Recently we launched a site for University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) as part of a collaborative project with Neustadt Creative Marketing. The site and campaign behind it is called College.Be and the site lives here. The success of this project hinges...
Recently we launched a site for University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) as part of a collaborative project with Neustadt Creative Marketing. The site and campaign behind it is called College.Be and the site lives here. The success of this project hinges on how the current students use it, but the project was born out of trust. UMBC had to trust its students and trust that they understood what this site was all about. You see, the site is a social media aggregator, meaning once a student creates an account and ties in their social media accounts (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.) anything they post to those networks gets pulled into this site. And this site is being used to market UMBC to prospective students. The fact that UMBC liked this idea is a sign of a very healthy university and of great students.
I am often asked by admissions and communications folks working in higher ed, "How many Facebook Fan Pages should we set up? One for admissions? One for transfers? One for prospective athletes?" I always respond with a question, "Well, would you become a fan of something you had no idea about yet?" My point is - I doubt prospective students are scouring Facebook looking for schools they may or may not apply to or attend and becoming fans. I also seriously doubt they are giving as much weight to what an Admissions representative has to say as they are to what current students have to say. Thus creating the case for why the in person visits are so critical, as well as why student tour guides should be carefully selected by schools. Don't get me wrong, I think Facebook is a great resource for schools to use to keep in touch with alumni and current students. I just don't see the tremendous value in relying on it to connect with prospects.
I do think that allowing prospects to connect with current students in social networks they are comfortable within is the ideal scenario, assuming the school trusts its students, and assuming these students understand what it is they are being trusted with. I was pleasantly surprised at how excited and positive the UMBC students were when they were told, "This is a site for you guys to use, but it's also a site we plan on using to market the school to prospective students. We want to ensure that the right kind of kid knows about UMBC and applies because they see what you all are doing." They totally got it, and not only did they get it, they have embraced it. Personally, I would have loved this idea back when I was in school. I remember flipping through the viewbook every year, hot off the press, and grumbling to myself about bad photo choices or pictures of students who had graduated 4 years ago. With a site like College.Be I could have jumped online and ensured that every kid looking at my school knew all about it from my perspective.
What do you think? This is a hotly debated subject and I welcome all opinions and thoughts! Also - you can read Mark Neustadt's thoughts on the project on his blog - here.