Organization: Wilfrid Laurier University
Industry: Post-secondary education
Web references: Wilfrid Laurier University and its social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram, as well as other sources with links posted throughout this blog entry.
Like any suitor who uses social media to find a soul mate, university recruiters are plying high-tech tools to woo prospective students. And Wilfrid Laurier University is no exception. Recruiters and communications staff at the Waterloo-based school are constantly inventing new ways to connect with prospective students through a raft of social media tools and projects, said Melissa Stephens, Laurier’s manager of marketing and communications – recruitment and admissions. “We’re trying to come up with new things that they can easily access on their phones,” Stephens said in a recent telephone interview.
In recent article in University Affairs, Rosanna Tamburri describes how some Canadian university recruiters are using video conferencing and other social media channels to connect with prospective students. And in an earlier blog post I describe how Royal Roads University gave prospects a glimpse of life on campus.
What does the future have in store for recruiters at Laurier? More mobile. More video (perhaps crowdsourced, to some extent). Marrying traditional print and new digital media. But before we peek into the future, let’s look at how Laurier is already trying to attract the eyes and earn the affections of potential students.
The ‘look’: When looking for love in the world, it’s best to comb your hair and put on a clean shirt before you walk out the front door. In October 2014 Laurier launched a new website specifically designed to appeal to prospective students. Visually, it’s clean. Big pictures of smiling young faces project a friendly atmosphere. And blocks of text are short and written in a conversational tone.
Social listening: For relationships to work, partners have to be good listeners. Stephens said she often checks forums where prospective students swap insights and opinions about various schools — forums such as yconic.
#LaurierLove: If you want to be a true friend, you have to “be there” for your mate. So, as expected, Laurier makes itself available to prospective and current students through its social media accounts that include major platforms employing the hashtag #LaurierLove. Facebook (10,623 page likes); Twitter @LaurierNews (14,000+ followers); Instagram (about 2,000 followers); YouTube; and LinkedIn. Sandra Muir, Laurier’s social media strategist, said in a recent interview that she’s keeping tabs on new channels such as Yik Yak and Snapchat. But she doesn’t chase an audience whose members easily flit from one platform to another.
To hear why she doesn’t “chase platforms,” watch the following video clip:
First dates: Flirting online is one thing, but at some point potential mates have to meet face to face. At those times, Laurier makes creative use of social media platforms.
For its 2015 spring open house, the school is running a contest dubbed Tweet Your Match. When visitors arrive on campus they will be given a lanyard bearing a number and will be encouraged to find people — other visitors, current students, staff or faculty members — with the same number and tweet pictures of them together. Prospective students who can’t get to an open house can take a virtual tour.
For graduating students last year, Laurier contracted with Eventpeeks to display, on large screens on campus, convocation pictures that were tweeted during the celebration. According to Eventpeeks:
“Wilfrid Laurier’s Convocation ceremonies reached 1,641,227 people on Twitter via 7516 Tweets with just over 11 million impressions.”
What about tomorrow?
Who knows what the future will bring? Muir says it’s tough to predict what social media tools the university will be using five years from now. “We don’t even know what tools will exist,” she said. But here are a few ways that Laurier recruiters are likely to bolster their social media activity in the future:
Texting: As she keeps her eyes on the latest social media trends, Muir believes reaching people by sending texts to their mobile phones will become more common. “If we send out an email to students we often already have to tweet to let them know to check their email,” Muir said. “So texting, I think, would be the next level considering the importance of mobile in the lives of many people.” Although, at this point, Muir said she’s not sure how that would be implemented.
Apps: There’s no doubt, teenagers love apps. Laurier staff regularly visit high schools during recruiting fairs. Stephens said during a recent high school visit one student told her that he’d like universities to provide apps that would remind him of important due dates and, in general, simplify the vast amount of information on their websites. Hear Stephens tells the story:
Seeing a good movie: Stephens said she will definitely be spending more resources on video in the near future. But rather than having videos created by professionals, Stephens hopes to enlist students (perhaps crowdsource) to create them. “We do still have to have some parameters on it,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re showcasing Laurier in the best light, while still giving them the freedom to be creative and do what they want to do.”
Marrying old and new media: With the advent of the internet, print and digital media have often been uneasy bedfellows. But relations are warming up. As technology evolves, Stephens is exploring ways to integrate Laurier’s traditional print recruiting materials with online digital media such as the planned student-produced videos.
For example, she hopes to use new technology that seems to be replacing QR codes.The codes have been widely panned by critics. Stephens wants to incorporate new technology into Laurier’s recruiting material so that, if all goes well, a prospective student could use a smartphone to photograph a recruitment poster or viewbook and immediately see one of the student-produced videos that could be easily shared with an online friend.
To learn about six alternatives to QR codes, click here. Or click below to watch a demonstration video for Ricoh’s Clickable Paper app.
Lessons for building a life together:
- Universities must “be there” for prospective students, but shouldn’t come on too strongly. “We don’t want to be bugging them and in their face,” Stephens said. “We want to be reaching them where they want to be reached.”
- The amount of information that universities make available to prospective students can be baffling, so it might be wise for recruiters to think about creating apps to simplify access to essential information.
- There’s potential to engage prospects by marrying traditional print media with digital media. In the field of university recruiting, the combination of mobile, video and crowdsourcing are showing some promise.
Disclosure: Mirko Petricevic is a communications coordinator with Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, a federated college with Wilfrid Laurier University. During the fall of 2014 he edited and created content for Laurier’s new website. He can be reached at email@example.com
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