E-expectations: Marketing Lessons for Online Student Recruitment
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the E-expectations research with college-bound high school students that started in 2005. Stephanie Guyer from Ruffalo Noel Levitz and Lance Merker from OmniUpdate presented the results at the eduWeb Digital Summit in July. You can read and download their slides here.
These "top marketing lessons" are the 2015 findings that deserve special attention as people work to fine-tune student recruitment marketing strategies. From the first time a potential student visits a college website to the end of the recruitment cycle, the lessons learned from the E-expectations results will increase conversions at each critical point.
The 4 top marketing lessons:
- Your website is your most important online component.
- Don't expect too much from social media.
- Email is important throughout the recruitment cycle.
- Texting is growing in value.
Websites: Tops in online importance and more important than print
- A college or university website is still the most important online element in student recruitment, more so than social media and at times more important than real people. Consider these findings:
- Nearly 100% of seniors and juniors say they find "reliable" information on your website. Nearly 50% of seniors and 42% of juniors believe that the quality of a higher ed website reflects the quality of the educational experience at the school that created it.
- If juniors have a question about your school, 70% are will turn first to your website for an answer rather than call a counselor at your school or ask at their high school or send you an email. Percents change for seniors who presumably know more people at a college that interests them, but 57% of seniors still turn first to your website to answer a question.
- Your website has more influence on what potential students think about your school than your print publications (or magazine rankings or college planning sites). That's true for both seniors (80% web, 33% print) and juniors (77% web, 38% print). Ranking and planning sites are far behind.
Social Media: Mixed reviews for content reliability
- Students are mixed on the value of social media. A high percent of seniors (39%) and juniors (52%) did not agree with this choice: "I find reliable info through college social media" sites.
- Don't expect lots of activity on social media. While just over 60% of seniors and juniors said they have "liked" a site, only about 20% of seniors and less than 10% of juniors commented on what they read. (That's normal. Most people who visit social media sites "read and leave" without any other "engagement.")
- Facebook remains the most important social media site, with just over 50% saying it was "best" for college research. YouTube is visited more often, but only about 30% said it was best for research. Everything else was lower yet. If social media resources are limited, focus first on Facebook.
Email: A valued key to successful marketing
- Email, of course, is far from dead.
- More than 80% of juniors and seniors trust the emails they receive from colleges.
- Nearly 100% will open an email from a school that interests them. And about 60% say they will open an email from a school they don't know.
- More than 60% check email on a smartphone at least daily. Make sure your emails are mobile-friendly as they open on the small screen.
Text Messages: They belong in the communication mix
- Texting can grow as a recruitment tool.
- More than 70% of seniors were willing to receive text messages, but only 28% had received one from a college. One reason: relatively few schools ask for permission to text. Few make it a clear choice on the admissions page as does St. Mary's University.