How Universities Are Using Twitter to Recruit Students

Twitter university and college

Compared to its bigger brother Facebook, Twitter is an often underutilized platform for recruiting students. What is so great about Twitter is its flexibility and openness. Unlike Facebook, Twitter is by default a public social network and much more free-flowing. As a result, the microblogging service can be used in a variety of ways. Check out these examples of schools using Twitter to reach out to students.

Higher Ed in the Twitterverse

Currently there are over 100 million active users on Twitter, with rapid growth among teenagers. The social network is becoming increasingly popular among high school students, doubling in size among 12-17 years old over the last two years. Facebook lost much of its “coolness” among teens when their parents and grandparents “friended” them on the social network. On Twitter, teens don’t have to worry as much about what they post since their parents haven’t caught on to the microblogging service yet.

Most universities have recognized the importance of Twitter and are actively engaging on it. One study found that 84% of universities are now on Twitter, up from 59% in 2010-11. Some schools like Harvard have amassed thousands of tweets and hundreds of thousands of followers.

Harvard Twitter

How Schools Can Use Twitter



Tim Nekritz from SUNY Oswego wrote a good article about his experiences managing his school’s Twitter account. He stresses that the key to success on Twitter is all about interaction. So when a student tweets that they’ve been accepted to their institution, Tim will offer a retweet along with a congratulatory message. While some schools use Twitter essentially as a one-way broadcast feed with the latest press releases, SUNY uses it to answer questions, post photos, and include other voices from around campus. This has helped the school collect a large number of followers and build a rich community experience for students.


Twitter has slowly been increasing its advertising offerings for brands. Options include promoted tweets, promoted accounts and promoted trends. Once only offered to major advertisers, Twitter has recently begun appealing to small businesses and other marketers. Some schools have begun utilizing these ads, such as Loyola University.

College Ad on Twitter

The idea behind these targeted ads is that when a student is either searching or talking about a certain term on Twitter, such as “college,” then the ad will be inserted into their stream. These ads can be geo-targeted so it will be very useful for reaching students in international markets without actually traveling there. You can read an interview about Loyola University’s experience with Twitter ads at .eduGuru.

Finding New Students

Since Twitter is essentially a public forum, anyone can listen-in to conversations happening around the world. If universities know what to look for, then they can find thousands of potential students out there on Twitter. All it takes is a small message to invite a student to explore your university. It works remarkably well for reaching out to prospective students, especially if they are overseas and looking for a university abroad.

Infographic: How to Get More Clicks on Twitter

HubSpot has created a great infographic that reveals the best methods for getting your message across on Twitter. After analyzing 200 000 tweets, it was determined that the highest click-through rates were on tweets that contained between 120 and 130 characters. Other tips include tweeting later in the day and using more verbs rather than nouns in your messages.



Universities and colleges are just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to Twitter. The company has been experimenting with different enhanced profile pages specifically for brands in recent months. It will be interesting to see how universities adopt these changes once the feature is made available for everyone soon.

Another exciting development coming soon is a new analytics feature. While there are already third-party analytics offerings, a comprehensive in-house package from Twitter will really add value to brands and advertisers. There is so much potential for Twitter in the long-term that it just might eclipse Facebook as the most effective social network for recruiting and engaging students.

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