Put Student Affairs in Motion:
Social Media Expectations of Students
BY STEPHANIE GEYER
In conducting usability tests for campus websites, I not only see what students are doing on a site but also hear their comments. During one recent test, a student talked about how much he enjoyed finding videos on college and university sites and You Tube. He said that he wanted to see what people “looked like” and get a feel for the campus—its culture,
landscape, and overall vibe—even more than he cared about what the institution had to say. He is not alone in that desire.
The E-Expectations Study, a joint research project from
Noel-Levitz, the National Research Center for College and
University Admissions and Omni Update, shows that college-bound students are looking at videos to get the "vibe" of
your campus, too. (The research report is available at www.
noellevitz.com/expectations.) Of the 1,089 students surveyed,
55 percent of respondents said they watched videos posted on
college websites, while 27 percent also visited You Tube to look
for video content from colleges. When asked what the most
interesting video content was, 48 percent replied student life,
15 percent noted the area around campus, and 6 percent cited
the residence halls. The remaining 31 percent
sought academic programs, classes, or faculty.
What video resources does your campus offer
to prospective students? Are they professionally produced or do you find room for student
productions or even alumni contributions?
This interest in student life demonstrates
one way that prospective students are trying
to connect with a campus. They are assessing if they will fit in with the campus and if
they should begin to build a relationship with
the institution. If a student has already applied or has been
accepted at an institution, it can help assure them that they are
making a good choice.
Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, also help students make campus connections. Four out of five respondents
said they had a Facebook account, 27 percent had viewed a
college Facebook page, and 15 percent of these students had
posted comments or asked questions. While the majority of
students may not be reaching out to colleges on Facebook yet,
there is evidence that it is a compelling platform to share important details and provide a sense of the campus community.
As for Twitter, only nine percent of students said they had
a Twitter account, and just 19 percent of those said they followed the Twitter accounts of colleges. What about blogs?
They may not be worth the effort: 77 percent of students said
they never or only rarely read blogs by students or faculty.
While these responses are from college-bound high school
students, the results and especially the interest in campus-
specific social networks have significance for current students
and student affairs staff. Both student recruitment and student
retention are about building relationships, and social media
provide campuses with a very direct way to connect with all
students and make them feel part of the campus community.
Creating this kind of connection with current students can
strengthen their ties to the campus and provide colleagues with
opportunities to celebrate success and trouble-shoot problems.
Stephanie Geyer is associate vice president for web strategy services at
Noel-Levitz and can answer questions about social media strategies at