Are college-bound students leaving social media?

Sixty-seven percent of students say they still use Facebook, but that’s a drop of 12 percentage points from last year.

A new survey has found sharp decreases in the number of college-bound high school juniors and seniors who use social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Google Plus.

The 2013 E-Expectations Report, conducted by Noel-Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeekLive, and NRCCUA during March and April, examined how social media and mobile devices are affecting students’ search for the right college. About 2,000 students participated in the survey.

Sixty-seven percent of the respondents said they still use Facebook, but that’s a drop of 12 percentage points from last year. In a webinar announcing the findings, Stephanie Geyer, Noel-Levitz’s associate vice president, cautioned admissions offices from reacting too rashly based on the results.

“Please do not run out of the room screaming that you need to shut down your Facebook presence,” Geyer said. “That is not my message today. My message is that the sands are shifting and we need to keep watching and seeing what’s going on.”

Older transfer and adult students are on Facebook more than ever, she said, and two-thirds of college-bound juniors and seniors still use the website.

An even larger drop was found in the percentage of respondents who said they use YouTube. In 2012, 62 percent of students said they used the video site. This year, that percentage fell to 32 percent. Geyer said the most surprising change was the drop in students using Google Plus.

See Page 2 to see which forms of social media made gains among high school juniors and seniors this year.

While last year’s report was the first time the survey asked students about Google’s answer to Facebook, nearly 20 percent of the respondents said they frequented the site.

Now, only 5 percent of respondents said they use Google Plus.

“Were puzzling a little bit about the sharp decline,” Geyer said. “It really fell off. But I wouldn’t abandon Google Plus just yet. The SEO benefits are important and I think, long-term, Google Plus will stay the course and come back.”

While it’s hard to say exactly where the students are now spending their time online, other forms of social media are seeing an increase in use, according to the survey.

Nearly three out of 10 students now use Twitter, rising one percentage point from last year’s survey. E-Expectations Report newbie Instagram made a strong entrance with 15 percent, while 3 percent of respondents said they use the oft-criticized photo-sharing app Snapchat.

The survey also found that while virtually all of the students said they think information on a university’s website is reliable, only about half of them said they trust information delivered through a university’s social media.

I was expecting a pretty significant difference,” Geyer said. “But I think it is encouraging and interesting to see perhaps more trust being put in social media than I might have expected.”

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