05 Sep Social Media: How Important is it in a Prospective Student’s Research Process when Deciding Where to Study?
In recent years, social media has practically infiltrated our lives. According to the 2019 global digital report, approximately 3.5 billion people, 45% of the world’s population are now social media users. In Australia alone, 72% of the population are active social media users.
While all generations have been exposed to social media, Generation Z – those born between 1996 and 2012, are particularly exposed since they have never lived in a world without social media. Research has also shown that the younger generation tend to view social media communications as more credible than that of traditional media.
With Generation Z being digital natives, they are constantly immersed in the world of digital media and have seamlessly integrated technology into their lives. It’s of no surprise that this includes conducting research on where they would like to study in the future.
Social Media Frenzy
Nearly 44% of Generation Z check their social media hourly. In recent years, prospective students have shifted from a reliance on rankings and guides and are now using social media channels while making study decisions.
Being such avid users of social media, it’s only expected that social media is used as part of the research process when it comes to higher education. With social media usage at an all-time high, an increasing number of high school students are using social media to decide which university to enrol in.
How is Social Media Used?
Through social media, prospective students can get an overall gist of what the institution offers their students, and a snapshot of what campus life is like. Prospective students can also search for hashtags on Twitter or Instagram to see what current students are saying about the institution.
Some students may even use social media channels such as Twitter to engage in two-way conversation with a staff or even current students. Rather than going through the institution’s website, prospective students may just hop onto social media for a more efficient and personal response.
The Stats Don’t Lie
According to the most recent QSES 2019 Domestic Student Survey Report, 57% of prospects are using social media as part of the research process when deciding where to study.
Interestingly, 64% of prospects use social media at the start of the process to conduct initial research on the courses and institutions available. Once they have chosen a course and an institution, social media usage drops to 38% and one-to-one communication channels (email, phone and live chat) increase significantly.
Social media continues to hover at a lower number as they submit their application (23%) and accept their offer (18%). It does, however, pick up once again after the prospect has accepted an offer (33%).
What does this mean?
Institutions should use social media to better engage with their prospective students especially at the start of the process. In the age of social media, having a two-way conversation is imperative.
To start, institutions can use social media channels to share the culture of the institution, history, and even include the experience of current students and what they are currently up to. Nothing turns off a prospective student more than a bland social media account with nothing engaging.
Many institutions now have student generated content to showcase their lives on campus. Examples include a sneak peek into the classes that they are taking, or even videos showing a normal day of school.
While content is important, many students also use social media channels to ask questions and engage in conversations. These are great channels for institutions to monitor and leverage to see what students are asking, and what they may need from the institution.
Figuring out where to study is a rather exciting process for a prospective student. In the age of technology, it’s now easier than ever to find out more information about the institution and assess whether it’s well-suited to their needs. Hence, it’s more important now than ever for institutions to ensure that they have engaging content that enables a two-way conversation between them and their prospective students.