How Johns Hopkins has become a leader in social media use for admissions

DC:  We definitely feel that the ability of our prospective audiences to comment, to communicate with us, to post on a Facebook page is what social media is about. So we keep those channels open.

The only protection we have against it is [anti-] spam features—just making sure we don’t get spammed. Other than that, if a prospective student goes to a blog or goes to our message board, they’re able to create posts or comments.

We do moderate. It’s very rare we ever delete a comment or remove a post, unless it doesn’t fit into the guidelines that we’ve set. In our guidelines to our message board, we state that we’re not going to comment on or about a student’s chances for admission.

DT: Talk about your staff of 25.

DC: Our selection process has grown, as each incoming class knows the resources of Hopkins Interactive a lot better. With what we’ve created now, there’s such a buzz about what we do.  The incoming freshmen are contacted in the late summer with an application to fill out. It’s a three-page application, which includes writing two sample blogs.

They have to tell us their experiences with social media and then share with us some ideas on how they would improve the Hopkins Interactive site.

This year, we received more than 80 applications and brought in nine freshmen. Those students are then fully part of the group. Returning members—upperclassmen—tend to stay with the group. That’s how the group expands each year.

It’s pretty intense. By the first week of classes as freshmen, they’re already a part of something that’s a major organization—and they’re going to be blogging within two weeks of arriving on campus. I think that’s something we do that many other schools don’t—get those freshmen blogging right away.

DT: You have these 25 stars on your team. What are some of these young social media mavens doing that is inspiring?

DC: They really are what keep me going every day. What I’ve begun to realize is how much what they’re doing with me and what they’re doing with the admissions office is helping them along the way.

I just finished a letter of recommendation for a freshman who is applying for an internship at the White House. She wants to work in their communications division. And I’m thinking, “She’s already published 10 blogs, has a social media profile, has a Twitter account, she edits our YouTube videos.” She’s a viable candidate, and she’s only been in college for four or five months so far.

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