When you consider how schools might use social media to interact with students, the most popular medium seems to be Facebook or Twitter. But some universities have taken to the microblogging site, known as Tumblr, to engage with potential and current students alike.
While it’s true that Facebook’s user population is far vaster than Tumblr’s, it is widely used by hip, ‘kewl’ young people - the kind of people you want to attend your university and one day be in a school brochure picture. Similar to Twitter, the site promotes concise content, but is heavy on the visuals e.g. GIFs, pictures, or short video clips.
For a while now, the most widely practiced method for introducing prospective students to a school has been the guided campus tour. While these can be great for cardio, teenagers generally aren’t known for their long attention spans. It’s tough for them to retain all the fun facts that are enthusiastically thrown at them by the tour guide. Also, out of state students don’t have as many opportunities to visit a school. I personally have a friend who had never even been to Auburn University before starting his first semester there.
In a way, Tumblr can serve as a virtual campus tour. The way the site uses minimal text paired with pictures, GIFs, or videos offer a streamlined way to interact with students via social media.
The University of Chicago’s College of Admissions has been effectively using Tumblr to reach out to applicants as well as document campus life. Grace Chapin and Lauren Kelly-James started their office’s blog in 2011 and since then, they have established a fun, yet informative representation of their school. Chapin summed up their philosophy behind the Tumblr account rather beautifully: “This is an academic place, but there will be people at this place that enjoy a good cat picture as much as I do.”
They know who their audience is and what appeals to them.
Members of that audience also have the chance to participate in the blog as well. Chapin and Kelly-James will often reblog pictures other students have taken on campus and posted on their own personal Tumblrs.
I can certainly attest to the effectiveness on U of Chicago’s Tumblr. It actually took me a few hours to get around to writing this post because I couldn’t stop scrolling through page after page of their blog. Chapin mentioned GIFs of cats, but I think my favorite post was this picture of two of my favorite things: Shetland ponies and cardigans.
Another school that deserves credit for their adeptness with Tumblr is the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). They realize that prospective students - and even current students - often have questions, but don’t always know which office to email, or which number to call. So, they have taken advantage of Tumblr’s ‘Ask Box’ and created a one-stop place where students can anonymously take all their questions or concerns from the comfort of their couch, and can expect a response in a relatively short amount of time.
Nolan Feeney, a writer for Time, sums up the appeal of Tumblr in higher ed:
Admissions officers are attracted to Tumblr for a number of reasons. Because users can share a variety of multimedia content quickly and casually, it’s possible to update multiple times a day without flooding feeds with walls of text. It wouldn’t be uncommon to find a link to an event on campus, a pretty photo of the school and a quote from a historic commencement speech all in the same place.
Don’t be shy; show your students the real you. Show them the pretty spots on campus. Show them a funny meme. Remind them of the theater department’s performance next Friday night. Put their minds at ease, by answering their questions. All in one place: Tumblr.
Author: Gray Gill is our Spring Editor & Word-Smith here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.