Twitter… 26 sites for undergraduate admissions are not yet a marketing force

Twitter includes at least 26 dedicated undergraduate admissions sites that are reviewed here today. This post continues a review of how colleges and universities are using Twitter for online communications. The first post looked at 9 graduate and professional schools.

This collection started with a group of 10 sites that I was already following from my Twitter site. Another 16 sites were added after a Twitter search for “admissions.” Admissions sites for graduate and professional schools were not included. No doubt some sites especially for admissions were not found and many other general higher education sites that are not included here contain information about admissions. Sites are presented in the order returned by the Twitter search.

Why create a site especially for admissions?

From a marketing perspective, a Twitter site dedicated to the special interests and needs of potential students is a good thing if it is implemented in the right way. Information and conversation with possible future students won’t get lost in a sea of updates for alumni and internal audiences. 

General observations on the 26 sites:

  • Twitter is not yet an important part of the marketing communication mix, although a few show early signs that it might become important if followers increase. That observation is based on one factor: number of followers. The follower total doesn’t guarantee that people are paying attention, but without followers there can’t be an enrollment impact.
  • Some schools are starting sites and not paying much attention to them. That’s the only explanation for the small number of updates at several places reviewed. Someone decided to create a site, but that person either lost interest or could not get enough time allocated from other responsibilities to make the frequent updates that Twitter demands.
  • Dedicated Twitter sites are growing more rapidly this year than last, measured by the number starting since January 1. That’s an opportunity to look back 5 or 6 months from now and see how followers have grown. If a dedicated admissions site on Twitter is going to become an important part of the marketing communications mix for student recruitment, we’ll know more by June 1.
  • If you’re new to this and looking for two models to review before starting your own dedicated Twitter site for admissions, spend time with UC Davis and Drexel University.
  • Most creative tweet: free cupcakes for visiting University of Washington Tacoma.  

Overall conclusions on key Twitter elements that emerged from the review:

  • Tone: What’s the right balance between a personal and a professional relationship? That’s a tricky question that admissions Twitter sites have to resolve. More often than note, these sites lean toward the professional, with formal notes on what’s happening within the admissions process and at the host institution. The Drexel site stands out for the ability to mix personal conversation with potential students (how to appeal a financial aid award, for instance) with the formal notices.
  • Content: For the most part, content is appropriate to the admissions topic. The problem is some cases is that there isn’t enough of it. That’s because of the paucity of posts at several of the schools reviewed. Setting up an site around Labor Day last year and making 21 updates since then doesn’t equal adequate content. 
  • Linking: The great majority of posts on most of the sites link to more information about the topic covered, are retweets, or are personal contacts with individual people.
  • Bio: As with the professional schools, there’s a “build the brand” opportunity here that many schools are missing. Like so many tag lines, too many of these “bio” statements could be moved from one school to another and fit quite well. A few that stand out are highlighted. A couple had no “bio” statements at all.
  • Followers: Followers are far lower than at the professional schools, with the highest at 346 for UC Davis. In many cases, that’s because the sites were just started in February or March of this year. But even sites that are 6 months old have fewer than 200 followers so far. That fact means that designated Twitter sites for admissions are not yet an important marketing element. 
  • Competitive Intelligence: Twitter offers a competitive intelligence opportunity to follow the posts of rival schools. Many of our examples follow some other school or admissions sites, but quick scans didn’t reveal systematic monitoring of how competitors are using Twitter for marketing impact. Of course, competitors might yet be using Twitter. 

10 Schools With At Least 75 Followers

UC Davis

A venerable site in Twitter-time that started on 25 August with 403 updates since then. The effort has gained 346 followers. The admissions folk are following an eclectic 185 sites, ranging from a few admissions sites to sports, individual people, Good Morning America, The History Faculty and the Davis food co-op.

Updates are what you’d expect: notes on academic programs,sports, faculty achievements, admissions and financial aid deadlines. Just about everything links back to the UC Davis website. RTs abound.

Bio: “UC Davis official undergrad admission updates, deadlines and interesting tidbits.” 

http://twitter.com/ucdavis 

WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

Started 19 September. Only 30 updates since then, but a relatively robust 186 followers, matched by 188 people or places being followed.

Updates are weighted toward the admissions process. Sports aren’t important and no references to student or faculty activities on campus. Pretty much just as the “bio” promises.

