“Facebook is ageing and its young users are in decline”
TERMINALFOUR, a digital marketing agency that works with HEIs, found the image-driven social media platform has nearly doubled its effectiveness in ‘engaging’ prospective students.
The survey took responses from recruitment professionals working in 383 universities and HEIs across the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and 17 other countries.
The study found that respondents believe that Facebook’s ability to engage students and prospective students is waning. While 62% reported it to be the top platform for engagement in 2017, that figure slid to 45% this year.
Instagram rose from 20% to 36% year-on-year, making it the fastest growing social media platform for student recruitment.
Looking ahead, 32% of marketing and recruitment professionals expect Instagram to be the social media platform they work with most over the next year. Facebook’s relevance for engaging prospective students is set to decline, with just a third (36%) of respondents saying that they would focus their time on Facebook, a significant drop from 54% in 2017.
One digital recruitment expert and commentator, Gerrit Bruno Blöss, managing director of Study.EU, said this change can be explained by a wider trend toward experiential marketing (“universities don’t only sell hard facts like rankings or employment prospects, they also sell an experience”), and image-driven social media.
But Facebook’s own issues, as well as its maturity in the digital media space, are important reasons for it perhaps losing its recruitment crown.
“Facebook is ageing and its prevalence among young users in decline, so it follows that recruiters and marketers would spend less effort on that platform, especially for undergraduate [recruitment],” Blöss told The PIE News.
“Another factor may be Facebook’s recently publicised data scandals.”
But Blöss also argued that with the right investment and strategy, social media outreach can be a successful way of recruiting students.
“If done with the right level of commitment and integrated into a broader marketing strategy [it can be successful]. A platform like Instagram requires authenticity that’s far from what used to work in old-school printed brochures,” he said.
But consistent interaction and strategy is vital to this, he pointed out.
“It’s important to keep in mind that social media platforms are interactive and require HEIs to handle feedback, questions or complaints on short notice”.
But just 22% of global HEIs have increased investment in digital marketing over the last two years, despite the fact that 85% say the primary objective of their web strategy is to recruit more students, according to the survey results.
Piero Tintori, CEO and founder of TERMINALFOUR described this trend as “highly worrying”.
“Our research shows that where universities are investing in digital marketing, this is having a direct impact on student recruitment, particularly international students,” he continued.