Studies suggest Universities should utilise social media as a platform to engage with parents, since parents are key influencers in their child’s decision-making process for higher education.

With the rise of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, college admission professionals are relying less and less on sites such as Facebook, the virtual pioneers in the world of social media. But with older generations becoming increasingly savvy with technology, institutions must begin to target this growing user base to hike up student numbers.

In 2011, a survey commissioned by Noel-Levitz set out to examine the responses of college-bound high school students and their parents, observing their behaviour and expectations regarding college websites, social media and other key topics in the e-recruitment process.

Via 2011 E-Expectations Report: The Online Expectations of Prospective College Students and Their Parents.

According to the survey, 59 percent of students say they had assistance from their parents when choosing potential universities. The same study found that approximately half of these students would make their final decision in accordance to their parents’ opinion.

The older demographic is certainly on the rise in the realm of social media, as demonstrated by the Pew Study report of 2014. The study found that for the first time since they began collecting data, more than half (56%) of internet users age 65 and older were using Facebook, a 31 percent representation of all senior users of social media. For adults between the ages of 30 and 49, this number peaked to 73 percent.

“In a new survey conducted September 2014, the Pew Research Center finds that Facebook remains by far the most popular social media site,” the report states. “While its growth has slowed, the level of user engagement with the platform has increased.

Pew Research Center’s Internet Project Surveys, 2012-2014.
Via Pew Research Center.

“Other platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn saw significant increases over the past year in the proportion of online adults who now use their site.”

These findings demonstrate that while enticing prospective scholars is important, universities must not ignore the parents as they are also key decision makers in this process.

In light of these conclusions, a number of institutions have developed campaigns that have allowed them to successfully connect with parents of prospective students via social media.

Via 2011 E-Expectations Report: The Online Expectations of Prospective College Students and Their Parents.

Boston College is one such institution. Like a number of other colleges, Boston has made use of the hashtag, for example #bc360, which is used as a digital tool to make social posts conveniently searchable. It also uses its very own Facebook profile to connect with the local police department, keeping both students and their parents in the loop with regards to issues like health and safety. Boston College’s Office of News and Public Affairs has also published a guide for the benefit of its social media managers.

Michigan State University came up with an innovative way to boost its online recruitment campaign when it celebrated its fight song’s 100th anniversary with a ‘Spartan Virtual Choir’, encouraging members of the community to post their own online version. The University of California, Berkeley, has also exploited social media, creating a live online stream that allowed parents to view their children as they moved into their dorms.

These results show that the modern student is using a variety of social media systems to help them decide where to pursue their education, and with this in mind, universities should consider which online network is best suited to maximise recruitment campaigns. That being said, Facebook has remained the dominant body in the realm of social media, and could therefore be considered the most effective route to engage with parents of prospective students.

As Abi Mandelbaum, co-founder and CEO of YouVisit writes for University World News: “…with many parents’ hands on the purse strings, they have a lot to say over where those students eventually enrol. Engaging them on Facebook, answering their questions and providing content they’ll enjoy, will go a long way toward giving them a good impression of your university system.”

Image via Shutterstock.

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