We all like to think that it was just a few years ago that we walked down the graduation aisle at our respective college or university, but the years have a way of getting past us quickly. The people working in your administration office and developing your recruitment methods probably aren’t recent grads. Of course, they do the best they can to understand the average student, but the fact is that only college students really understand college students.
With this in mind, how well do you think you know the students on your campus? How well do you think you reach out to prospective students? The real answer may surprise you! Chances are, you know very little about what social networks your students are using and their computer habits.
Breakdown in Communication between Colleges, Universities and Students
There is a clear disconnect between how college administrators reach out to their students and what students actually pay attention to. College administrators tend to send out information via email or through Facebook. Getting students to check their email or be engaged on Facebook can be painful, especially as students are starting to check their emails less and view Facebook as a place for “old people.”
An interesting article published in the New York Times took a closer look at how college students are using technology these days. One professor tracked his students’ computer usage habits and found that they spent an average of 123 minutes on a computer, with 31 minutes spent on social media. Only six minutes were spent checking email, and the only task that students spent less time on was hunting for content via search engines.
Taking this into consideration, the content, emails and newsletters that you send out to students may not be reaching them at all. Not only does this compromise the relationship you have with current students, but also it means that your recruitment efforts may not be as effective at all.
College Students Spend Most Time on Smartphones
So where are college students hanging out these days? What channels should you be reaching out to them on? According to a study by re:fuel, the average college student spends 3.6 hours on their smartphone, up from 3.3 hours last year. Smartphones are replacing computers, TVs, handheld gaming devices and e-readers. The biggest reason why: convenience.
College students are constantly on the go and rarely in one place for a long period of time. Smartphones are portable and give students the power of a computer in the palm of their hand. They can check the news, the weather and their social media accounts on one device – the same device that allows them to call home, snap photos and play games. The majority of college students are never without a phone and wouldn’t dream of leaving home without one.
The Rise and Fall of Social Media Networks Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook
Maybe you realize that college students are turning to their smartphones over other devices, but do you know which social media networks they’re spending the most time on? Facebook used to be the most popular site, so college administrators quickly turned to this channel to reach out to students. While the majority of college students do have a Facebook account, it isn’t the hip social network it once was.
The Global Social Media Impact Study found that Facebook use among 16-18 year olds is in a sharp decline, and these numbers were taken over eight different countries! The study found that young people are turning to simpler services like Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Young people see Facebook as being “uncool,” particularly as the network is growing among older people like parents and grandparents. In fact, that’s why many high school and college students keep their profile active; they use it to connect with family members.
Another interesting report from 2013 analyzed how social media and mobile devices are impacting how prospective college students search for the right college. Interestingly, the survey found that while most students trusted the information that was posted on the college or university’s website, only half had the same trust for information on social media.
Young people are now moving to services that are easy to use and visually attractive such as Snapchat. In fact, a recent study found that 77 percent of college students use Snapchat at least once per day. Additionally, more snaps are taken each day than Facebook photos uploaded. So if you’re looking to hit home with high school and college students, Snapchat is the place to start. Instagram is another place to be, as it’s the third most popular social network used by college students.
Facebook Still Has a Place
Is it safe to say that you should “move on” from Facebook? Not exactly. By the numbers, Facebook is still widely popular among college students. It’s just not the only social network that’s “in.”
As you expand on your college recruitment efforts and the ways that you connect with current students, you will need to balance your budget with other social networks like Snapchat and Instagram. Having a presence on these sites allows you to reach your audience on the channels they are using and build a sense of relevancy and trust.
It’s also important to note that college students are not checking their email accounts regularly. Therefore, real-time information should not be sent via email, as you won’t see the immediate return you hoped for. Instead, email should be reserved for informational newsletters that contain links to blog posts, school news and other information that is not time sensitive.
Bridging the Gap with Mobile Apps
Since it can be overwhelming to have a presence on every social network, some colleges and universities are finding a suitable alternative that works for both recruitment efforts and relationship building among current students: a mobile app. If college students are spending the bulk of their time on their smartphones, why not create a dedicated mobile app that they can reach you on?
A mobile app doesn’t have to be a brand new platform of material. Think of it as a library of information to stay connected to your school. Some of the features that colleges and universities have added to their apps include interactive campus maps, bookstore sales, cafeteria menus, visitor information, residence hall maps and bus schedules. Also to be included in mobile apps are easy push buttons that allow students to pay their tuition, order books, schedule a meeting with their counselor or make a donation (for alumni).
College students are constantly changing and it’s up to schools to take advantage of the technology landscape and ensure that their communication strategy is effectively reaching their audience.