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How Harvard used social media to boost student recruitment numbers

We always kind of figured that Harvard University would have it pretty sewn up when it came to their student application numbers. However, they have just proven that when it comes to student recruitment there’s always room for improvement, even for world renowned Ivy League schools.

This week, we read an article in Bloomberg News which explores how Harvard University has said that applications for this year’s fall freshman class have increased by 9%, to a record 37,305, after they boosted their student recruitment efforts on social media and also publicized a $150 million gift which would largely go towards financial aid.

Harvard has credited this unprecedented increase to their new focus on social media, a revamp of their website and the unveiling of a brand new student blog. Prospective students can now get a sense of what Harvard life entails by following the university on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The influence of social media on student recruitment has been largely debated in higher education circles with some experts questioning the extent of the sway social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter hold with students. The question that most often comes up is whether or not prospective students really base one of the most important decisions of their lives on the contents of a university or college’s social media page.  

However, there can be no denying the persuasive potential of a great social media marketing strategy.  Social media unlike any other marketing medium can be updated as often as you like (within reason), can contain pretty much any content you like (again within reason) and can give prospective students one of the most accurate accounts of what to expect from life at your institution.

As Harvard has proven, an investment in social media can indeed be worthwhile but it requires a great strategy. Frequent posting isn’t enough and what truly counts is quality content that offers value to your audience and insight into the heart of your institution.  

Do you agree? Have your recruitment numbers increased as a result of an increase in social media followers? Let us know in the comments below. 

Tagged: Harvard University, Social media, Student recruitment

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