Will Brantley – Director of Recruiting, Graduate College
Oklahoma Baptist University
Have you ever tried to blindfold yourself and shoot an arrow at a moving target? Me neither, but that’s kind of what it feels like to work in admissions in today’s world. Technology, the students we work with, and the world around us is moving and advancing at a blistering pace. Trying to keep up is almost like trying to shoot at a moving target blindfolded.
First and foremost, above any tactic, approach, or strategy to enrollment is to be as personal as possible. I remind our team all the time, the students and families that we are working with are real people at a stressful time in life. They’re trying to make a pretty big decision for an 18-year-old and we always want to be mindful of that fact. So we want to make sure that we are being helpful and personal as much as we can. It’s not always possible when you’re working with 4,000+ applicants, but where we can and as much as we can; that is our focus – personal attention to the student and their individual needs.
Beyond a care for the individual person, our approach is a lot like an onion – lots of layers. You never know where a student is at any particular moment or what might catch their attention, so we like to try to get in front of them through as many different avenues as possible. There is no one magic bullet, or else our jobs would be much easier, so for us it’s all about layers.
Texting has been a huge add for us in the last 24 months. We’ve seen engagement through texting help increase our application completion from 70% to 75%. We consistently see response rates in the 50-60% range. Over the summer when we were texting with our enrolled students, that response rate hovered near 85%. One of the biggest wins with texting is being able to use texting to help set up a phone call. In today’s world, most people don’t answer the phone for numbers they don’t recognize, or at least I don’t. We will text with a student to start the conversation and then ask them for an “appointment” to talk on the phone. This has helped tremendously with getting students to answer the phone. They know when we’re going to call and what we’re calling about.
Social media is another key layer for us. In admissions, we’ve started our Instagram and Twitter accounts that are separate from the university accounts. We are speaking to different audiences and therefore it’s important that we have our own voice. One of the things that we talk about a lot in our office is what I call the “Johnny Cash” rule. Find the line and then walk the line. This summer, we had an Instagram post that referenced KeKe (if you don’t know who KeKe is, don’t worry, just know that the teenage audience we’re talking to does). Many on our campus had no idea what we were talking about, but it was one of our posts that had the most comments. We’re also dabbling with Snapchat filters on event days to see what the engagement on that platform looks like. It’s finding the line of still being appropriate but speaking the language that our audience is speaking. After all, isn’t our main job to try to get students to engage with us?
In keeping with social media, one of the newer things that we’re doing this year are some Facebook live events geared toward parents. I think we’d all agree that engaging with parents is a big priority, but I don’t think anyone has mastered exactly how to do that yet. So we’re trying something new and hosting a Facebook live event each month geared toward questions that parents have. We’re using email and digital marketing to get the word out about the events and then each month, broadcasting a 20-minute session with key people around campus to attempt to answer the most asked questions that parents have. If the students live on Instagram and Snapchat, then we’re betting on their parents being on Facebook.
We could talk for a good while about digital marketing, geo-fencing, retargeting, events on social media for visit days, etc. But what it all boils down to is an attempt to tell our story, and share what makes Oklahoma Baptist University unique. And the way to tell that story is a complex layer of tactics, but these are some that have been a good fit for us and some that we’re hoping will be effective with our audiences. The long and short of it is, we’re always looking for new ways and new things to try – so should you! Our world is moving and changing quickly, about the time we get something mastered it is time to move to the next newest and greatest thing.
Will Brantley served as the Director of Undergraduate Admissions (2015-2018) and most recently has become the Director of Recruitment for the Graduate College at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Before OBU, Will served in undergraduate enrollment at Union University (2011-2015).