University Recruitment: The Social Media Avenue

Paul Reifenstein    November 20, 2013


Marketing and universities go hand in hand.  As much as students feel that post secondary education is part of their natural life path, there are so many options for them to choose from when that time in their life comes, that marketing the university or college experience has become quite a competition.  It makes sense though with university and college recruitment having been around for decades, why not take the recruitment online?  This kind of approach can have a much larger impact on a wider audience than simply the potential incoming class.

In 2011, researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth found that 100% of sampled U.S school were using some form of social media.  In 2008, that number was at only 61%.  Facebook was by far, the largest feed that universities made use of, with 98% of universities in the study saying they had a presence on Facebook.  Knowing this, and the popularity of social media, recruitment offices would be remiss to not make use of this medium.

Some of the most popular approaches to market the post secondary experience on social media.  At the Ontario University Fair every year in Toronto, the Twitter feeds, Facebook and Instagram photos are never ending.  But the U.S is doing it bigger and better.  College fairs in various states are using recruitment methods to not only show off “the goods” but to be able to connect with students throughout the entire recruitment and application process.

At a college fair in Milwaukee in September, quick bar code scans allowed admissions folks to instantly acquire the email and home mailing address for approximately 5 000 students who came through their booth.  Tim Cigelske, director of social media for Marquette University advocated that, “it doesn’t replace the personal touch.  Social media is the initial contact of follow up to get someone to actually take a tour or meet with an admissions counselor.

But, having their contact information doesn’t hurt either.  With an email address schools can start sending invites to their various social media sites where students can see photos, videos, and more of the campus than some tours might be able to offer.  Even at our very own University of Waterloo, students can go onto Twitter and see some amazing photos of the student experience by searching for #uwaterloolife

Post secondary institutions will continue to come up with new and innovative ideas for engaging potential and current students.  Whether a student makes their decision to come to a school based on how cool their Facebook page was remains to be seen, but in any case universities and colleges will still try to stay at the top of their game in order to attract the best and the brightest.

But really, who wouldn’t want to go here based on this?



Lessons Learned:

  • With the increased use of social media metrics, institutions can track their social media success based on specific times of the year and when their marketing is at its peak
  • There is an opportunity for students from around the world to learn about the student experience at any university or college if that institution has a decent social media presence
  • In time, there will need to be some discussion around whether this actually works or not.  What could institutions do to move past the fun, welcoming feel and truly influence a students’ decision to attend the institution or not?
  • With the increase of MOOCs, will the social media marketing campaign extend to those?


7 Ways Universities are Using Facebook as a Marketing Tool

5 Unique College Facebook Pages

Colleges Deploy Social Media in Scramble to Recruit the Best Students

Submitted by: Paul Reifenstein – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.  To contact the author of this blog post, please email

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.