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

Exclusive Preview of the 2017 Student & Parent E-Expectations Survey Part 7: Social Media for Parents

This is the last 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. With parents playing an increasing role in the college search and decision process, having fresh data (April 2017) about their digital expectations is also invaluable.

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

Trying to reach parents on social media? Look no further than Facebook.

Parents of prospective students use other social media platforms, but you will find more than three quarters of them daily on Facebook. Yep, Facebook is the mainstream (social) media.

Social media platforms used daily by parents

Parents are on Facebook and they see it as the top social media platform to learn about colleges.

I can’t wrap my head around the fact that about 40% of parents indicated they use Google+ daily and to find college information. I just can’t understand these data points, and I’m wondering if some survey respondents got confused and thought the question was referring to the search engine and not the dying social media platform. What do YOU think?

Social media platforms used by parents to find college information

Anyway, If you’re trying to reach parents of prospective students on social media, Facebook it is!

So, what do parents do on a school Facebook page?

Almost three quarters will like your page if they are interested in your school. About a quarter – give and take – will also join a Facebook group. This is a smaller proportion than their kids, which could also be explained by the fact that fewer schools offer this option to parents. Do you at your school?

Sharers aren’t the majority among parents either, but a fifth will share your page (with their kids?).

What parents do on Facebook for college search

How parents find your social media accounts

Your school website is the most important gateway to your social media accounts for parents of prospective students. Like father, like son as we’ve seen in my previous post on social media and students.

Almost a third of parents also found their way to you social media content on college planning websites (do you share your social media accounts there?), your school email messages but also on the social media news feed of friends.

How do you find social media accounts from schools - parents

Social media content for parents?

Like their kids, parents of prospective students favor photos over all other format of social media posts. However, videos don’t come second (like they do for students) in their case. Watching videos takes more time than parents might not have.
Instead they prefer links to articles. So, if you want to target parents, feel free to share links to interesting articles and resources.

Top types of social media posts for parents

Parents might not be the best target for your purely engaging posts. They want to get information pertaining to college costs and financial aid, your application process and your admissions requirements among other topics on social media.

The majority of parents mean business on social media, so save your beautiful campus shots and traditions for their kids.

Top topics of interest on social media for parents

What about Facebook Live?

If you holding a Facebook Live for parents, keep it focused on academics or hold a session just for parents.

Most interesting topics for Facebook Live event - parents

Missed any of the first 6 parts of this series?

You can catch up by visiting the special archive page for my 7 posts on the 2017 Student and Parent E-Expectation Survey.

Ruffalo Noel-Levitz, NRCCUA, CollegeWeekLive and OmniUpdate have also just launched a website about the E-Expectations study where more insights will be shared.

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