Tufts U uses ‘Vibe’ in massive outreach to prospective students

Tufts tries to draw people to Facebook without driving them away from other content.

Dean Tsouvalas, editor-in-chief of StudentAdvisor.com, recently interviewed Daniel Grayson, associate director of undergraduate admissions at Tufts University, which ranked 81st on StudentAdvisor’s Top 100 Social Media Colleges.

Grayson pushed to begin Tufts’ social media outreach and founded the admissions presences on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and CollegeConfidential.com, as well as managing the development of Tufts Admissions’ blogging from a single wordpress-hosted blog in 2008 to several dozen bloggers on an integrated blogging platform today.

He currently oversees Tufts admissions web outreach strategy, including the management and development of admissions.tufts.edu.  His tenure at Tufts stretches into its seventh year for 2012-2013, with experience reading applications within the United States and abroad.

At Tufts, what does it mean to be successful with social media in admissions?

Daniel Grayson: Success is all about one word: “Vibe” (yes, capital V). In all our outreach, whether through pubs, the campus visit, our traditional website, or our social media efforts, we want our prospective students to garner a sense of our values, attitudes, and personality. We know that the intangible quality of a school’s “vibe” drives our students’ ultimate university selection – so what we put out needs to reflect the vibe of Tufts. Personality matters, and every post or tweet needs to reflect that. Of course, easier said than done – even before you jump into the process of created content and building out media platforms, you have to answer the question, “What is my Vibe?”

What is Tufts’ primary purpose for social media?

DG: Engagement is our primary aim. Regardless of how active and vocal followers are, they don’t like to click on news links. The most potent benefit is fostering a sense of connection between students and our office. There are times when posting a news article furthers that effort (even if no one clicks), so I do not advocate ditching all news posts, rather, I’d suggest reframing the purpose of those posts around that sense of connection. For our current students and alums, that sense of connection is a form of social capital on which Tufts can build our programs and develop better outreach tools.

How do you grow your fans and followers?

DG: Consistency of presence and broader integration are our main strategies. Integration means that someone should be able to consume our work with the fewest number of clicks possible. Twitter/Facebook/blogs/Tufts.edu should feature each other without being redundant and navigation needs to be easy. Usability is often overlooked, I think, in the rush to jump on the bandwagon. If getting people to your Facebook page means driving them away from all your other content, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

What tips do you have for schools looking to get more fans or followers?

DG: My political science professor once said that people will only consume information that is either useful or gratifying to them – and I wholeheartedly believe that. A few articles or Facebook posts in a row that fail to meet the “usefulness and gratification test” mean that your followers stop paying attention. A few in a row that catch their eye means that the next post is more likely to attract attention.  Media is about momentum, too. Updates need to come regularly, and they need to be consistently relevant or interesting.

Highly engaged followers can become the sort of evangelists who drive more traffic to your work.