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Top Insights on  Social Media for Higher Ed from the 2017 Student E-Expectations Survey

Exclusive Preview of the 2017 Student & Parent E-Expectations Survey Part 6: Social Media for Students

This is the 6th part of the 7-installment series on the April 2017 RNL E-Expectations survey results. This survey focuses on the E-expectations of high school seniors, juniors and sophomores (n=4,274) and their parents (n=3,530) and will be officially released on July 27. If you read the first part, just skip to the next section without reading the short intro below

As I explained in my first post, Stephanie Geyer from RNL shared with me the complete survey data set she’ll present for the first time at the 2017 National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention in Denver, Colorado.

This annual survey launched in 2005 has become the gold standard of research on the digital expectations and habits of college-bound students.

Here’s the key to understand the legends used in the charts:

  • 2017: High school seniors, class of 17 – or their parents
  • 2018: High school juniors, class of 18 – or their parents
  • 2019: High school sophomores, class of 19 – or their parents

Top 3 most popular social media sites for prospective students: Snapchat, Instagram & Youtube

You already know college-bound high school students use social media, but did you know Snapchat is now the most used social media site by seniors, juniors and sophomores?

The younger they are, the more they use Snapchat daily. So, this is not a fad. I repeat this is not a fad.

Social media platforms used daily by students

Instagram & YouTube: the social media platforms higher ed can’t afford to ignore

While they might not be as popular as Snapchat in daily use, Instagram and YouTube are the social media sites of choice for colleges and universities. Prospective students use them on a daily basis AND they use them to find information about the schools on their list.

Social media platforms used by students to find college information

Facebook is recognized as the top site in the college search process. All schools have a Facebook page and prospective students see it as a traditional channel for information about colleges.

Snapchat is far behind when it comes to college information, but its share – now in the double digit range – has more than doubled in the last 12 months. Fewer schools are on Snapchat as the platform is still a new comer in the higher ed social media landscape and it requires a noticeable investment in time compared to other sites. So, it’s also natural that fewer prospective students use it to find info about college. But, with Snapchat’s growth over the past year and its current daily usage by prospective students, it is time to get your school there if it isn’t yet.

But, what do prospective students do on Snapchat when they look for college information?

More than 70% follow school accounts and watch their stories.

What students do on snapchat for college search

On Facebook, three quarters of high school seniors have liked a page to receive updates they will probably never see (courtesy of the powerful filtering algorithm) and 43% have joined a Facebook group.

Since notifications from groups aren’t as filtered as updates from Facebook pages, this is definitely something you want to add to your toolbox if you don’t have any group yet. The platform is currently doing a gentle push for pages to create their own groups to foster discussions. There are also rumors that Facebook is gearing up to include more ads in groups – which might explained its recent move.

While engagement is said to be all the rage on social media, only a fifth of prospective students have commented or shared a post. So, it’s not you. Prospective students might not just be into sharing or commenting 🙂

What students do on Facebook for college search

Social media doesn’t work in a vacuum

While some schools still manage social media as a silo and not a part of their integrated strategy, all the digital marketing pieces have a role to play in the college search process for prospective students. If social media is a way to engage this target audience, you need to make sure they can find your social media accounts first.

Two thirds of your prospects won’t look up your school on a social media platform. However, a large majority will use your school website as a gateway to your social media content. Will they find it there?

More than 41% will also click their way from your emails to your social media posts. That is if you include the necessary calls to action in your email messages. There’s definitely an opportunity to make your email messages more engaging by incorporating your social content. If you don’t do it yet, what are you waiting for?

How do you find social media accounts from schools - students

What should your school post on social media sites?

A picture is worth 1,000 words and this is the type of content more than 84% of prospective students want to see.

Despite all the talk about video killing every other type of content on social media, it only takes the 2nd place in the heart of your target audience. Short text posts also have a place in your social media content. They are slighlty more popular than links, so don’t neglect them.

Top types of social media posts for students

We now know prospective students want to see lots of photos, some videos and short updates from your school.

But, about what topics?

If you post about the 10 following topics of interest, you will cover all the basis for a majority of prospective students. So, talk to them about college costs and how they can pay for it (yep, even on social media), their future academic daily life, your dorms and campus events among other topics.

Juniors even consider social media a good channel to learn more about your admissions process and requirements.

Top topics of interest on social media for students

Videos are often seen as the new candy on social media – at least by the platforms themselves. As a result, Facebook Live videos do get a big share of algorithmic love in the newsfeed, thus increasing their reach and ultimately engagement. This is an opportunity you shouldn’t ignore.

Not sure what your school should “facebook live” about?

Campus life, a day in the life of a current student and even a class are all in the top 3 topics of interest for Facebook Live.

Most interesting topics for Facebook Live event - students

Next: Social Media for Parents

Check out my next post in this series with insights from the 2017 Parent E-Expectations Survey about social media.

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