Scalable Social Media Strategies for College Admissions – How? Why? When?
One consequence of the social media era that almost all recruiting organizations will feel in the next few years will be heightened competition. Whenever technology has increased our collective ability to communicate effectively and persuasively, the best players have taken advantage of it and beaten their competitors.
What role will social media play in college admissions strategies for large universities? On the one hand, test scores are so 20th century. On the other hand, personal connections and relationships are not completely scalable. So how can large universities take advantage of social media when their applicants number in the tens of thousands per year.
One aspect of future college admissions strategies must be to empower students with options and involve them in the admissions process. Communications will be key here. Admissions departments will primarily be challenged to reach out to prospects on their own terms. Social media will eventually make that not only feasible but enjoyable.
OK, so what are the best tactics? In the next few years we will see an explosion of social media platforms, many of them open-sourced, such as WordPressMU. Organizations will be able to acquire these tools, customize them for their own verticals, and manage them on their own machinery. Applicants view reception desks and on-site appointments with great dismay. They function as barriers at best — and at worst, as funnels to one’s competition. This is where social media fills the gap. Instant messaging solutions will become a bridge between insiders and outsiders that can be accessed at users’ convenience, potentially on a 24/7 basis.
Search technology, perfected in the “Web 1.0″ era, will still play a significant role, because it will allow admissions departments to filter the volume of content from prospective students, which will undoubtedly be multimedia (e.g. graphics, videos, blogs, microblogs, chat logs, bookmarks, social profiles). Tools with superior search features will be essential.
Ultimately it remains to be seen what products will reach the market and how they will influence admissions officers’ and prospective students’ behaviors. We can only say what we know we would like now and build it for the day when it becomes necessary.