College Planning & Management

OCT 2012

College Planning & Management is the information resource for professionals serving the college and university market. Covering facilities, security, technology and business.

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Recruit & Retain MANSFIELD UNIVERSITY Pinning Students Using Pinterest to market the institution. BY DENNIS MILLER P INTEREST, THE VIRTUAL bulletin board, made its debut in March 2010. Within months it had 10,000 users and Time magazine listed it as one of the 50 Best Websites of 2011. By Janu- ary 2012, it had swelled to 11.7 million users. Pinterest broke the 10-million user mark faster than any site in history. Mansfi eld University (MU), was one of the fi rst higher educa- tion institutions to open an account and create boards with recruiting in mind. We're in a visual society. The popularity of Instagram is showing us that communication by photos and still visuals surpasses even videos. Given that, Pinterest seems an ideal outlet to showcase an institution of higher education. Why? Well, fi rst, more than 80 percent of Pinterest users are women. Mothers of high-school age students have always been our primary target audience because they, for the most part, are the ones who do the research and make the decisions in the household, includ- ing helping their children research and make decisions about college. Second, Pinterest enables a parent or student to peruse a col- lege or university through photos and captions. Third, Pinterest's format, by its very nature, invites creativity and fun. We created 23 boards ranging from serious to helpful to fun. Here's the link: pinterest.com/mansfi eldu. I don't think that Pinterest is going to catch on with high school students and it really doesn't matter because we see it as a new, exciting social site to be used in addition to Facebook, Twitter, our video news blog, and our MU website. I plug it on my weekly MU Blog whose readership includes our students, parents, alumni, and constituents. We're working with our Admissions department to include it as part of our overall marketing effort. In our email and Facebook conversations with high school students and parents, we're provid- ing a link to our Pinterest boards so they can peruse the many facets of the University and our surrounding area. They can get, at a glance, a true feel for our small, rural campus and the year- round outdoor activities of our region. We also give them useful information in a quick, fun way that every student can use. Pinterest has a lot of potential because it allows us to create very defi nite, visual categories — photos and video. Here's a list of some of our categories: concerts and shows at MU; famous visitors; regional activities; Mansfi eld, the town; area restaurants; 10 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / OCTOBER 2012 dorm cooking; money saving tips; and room organization hints. Many of our boards are repurposed. Our boards contain three-minute student testimonials on why they chose Mansfi eld; podcasts with students, professors, and special guests; and 30-minute TV talk show episodes with various guests. All these were produced for other projects. Why not, we asked, neatly pack- age them onto Pinterest boards and showcase them in a way that they become new again? Do we spend time creating and updating the boards? Absolute- ly. Any form of communication done well takes time. My assistant, Christie Martin, spends a couple of hours a day fi nding photos and writing captions. So far, it hasn't cost us a cent — except for staff time which, of course, does have an indirect cost. We use campus shots from our photo library. Christie fi nds other copyright-free photos on the web for boards such as the space saving and cooking hints. The secret to success is in the organization of the boards, inter- esting photos, and quick, concisely written content. I haven't found anything I don't like about Pinterest. It began as, and remains, a site primarily to share recipes, crafts, and do-it-yourself projects, but it has quickly branched out in many directions. We in the marketing world have expanded its uses. In today's Instagram and two-to-three-minute video world, Pinterest, with its categories of photos and short captions, is a site that can be developed and customized to meet any institution's needs. We're right at the beginning of Pinterest's popularity. It's up to us as marketing and admissions people to develop content that combines fun and solid information, then promote it to high school students, parents, and transfer students. Finally, my goal isn't to attract followers, per se. If we can get high school students or their mothers to check out our site, look at the photos, and read the captions, they'll get a feel for Mansfi eld that they just couldn't get with the more formal viewbook or a Uni- versity website which, by necessity, contains thousands of pages of information. Hopefully, students will click on the link to our website and explore more detailed, serious information on academic programs, student organizations, and fi nancial aid after the initial, fun, interesting presentation of MU through Pinterest. CPM Dennis Miller is director of public relations at Mansfi eld University in Mansfi eld, PA. Reach Dennis Miller at dmiller@mansfi eld.edu, and Christie Martin at cjmartin@mansfi eld.edu. WWW.PLANNING4EDUCATION.COM

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