I work as the Director of Admissions for Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, Massachusetts. Xaverian is an all boys private catholic, day school with an enrollment of 930 boys. Prior to working at Xaverian I worked in higher education admissions for ten years and proudly launched Salve Regina University’s first student bloggers when that was a cutting edge idea, even presenting at a conference on the power and impact of student bloggers in 2004, just as blogs were becoming mainstream. I remember having to answer the question “can you define the word blog” during the presentation. Times have certainly changed; according to BlogPulse as of 2009 there were 126 million blogs on the internet, with 175,000 new blogs being created every day. That equals two newly created blogs every second. A lot has changed in six years.
I have developed a deep interest in social media and how it can enhance admissions efforts, this interest has helped Xaverian tip toe into the world of social media. Our involvement has been slow but steady.
There is a natural synergy between enrollment, recruiting, and social media. All admissions professionals, like most marketers, know the most powerful form of marketing is word of mouth; social media is the new word of mouth. Ultimately in admissions you are trying to get people to connect to something they cannot experience firsthand. The next best thing is the testimonial of a trusted friend who is experiencing it firsthand.
Those of us in admissions tend to get wrapped up in numbers, how many applications do we have? How many people attended our open house? What are the demographic trends? Of course these are important since we will be judged by the bottom line numbers — how many students we have. But I’ve always thought of admissions as a relationship not a transaction, and how many students you have in September will largely depend on the relationships you develop. Social media is all about building meaningful, engaging relationships.
Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts is a great example of a school building relationships using social media. Shortly after acceptance letters were mailed they posted the following on their facebook page:
Phillips Academy Please say hello and welcome to Andover’s 405 newly admitted students! If you are an alum, feel free to share a thought about what PA meant to you…
Parents of current students, parents of admitted students, alums, and current students posted congratulatory responses. One simple post engaged populations who are rarely in the same place, helped to create a stronger sense of community, and provided an environment to start relationships. This is a simple idea that has far reaching possibilities for engagement.
I am far from an expert but I’m always interested in learning more; what do you think? What is your school doing to build relationships and engage communities?