DT: What are schools doing well, and where do they need to improve?
NB: I think they’re doing a really good job. I think the places for improvement are with their blogging. They don’t all accept comments, which I think is a little bit interesting. In terms of allowing comments on blogs, we probably still have 20 percent of schools that don’t do that. And if blogs are going to be a source of conversation and interaction, then we need to open them up for that conversation.
I think that, in terms of red flags, I worry about measuring of social media and the connecting of that to other important functions, like recruiting. Is social media bringing in students? Are students coming in via Twitter? The blog? Or the website in some ways we’re not seeing? There is tracking software now. I think schools right now are not doing a good job of measuring the impact of social media on their goals, so I think that needs to be looked at.
DT: What are some of the ways they’re leveraging social media to recruit and research prospective students?
NB: We find that schools are depending more and more on social media, and they are using it to get to harder-to-reach populations. For example, returning students or non-traditional students who might be more likely to be found on a Twitter site than on some more traditional means.
They’re also researching students. Every student should know that every time they have a public facing blog or Facebook page or Twitter feed, … these are accessible and viewable by a wide range of people—including the admissions people. Social media is an integral part of admissions right now.
DT: What do you think can be some of the definitions of success for social media for a college or a university?
NB: Colleges consistently they say social media has been very successful. But, when we follow that up with the question, “How do you measure all that success?,” the answer is, “We don’t measure it.” The sense is that it’s working for them. Intuitively, they feel like there’s an excitement or an increase or whatever it might be, but we haven’t been able to document that effectively. I think now there are tools in place that can do that better.
We need to begin to measure how a student comes in. This might be done through surveys that are conducted, and maybe once the student is accepted … we say, “What was your first contact?” or “How did you come in?”