Is It Me, Or Does LinkedIn Really Understand Higher Education Well Enough to Offer Advice?

This morning, I received an invitation from LinkedIn to a webinar that the company is sponsoring on”Reaching Today’s Prospective Students: Insights and Best Practices from LinkedIn.”

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It has become increasingly challenging for higher education marketers to convert prospects into enrolled students. In fact, nearly 60% of admission directors did not hit their 2015 enrollment goals.*
Yet, thanks to the widespread adoption of social media and advances in marketing technology, marketers have more tools than ever before to deliver relevant, targeted messages to key audiences.
Join our webinar as we present new research from LinkedIn revealing the keys to influencing prospective students with relevant content marketing. Register today, and you’ll learn:
•     Who the key influencers are in the higher education decision process
•     What types of content prospects are most interested in at each stage of the decision journey
•     Best practices for developing an effective always-on content marketing strategy with Sponsored Updates and InMail
Hope to see you there!
* Inside Higher Ed, Survey of Admission Directors, 2015

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On the one hand, now that the company owns Lynda.com, I understand that it might see itself as an education provider.  On the other hand, it’s not clear that LinkedIn differentiates between training and higher education.

First of all, what evidence does LinkedIn have about the online social behavior of prospective higher education students?  If LinkedIn has data on prospective undergraduates, most high school students do not have a LinkedIn profile. In fact, most traditional undergraduates and many graduate students do not create a LinkedIn until late in their degree programs. By then, students have not only chosen a university but LinkedIn has lost the opportunity to track most of their  behavior while students (much less, their search and selection behaviors while searching for an academic program).

The primary exceptions will be students who participate in a Cooperative Education program as they are usually encouraged to develop LinkedIn profiles before starting their first job search, and non-traditional students who are returning to school to fill in gaps in their undergraduate education or furthering a professional career through an additional academic certificate or degree.

Second, the use of language in the invitation was a bit off-putting. Although Recruiting departments in higher education might use different language than academic units, we don’t “market” to students; we “recruit” them. Similarly, those who actively seek prospective students are called “recruiters” not “marketers” except, perhaps, in the for-profit sector of the industry.

Third, the issue facing most higher education institutions isn’t converting “prospects” into enrolled students, as suggested by the notice. That’s because all “prospects” must go through an admissions process.  When confronted by the admissions standards and process, many “prospects” realize that they’re not a good match for an institution.

No, the more pressing issue is that many “admitted” students choose to enroll at a different institution. In other words, the challenge is not as simple as turning prospects into purchasers.

This shows a further lack of awareness on the part of the invitation. Not only is the real issue of conversion from admitted to matriculated student, not mere prospect to student, but that decision to matriculate varies by level of education and the context in which the student is applying.

Consider the context of highly selective undergraduate programs in the US.  Because of high rejection rates by most of these schools in the US (that’s why they’re called highly selective), applicants are hedging their bets by applying to more schools.  As a result, the schools expect a low matriculation rate because application numbers are somewhat inflated.

In contrast, less selective private colleges in the US face the real issue of whether the students they have admitted–especially those who come from modest means and have also applied to less expensive public institutions–can afford the tuition. That, in turn, is based on the financial aid package offered by the institution.

The decision to apply to graduate school differs from the undergraduate school, and does not seem to be covered as widely. But even within that context, several different student populations exist:  full-time students coming right out of an undergraduate program, full-time students returning to school after a gap of time; and part-time students who work part-or full-time.

Social media might play a role in understanding these complex contexts but if the invitation is any indication–and LinkedIn could actually have some great information about the last two student populations applying to graduate school, given that they’re the group most likely to have LinkedIn profiles and whose online behavior can be tracked by the company.

But it’s not clear from the invitation that LinkedIn even understands what information it has–and what information it does not have.  That the speakers are all marketing staff from LinkedIn) only fur

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About idmodelsandprocesses

Exploring, reporting, teaching, and advising on learning and communication for the workplace and consumers. saulcarliner.wordpress.com
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