Engaging Prospective College Students and Their Parents Online: E-Expectations 2014

In recent years, social media and use of mobile devices by students have changed how prospective college students and parents research and interact with campuses. How can campuses adapt their content and e-recruitment strategies to effectively engage with these very different audiences? Stephanie Geyer, VP for Web Strategy and Interactive Marketing Services at Noel-Levitz, and Lance Merker, CEO and President of OmniUpdate, discussed research from a 2014 first-quarter survey of 1000 college-bound students and 500 parents.

This is the ninth annual E-Expectations survey. When it started, the survey recommended MySpace; we’ve come a long way in nine years!

Some key stats:

  • Both students (62% and parents (50.5%) prefer digital communications to phone/print materials… however: students (59%) “more likely to consider” schools that use email/text/SM than parents (42%).
  • Students (94%) and parents (90%) both strongly prefer to look on .edu than on FB page. (But 10% thought the other way, which was interesting.)
  • More than half of students said the .edu, email, and general college planning sites were “influential.”
    • Less influential: college rating sites, magazines, FB posts
  • Most reliable for students: .edu 97%, social media 53%.
  • Email:
    • NOT DEAD yet! 93% of seniors (UP from 82% in 2013) use email weekly, and 98% of both groups said they would open a message from a school they were considering.
    • 2/3 of both groups are checking their email on mobile devices, at least once a day!
    • Parents (33%) delete more email (13%) than students.
  • On paid ads:
    • When asked if they knew the school when they clicked on the ad — 55% of students/44% of parents recognized name, 19%/23% never heard of it, 17%/26% might want to attend, but only 10%/8% of clicks were on schools that they would “definitely want to attend.”
  • On texting:
    • More than half of both groups said they would allow a college representative to send them text messages!
    • Those that didn’t that it was mostly because they didn’t want to be marketed to, or because texting was only for friends and family.

On the website experience:

  • More than half of students and parents thought that college sites make a difference in their perceptions, and that the quality of the education is related to the website experience.
  • Parents were twice as impressed (32% vs 16%) with job placement/grad school stats on your site than students were.
  • Mobile:
    • 90% of seniors (up from 78% in 2013) and 81% of parents have regular access to a mobile site. 67% of seniors had a smart phone, 50% of parents.
    • 40% of seniors are on mobile all the time, 52% “if no PC is available.”
    • 71% of seniors have looked at a college site on mobile.

What are schools doing on social media?

  • The usual: FB, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram all strong:

  • FB:
    • A quarter of students “don’t post frequently, but check my newsfeed at least once a day.” (17% of parents)
    • 10% of students post at least once a day. (17% of parents)
    • 51% of students/36% of students say they have visited a university FB page… BUT 36% of students “like” a college, whereas 43% of parents do.
  • Twitter and Google+ both growing; about a third of students using both media.
  • More students on Google+ than Pinterest!?

Takeaways:

  • No, email isn’t dead. It just looks different; make sure you’re mobile-friendly. (Of course, if you still need to be told that in 2014…)
  • Try text messaging! Might be a great yield idea.
  • What does your .edu say about you? More than you think! Students and parents are very much swayed by the experiences they have on your site.
  • Match web content value propositions with email messages, landing page text, and social media posts.
  • Complete the marketing cycle by measuring the success of each major initiative, and pilot new ideas!
  • Explain to students how you’re going to use their data. Be clear on how you will communicate.

What else did you notice from this year’s study? Talk to Lance and Stephanie and let them know!

Bonus content: Stephanie and Lance were guests earlier this year on Admissions Live. See their discussion with your friendly LINK blogger — and Admissions Live host — here:

  • Antoni

    Some of these numbers are interesting. But none of them are, unfortunately, surprising. Being new to the education sector, I can say with confidence, that these trends have been seen for a long time in the corporate world. Education needs to catch up. And the institution who can generate a proper plan of attack and be the first to market with it will be very successful.

  • Adam Evanston

    Where can we find the slides from this talk? I remember them saying the slides would be available online when we attended the talk.

    • Dave Tyler

      Adam, I believe the association will be sharing links soon.

  • hi please post the slides when you can. thanks great conference.