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Facebook increasingly used to recruit to college

November 28, 2011

A recent study shows more universities across the country are using Facebook as a tool to recruit prospective students — and MSU is continuing the trend of increased social media use.

The study, conducted by Varsity Outreach, showed that nearly 80 percent of the 150 responding schools said they use Facebook for admissions purposes, which is a 13 percent jump from the 2010 study. Eighty-nine percent also responded that Facebook is “very/somewhat important” to the school’s social media presence.

“It’s definitely grown since last year,” said Mark Rothbaum, president of Varsity Outreach. “I would imagine that number is going to get even bigger. It is a unique opportunity to reach so many students in one place.”

Varsity Outreach is a company that works with colleges on marketing and social networking needs.

The company sent a survey via email to roughly 2,000 admissions offices around the country, and the study was based on the 150 schools that responded, Rothbaum said.

“I would say the large majority of high school students are on Facebook for personal reasons,” he said. “You want to reach students where they’re at. It allows (schools) to have less formal interaction with these students.”

Facebook and other social networks are “very important” assets for MSU when it comes to recruiting students, said Gabe Santi, director of communications for the MSU Office of Admissions.

“Our main goal is really to establish a dialogue,” Santi said. “We encourage students or parents who have questions about the admissions process … to submit it on our Facebook page, and we can answer it that way.”

Santi said MSU maintains a strong social media presence because it is the preferred medium of communication for many people, and it allows them to communicate with people in a more personal way.

He said the office encourages students to connect with MSU on its Twitter and Facebook pages rather than only using the MSU website.

“They don’t need to pick up the phone. They don’t need to send an email. They can just go on Facebook,” he said.

Although there is no true measuring stick when it comes to the effectiveness of social media, responses from users have been “very positive,” Santi said, adding that Facebook and Twitter serve as a “customer service” resource for the university.

“I think analyzing social media to this point is an inexact science,” he said. “It’s effective as another layer of our communication.”

Supply chain management junior Josh Bradford said he understands why universities are using Facebook as a recruiting tool, even though he said it was never a factor when he was looking at colleges.

“Everyone is so connected (on Facebook),” he said. “You can create a Michigan State group or (a) Michigan State page and go through high school pages (to recruit students.) I know a lot of high schools (are on Facebook), and you could post on there and stuff.”

Santi doesn’t see the use of social media by college admissions offices declining any time soon, he said.

“Social media is still growing, frankly, and it’s still becoming more popular,” Santi said. “It’s certainly affecting how much time we’re spending on it, and I don’t think we’re unique.”

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