How Colleges Use Social Media

by Haley Burnside and Megan Dreher, Senior Writer &  Features Editor

The social media landscape has become a dominant player in the college search process, both for students and for administrations. Manhattan College is no exception. The hashtags, likes, shares and retweets have revolutionized the way that the college connects with alumni, current student, prospective students and families.

Manhattan College’s social media presence spans across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn. In addition to these accounts, the college has a website that is regularly updated with information. These outlets all provide updates on news related to the college and campus.

Christine Loughran, the assistant director of web communications at Manhattan College, is one of the many minds behind the college’s online presence.

“As the assistant director of web communication, I do a lot of different things. One of those is managing the college’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m also one of the few people who manages and,” said Loughran.

The web communications team works to showcase the benefits of going to Manhattan College, according to Loughran.

“Manhattan College is a brand, so the goal of the social media accounts is to make sure that brand is represented as beautifully and attractively as possible. But it’s important that we do that through the current students,” said Loughran. “My favorite thing about my job is promoting all the cool stuff that students do here on campus, and I think that’s what’s going to drive prospective students to come here.”

Though the web communications team has creative control over the the social media pages, Loughran emphasized the importance of working alongside another important department to be sure that the content matches information being shared with prospective students.

“Our office works hand in hand with admissions and we coordinate our efforts through the prospective student base. We work together to make messaging consistent,” she said.

On the admissions side, social media, and the aid of technological advances as a whole, are just as important.

Dr. William Bisset, the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Manhattan since 2004, notes how influential technology has been in cultivating relationships with prospective students. In his 22 years at Manhattan, he has seen this shift benefit enrollment firsthand.

“The guesswork involved in recruiting students is not completely out, but at Manhattan and a lot of other colleges like us, we can be more targeted in our outreach initiatives because of what’s available to us in the form of technology that wasn’t there even two decades ago,” he said.

A very familiar form of social networking technology to students and admissions alike is the program Naviance. This software allows the high school guidance community to see what types of students are being admitted to different types of colleges across the country. The program aids students in choosing which colleges fit their academic and social preferences. But, the program also benefits admissions offices in targeting their incoming freshman class.

“There’s another feature to that program that allows colleges like Manhattan to buy names of students that are searching either specifically for you, or for colleges and universities like you in the college search process. Because of the technology that’s out there, colleges know who’s searching for you, when they’re searching for you, and even what kind of programs they’re looking for,” said Bisset.

Bisset noted that this information is especially useful when sending admissions counselors out to spread word of Manhattan College.

“It allows us to make informed decisions on where we’re sending our admissions people when it comes to recruiting students from primary markets that are in our own backyard, or secondary markets that are a considerable distance away from Riverdale,” Bisset said.

The names purchased by the admissions office tend to be upwards of 70,000 names each year. These names then translate into “touch points,” which keep Manhattan College present in prospective students’ minds.

“When you started to get mail from the admissions office, or unsolicited emails, it wasn’t by accident,” said Bisset.

The same concept also applies to advertising space purchased on websites or social media platforms, but the effectiveness is a bit more difficult to calculate.

“There’s a sense of instantaneous gratification with today’s high school students because there’s so much coming at them. You take advantage of the opportunity to engage when you’re trying to get your name out there as a college or university, but at the same time, it’s hard to measure its success because there’s so much white noise that goes along with the college application process today,” said Bisset.

In order to maintain meaningful contact with prospective students, admissions is constantly working to find the most current and innovative ways to capture the attention of high school juniors and seniors. Social media as a means of communication is on the rise, but do colleges, like Manhattan look at prospective students’ social media during the admission process?

“The honest answer to that question is not as a general practice,” says Bisset. “When applicants are being evaluated, and a decision can go either way, that’s when people on admissions committees are looking for reasons to either say yes or no. That’s where you go off script a bit as a reader of an application. It’s in those situations where I’ve seen people on admission committees look to Twitter, or Facebook, to either confirm that this is somebody that we want to offer admission to or not. But, I don’t think the general sense of an admissions officer is to dig deeply into what’s out there on social media on any particular applicant. It’s just important to be careful with what you post.”

Freshman Eunice Nazar confirms the importance social media can play in the college selection process on the side of the students.

“I used social media for the college search process. I specifically looked for their website, Instagram, and Twitter to see what the colleges posted and how people reacted to it,” said the political science major.

Though social media is a helpful tool to connect and inform students, Nazar explains that it can be a danger to prospective students, too.

“Growing up, teachers emphasized how your etiquette online could be potentially important in your future. You have to be careful what you post online, because you never know who will look at it. That’s important to know when you apply to colleges or jobs,” said Nazar.