Improve Recruiting and Retention in Higher Education with Digital Media

studentsOver the last several years, the trend in college recruitment tactics has shifted from traditional marketing like direct mail, printed brochures and TV commercials to more interactive content marketing strategies, like social media and mobile apps. Traditional marketing is increasingly showing a decline in its ability to provide the highest return on investment, while newer digital technologies are showing strong engagement and conversion rates.

There are several digital and interactive ways that universities and colleges are improving their recruiting process and retention rates. Here are some that are trending in higher education:


Ning is a social network that can be modified and made to fit individual universities and colleges, and even specific majors and classes. Ning is more interactive than a normal website, and designed specifically to create your own social network. Ning can be used to give current or potential students news, sports info, the ability to buy books online and view class schedules and grades. The beauty (or, potentially, hassle) is that Ning can be designed for particular needs, unlike Facebook or Instagram.



Scvngr uses GPS tracking to create an interactive app for prospective students or current students to learn more about the campus. During orientation, students (and parents) can download the app, if the university provides it, to complete tasks like finding the library or taking a picture with the mascot. This adds another dimension to learning the campus as a prospective student, but also encourages current students to experience different areas of the campus.

Images via Mashable



Interestingly enough, prospective students are looking at to find out what current students are saying about professors. This app and website allows current students to rate and comment about course instructors. These pages should be monitored and kept updated as these ratings can have a positive or negative effect on prospective students coming into the majors. Ratemyprofessor can also affect retention. Students may see or hear negative things about future professors and decide to transfer somewhere else that has higher professor ratings.

Mobile Apps and Texting

It may be beneficial to have a special mobile app made for potential students that includes financial aid information, other crucial information and the ability to apply online. Text messages are also a good way to communicate reminders.

Traditional social media networks should not to be overlooked in the recruiting and retention processes.


Instagram is ever so popular with the youth, as many are using Instagram more often than they’re checking in on Facebook. Potential college students can look at universities and predict whether they might fit in or not based on what other students are posting, or the university’s page itself. Most universities can be found on Instagram by hashtags that students are using, which gives students a pictorial feel for every aspect of the campus.


LinkedIn can be crucial in every facet of the higher education cycle, from recruiting students to keeping in touch with alumni. Creating a LinkedIn page for higher ed organizations can display a professional image of the university, and allows students to look at organizations, majors and alumni at the potential universities.

Other social media sites that are important in retention and recruiting are Twitter and Snapchat. Twitter can be used to respond to questions and share students’ prospectives, whereas Snapchat can be used to give potential students a sneak peek of what’s happening around the campus.

Lastly, a good email marketing campaign with Google Analytics is crucial in keeping both potential and current students up-to-date on campus activities. Communication is key, and can be accomplished by sending out emails of reminders like application deadlines and important dates. These should be tracked and measured using Google Analytics to measure what works and what doesn’t.

Another way to learn more about student recruitment trends is to attend conferences and webinars. The National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention will be held July 8 – 10 in Boston, MA. If you are a marketer in this industry, I would love to hear what other digital media forms are being used!

If you enjoyed this post by Elizabeth, check out some of her other blogs

Elizabeth Muckensturm – Communications and Media Professor

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