Twitter? and... what is it?" not "would our students even want such a thing".

All I know, is that nobody really knows anything (Black Swan anyone?). The college search/application process is changing. Will students apply directly through Facebook in 5 years? Will Facebook even be the dominant social platform? Nobody knows.

Until then, everyone will be stumbling along with the social media experts, just trying to figure out what the heck it all means.

NOT a social media expert
AT MOST a guy who knows some stuff

Missy Stanisz

Great information and discussion points. I think that while the recruits are not potentially receptive to certain marketing tools, the graphs you have provided clearly show that family/friends/influencers do influence decisions. Does the school then target these parent/friend influencers in hopes to reach the true audience, young adults? It makes you wonder...

The comments to this entry are closed.