Prospective students today use the Internet, plain and simple. They are part of the digital generation, brought up with computers, smart phones and other digital devices. The latest report about this generation of prospective students’ online behavior and expectations when researching colleges and universities speaks volumes about the importance of providing a high quality digital content for this generation.
The 2011 E-Expectations Report sponsored by Noel-Levitz and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions specifically recommends universities and colleges maintain and deliver high quality content to both students and their parents through school websites, email and social media.
College Websites Need To Be Easy To Use
Perhaps the most important finding from the 2011 report is that one out of five students removed a university from consideration after a bad experience with the school’s website. A college’s website is the first destination for many prospective students and parents when beginning to research schools. An initial bad impression from a lousy website has the potential to turn students off to a school before really even exploring it in depth.
A university’s website should look good, be easy to use and provide students with the information they want and need most. According to students and parents surveyed, the majority first look for information on academic programs followed by admissions information, scholarships, student life, financial aid and more. Other features on a university website like cost calculators and interactive maps are also important for recruitment purposes. Universities must ensure students can easily access content about programs and admissions through the website without much hassle and that the content in those areas tells students what they need to know.
Email Isn’t Dead For Recruitment
It may seem today’s prospective students text message and use social media far more than email. But email still works as a primary effective means of communication simply because so many people have and use email accounts. Out of the parents and students surveyed, the vast majority had email accounts and 93 percent of students said they would provide the address to universities. The report recommends emailing prospective students and parents about key deadline reminders, status updates and important information about enrolling.
Social Media Is a Channel for Listening
The 2011 E-Expectations Report found one area of web content still needing further development was social media. And here there seems to be a mismatch of both university and student behavior. Well over 90 percent of colleges have a Facebook fan page and 80 percent of prospective students use Facebook. Yet, just slightly more than one-quarter of prospective students actually view a college’s social media profile. Why the disparity?
It could be the content. Prospective students said they found comments from current students the most appealing aspect of a school’s Facebook page. Students also said they valued general information and announcements about news, events and programs. The report suggests universities use social media to maintain an informal dialogue with students and avoid overt sales pitches.
The Marketing Takeaway
Prospective students and parents do want to communicate with the universities they are considering attending and they will do so in a variety of formats. Delivering great content in several mediums particularly a school’s website, email communications and social media can have positively influence a student’s final decision about attending a university. Just like for any business’s marketing strategy, great content starts out on your own website and should be cross-pollinated across all of parts of your online presence.