The Importance of Leveraging
Social Media for College Recruiters

Traditional Enrollment Marketing Is A Thing Of The Past

Video storytelling gives the 61 million Gen Zers all the information they’re looking for or need in order to feel like they’re making an informed consumer decision. They’ll do their research this way on anything from new makeup techniques to trending music groups to how to fix a flat tire. So why would selecting a college be any different?

Meet my daughter, Jenn; a high school senior and a living, breathing member of Gen Z. More importantly, she is unlike any student I’ve recruited (or child I’ve parented) in the past: as a digital native, when she wants to learn about something YouTube is her first click.

This past summer, as she started to narrow the choice of colleges she planned apply to, I decided to start spending some time on college websites. This time, instead of analyzing each page as ‘the competition’ I was looking at them as prospective college parent. I dutifully followed the “journey map” laid out for me. I watched the 12-minutevideo campus tours and professor interviews. I scrolled through carefully manicured photos of logo-wearing college students enjoying the “approved” parts of on campus living. And of course, I went to the tuition and fees pages to see just how much I was going to be set back.

At this point, I was feeling pretty confident that I had a good handle of college-life at her top choice schools, so I called Jenn over. After trying relentlessly – mostly in vain – to peel her away from the phone, she finally joined me at the computer so we could explore schools together. Within about 10 seconds, she was already bored and fed up with the videos and pictures that I had spent so much time reviewing earlier.

    “I don’t understand what I’m supposed to be looking at.”

    “They’re so boring.”

    “It’s obviously fake!”

    The criticisms continued as she flipped at warp speed through photos. I sat, aghast, thinking about the hours (and oh, so much money!) I had been wasting as an admission professional on these tools that she simply was dismissing. Finally, with a patented teenage sigh, she pulled out her phone and started showing me student-generated, short-form videos.

    That afternoon, she and I watched dozens of jumpy, off-center, dizzying 1-minute windows into the world of real-life students. First, she opened YouTube, then Snap Chat, and finally Instagram. With each new platform, within seconds, she had a new cache of videos and captioned photos of students and prospective students just like her, walking around campus, eating in cafeterias, drinking out of red Solo cups, and more, narrating the real-life ins and outs of campus life.

Videos Created By College Enrollment Teams

Authentic Student Videos

Which Video Better Kept Your Attention?

Student videos just like these covered everything she wanted to know about college life at her top choice schools; dorm room sizes, high costs of loans, the best parties to check out, and why they chose this school - without any staging and long running times. The college recruiter in me was stunned to see how powerful social media and storytelling is for the enrollment marketing toolbox when looking to engage prospective students.

It didn’t take long before I realized that recruiting college students today is more complex than it has ever been before. University marketers can no longer ignore the universal truth among Gen Zers: Authenticity reigns supreme and if it’s not in a video, it doesn’t exist. This is what makes comprehensive social marketing strategies like U-SOCIAL™ a key tool in the enrollment marketer's toolbox.

I’m happy to say that Jenn made her final decision and this time next Fall, she’ll be posting her campus life for the rest of her Gen Z companions to see and share; and I got to see first-hand how the conversion potential of short form, authentic, influencer videos cannot be underestimated.

About Thinking Cap Agency

Thinking Cap Agency is the higher education sister company of Refuel Agency. With over 25 years of higher education marketing experience, Thinking Cap is a performance and digital-driven agency that has mastered the student recruitment process from awareness to enrollment. Thinking Cap Agency serves institutions nationwide with headquarters in New York City, and offices in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, CA, and Princeton, NJ.

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