Bio: “WPI Admissions news, events, updates, and reminders. Check out @W_P_I for more.”

http://twitter.com/WPIAdmissions

Drexel University

Just started on 5 December and already 293 updates to 191 followers. Sites being followed: 200.

The feel here is very “social” with many updates in response to questions as varied as the admissions process, financial aid awards and appeals, and where people eat on campus (from trucks on the street as much as from the cafeterias). Relative low proportion of links back to regular website content.

Bio: “Here to share information about Drexel University and answer your admissions questions.”

http://twitter.com/DrexelAdmission

University of Oregon

Started on 12 November, this is a relatively quiet place with only 35 updates since then for the 149 who are following. Many posts link back to the regular website and three promote engagement with Oregon sites at Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube.

Virtually all posts have links to web pages. A scan of the first 3 pages of those being followed shows a handful of other admissions or university sites and one winery.

Bio: “A world-class public university dedicated to teaching and research. Be a Duck!”

http://twitter.com/BeAnOregonDuck 

California State University San Bernadino

A new site that just started on 4 February 09 and has 102 followers since then. Updates at 41 pass the older WPI and Oregon sites and promise a reasonable level of ongoing activity.

Given the recent start, the 162 sites being followed is impressive. The list includes several other admissions sites, a few from CSUSB, and reaches as far as “PokerBookAuthor” and “The History Faculty.”

Bio: “Cal State San Bernardino Office of Admissions & Student Recruitment”

http://twitter.com/CSUSBAdmissions

University of Nevada

Since starting up back on 5 September, the site has been quiet with only 21 updates and 101 followers. Most updates are formal entries about admissions and financial aid, but March madness saw 2 updates about basketball.

Several admissions sites are among those followed, although my favorite was “isleptthroughclass,” an “online note sharing community for college students.”

Bio: “Go Beyond @ the University of Nevada” 

http://twitter.com/nevadabound

University of Wisconsin Green Bay

Relatively ancient by Twitter-time, this site started on 9 May 2008 but has been relatively quiet since then with just 82 updates and 102 followers. I enjoyed the link to an interactive online catalog (no PDF!) that worked better than most similar efforts.

Nearly all the sites being followed are other Twitter spots from various offices within the university. Didn’t check to see how active they were, but at least setting up a Twitter account seems to be a popular activity, from Disability Services at the start to Academic Advising at the end.

Bio: “The Admissions Office at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) 

http://twitter.com/admissions

Winthrop University

Another new site that started on 6 January and has since published 83 updates and won 96 followers, while following another 82 sites. That’s a much higher activity level than at older Twitter sites and bodes well for the future. 

What stands out among some of the updates is the absence of a link where it seems natural: mentions of Facebook sites, for instance. And a reference to a very successful visit day might have included a link to where to sign for the next visit opportunity.

The followed sites include several high schools and prep schools (feeders, we presume) and well as several people who offer advice to college bound students. 

Bio: “Founded in 1886, Winthrop University is a public, coeducational, comprehensive teaching university with a student body of more than 6,300 students.”

http://twitter.com/WUadmissions

University of Delaware

Since starting up on 17 September, there have only been 35 updates and the site has only 74 followers.

None of the updates link to anywhere on the main University website; only two connect with other people. Overall, the content here is not aimed at potential students but recounts activities and frustrations of someone in the admissions office.

Two universities are being followed (University of Illinois at Springfield and Bryant University).

Bio: “University of Delaware Admissions”

http://twitter.com/UDAdmissions

California State University Monterey Bay

Off to a recent start on 25 February, the site now has 174 followers and 8 updates.

The still few comments primarily cover admissions steps for new admits, but include one on athletics. Most of the sites being followed are from CSUMB or the state system.

Bio: “CSUMB Admissions and Recruitment”

http://twitter.com/CSUMBAdmissions

The Other 16 Twitter Sites

From this point on, we enter a territory where the other admissions sites found on Twitter have fewer than 50 followers. What we’ll include here is the URL for the site, the start date, and the number of followers and updates. Glance at the activity on the site and its success at attracting someone who might enroll. The “bio” is added if a marketing element stands out from what’s being used by most others.

Special Social Friendliness Award

  • New York University http://twitter.com/NYUAdmissions The only undergraduate site found that requires approval to follow. My request is “pending.” 21 followers and 8 updates.

That’s it for now. Look for a report on far fewer alumni sites next week.

 

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