I was at the Social Media Club – Boston event last night where the topic of conversation was “Change dot Gov”. The panel included Brad Blake, the Director of New Media Strategy for the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Matt Viser, a political reporter for the Globe, Brian Reich, a consultant, author, blogger and State Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan.
While listening to the panel, I was struck by how similar the rhetoric used by State Senator Jennifer Flanagan was to some of the admissions offices I talk to. Senator Flanagan, while having a constituency that includes an older demographic argued that she receives enough e-mails, talks to enough people while out and about in her community and through the use of her website and blog views Social Media as yet another tool that requires too much time without providing enough benefit for her constituents.
I think her argument can transition well into the international student recruiting space. Like Senator Flanagan some of our offices may be concentrating our recruiting efforts in countries where students don’t have the same kind of access to the internet or high bandwidth as the developed nations. This means we don’t need to start using certain tools of social media just yet because let’s face it, we will be wasting our time. However this barrier to using social media by developing nations will soon be knocked down.
So how should this affect the way our offices embrace social media? We need to stay on top of what’s available and how it works. Our prospective students are only becoming more knowledgeable digital natives meaning they have grown up using all this great Internet technology, especially web 2.0 technology. While next year and the year after prospective students may not require you to engage them exclusively through social media there will come a time where that will be the only way to effectively recruit.
Twitter for example may in fact be the worst tool to recruit international students right now but as it’s global popularity grows, agents in developing nations will begin to pick it up, potential university partners will pick it up, prospective students and so on. So jump on Twitter and get used to how it works. Understand how it can be used as a viral tool. Understand how you can meet new people and develop relationships using it.
My recommendation to admissions offices is not to worry too much about using all the tools right now but to keep up with what’s out there and more importantly how these tools work!