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Top Insights on Social Media for Higher Ed from the 2018 Student E-Expectations Survey

Exclusive Preview of the 2018 Student E-Expectations Survey Part 4: Social Media for Students

This is the 4th and last part of the 4-installment series on the 2018 RNL E-Expectations survey results. This survey focusing on the E-expectations of high school seniors and juniors (n=529) and was officially released on July 25. If you read the first part, just skip to the next section without reading the short intro below.

As I explained in the first post of this series, Stephanie Geyer from RNL shared with me the complete survey data set she presented yesterday for the first time at the 2018 National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention in Orlando, Florida.

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

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 and Instagram are now the most used social media sites by seniors and juniors?

The younger they are, the more they use Instagram and Snapchat daily.

Social media platforms used daily by students - 2018 RNL E-Expectations

Compared to last year’s results (below), Facebook daily usage has decreased for this demographic.

Social media platforms used daily by students - 2017 RNL E-Expectations

YouTube, Instagram & Facebook: the best social media platforms for information on colleges

While they might not be all as popular as Snapchat in daily use, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook (to a certain degree) are the best platforms to find information about colleges according to prospective students. The data from the 2018 Eduventures Student Sentiment Survey I shared in my post yesterday confirms the importance of Instagram and YouTube, but indicates a monthly usage of Facebook for college info in the same range as Twitter and Snapchat usage (by 17% to 19% of the survey respondents).

Best social media platforms to find college information for students - 2018 RNL E-Expectations

When compared to last year’s results, it’s apparent that something has happened to Facebook. The scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica and a change in perceptions of Facebook could explain the sudden shift.

Best social media platforms to find college information for students - 2017 RNL E-Expectations

Unfortunately (and kind of suprisingly), the 2018 E-Expectations survey didn’t dig deeper into Instagram usage even if it did with Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook.

A little bit deeper with Snapchat

There is an increasing call to abandon Snapchat in higher ed social media circles. While the little ghost app is definitely NOT a big hub for college information, it’s still the communication channel of choice for many teens and prospective students as they spend so much time on it.

When asked specifically if they have used Snapchat as part of their research to select a college or a university, 20% of seniors and 12% of juniors confirmed they did.

So, ditching Snapchat to focus 100% on Instagram (thus putting all your social media marketing eggs in the same basket) doesn’t make much sense as your school could miss an opportunity to connect with up to a fifth of its prospective students.

Moreover, your school could miss exchanges with younger prospects like this one recently shared by Jenn Smith from the social media team of Colorado State University:

When your prospective students use Snapchat, their focus is on Stories posted by colleges for two thirds of seniors and almost three quarters of juniors.

What students do on snapchat for college search

What about Facebook?

On Facebook, two thirds of high school seniors have liked a page to receive updates they will probably never see (courtesy of the powerful filtering algorithm) and 47% have joined a Facebook group.

Since notifications from groups aren’t as filtered as updates from Facebook pages, this is good news, especially because there was a 5 percentage point increase compared to last year’s survey. As Facebook has paid more attention to groups, they should definitely be part of your recruitment strategy.

With the launch of Facebook Watch Party yesterday allowing group admins to organize a viewing party for group members to watch videos or live streams while chatting together, you’re even going to have more engagement options within Facebook groups.

While engagement is said to be all the rage on social media, only about a fifth of prospective students have commented or shared a post. It’s a shame as these comments and shares are so key to scale organic reach on Facebook.

What students do on Facebook for college search

If the new “Watch Party” option pushes you to try live streaming for your Facebook group, you’ll be happy to hear that the 2018 E-Expectations survey asked seniors and juniors what topics they would be interested in for this kind of live streaming.

Campus life, campus tours, residence halls tours and academic program information sessions made their top 4 in this category.

Most interesting topics for Facebook Live event - students

Social media doesn’t work in a vacuum

Social media isn’t an island. Prospective students do find out about your social media accounts from other digital marketing channels.

More than 40% of your prospects will look up your school on a social media platform. Yet, the majority of seniors will use your school website as a gateway to your social media content. Will they be able to find your social media accounts on your site?

About a third of prospective students will click their way to your social media posts from your social media ads or your emails. So, make sure you use both channels accordingly in your marketing efforts.

How do you find social media accounts from schools - students

What content for your social media accounts?

A picture is worth 1,000 words and this is the type of content 70% of seniors and 81% of juniors want to see.

Video comes second followed by short text updates and event invitations.

Top types of social media posts for students

What about 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 campus social life, living in dorms (I mean residence halls ;-), attending classes and paying for college among other topics. Juniors even think social media is a good place to talk about admissions requirements and process.

Top topics of interest on social media for students

Missed the previous parts about this research?

Check out all the post in this series with insights from the 2018 E-Expectations Survey

Have you heard about the Higher Ed Social Media Conference yet?

It’s THE conference to attend for teams looking for fresh ideas and best practices in social media for higher education.

Find out more about the Higher Ed Social Media Conference!

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