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Concordia advances social media efforts for recruitment

In addition to traditional recruitment promotions like post cards and phone calls, prospective students can also receive information about Concordia from blogs written by current students employed by the Office of Communications and Marketing.

The student experiences in the blogs show prospective students what life is like at Concordia, said Amy Aasen, associate director for communications and marketing and online communications director in the Office of Communications and Marketing.

Aasen is the liaison to the Office of Enrollment, their No. 1 client, she said. The trend is to move campus promotions from print to online, Aasen said.

Although they are paid employees of the Office of Communications and Marketing, Aasen said students’ blogs should be authentic.

“We’re really not looking for them to take a certain message and twist it,” she said.
The voice of the college’s online media ranges from lighthearted to a more straightforward, college voice, Aasen said.

The student bloggers are diverse in where they come from and what they study, Aasen said. When hiring students to blog, they looked for engaging writers and students who maintained a blog in the past. A comfort level with blogging was needed, Aasen said.

Samuel Gebru, a freshman, has kept a personal blog since October 2006. He was contacted this summer to become a student blogger by the Office of Communications and Marketing because he had mentioned Concordia on his Twitter account, he said.

“We want to have students from different walks of life here at Concordia blogging,” Gebru said. “We all take different spins.”

Gebru said he writes with his readers in mind, giving an honest, day-in-the-life portrait for prospective students and administrators who may read it.

“I don’t [want] to be a paid advertisement of the school,” he said.

Bloggers are told to use common sense with their posts, Gebru said, by not showing any campus policy violations or inappropriate photos.

“Aside from that,” he said, “we have a lot of discretion.”

Gebru wants his blog to show two themes: the engagement possibilities for diverse students at Concordia and what is discussed in his classes. He said he is not afraid to share his opinion in his blog.

“I’m usually the one to blog about something you are thinking about but won’t say,” Gebru said. “I don’t believe in inhibiting people.”

In a post Gebru wrote about the First Amendment, a parent of a prospective student commented in support of what he wrote and thanked Gebru for sharing his opinions.

While many e-mail him or talk to him in person about their comments, Gebru said, he wishes more people would post their remarks in the comment section of the blog, which would create an online dialogue.

Aasen said the Office of Communications and Marketing is working toward an online dialogue, and she would like to see more integration of networking and online involvement in the college’s promotion efforts on the student blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.

During homecoming, Aasen presented the advancements in social media efforts to alumni who had graduated within 30 years.

“That generation was impressed and surprised,” Aasen said.

The Concordia_MN Twitter account, maintained by the Office of Communications and Marketing, has 1308 followers, and the Office of Enrollment’s Be_A_Cobber account has 184. More alumni following the college on Twitter and tweeting about Concordia would add to the online dialogue about the college, Aasen said.

“We know the media follows [Twitter] pretty religiously,” Aasen said.

While student blogging is now overseen by the Office of Communications and Marketing, it was in the Office of Enrollment for some time last year. At that time, student admissions ambassadors were the primary bloggers.

Katherine Halvorson, senior admissions representative and ambassador coordinator in the Office of Enrollment, said when student blogging at Concordia began, it was difficult to know what the structure should look like. With time, the blogging was moved to the Office of Communications and Marketing to include a range of student voices, not just those of admissions ambassadors.

“You could not take the admissions language out of the student,” Halvorson said.
Although the online promotions are the new frontier in attracting students, Halvorson said, tangible, visible promotions are still needed.

Scott Ellingson, director of admissions in the Office of Enrollment, said in an e-mail message 14,500 brochures for the First Impressions promotion are being sent to high school seniors, along with more than 5,000 brochures for juniors.  The promotion is meant to introduce information about Concordia to prospective students, and it includes a paper application with an application fee waiver.
Ellingson said he expects more of these brochures to be mailed to prospective students in the future.

“Obviously, social media and technology is the way it’s going right now,” Halvorson said, “but we also know the value of a paper application sitting on the coffee table.”

Halvorson said there are less admissions visits in high schools now, although they are still regular occurrences, to go along with the rise of social media promotions. The student bloggers are able to portray genuine experiences at Concordia, Halvorson said, as a way for prospective students to see what current students do day to day.

“Hopefully, [prospective students] can see themselves in one of the bloggers,” she said.

Bloggers are free to share their perspectives about life at Concordia through written entries, photos and videos. They are asked to think about what they were looking for when they were a prospective student, Aasen said, because students want to know whether they will fit in.

An early topic for sophomore Matt Hansen’s student blog was pronunciation differences among students at Concordia. After noticing many students pronounce words differently than he did in his home state of Tennessee, Hansen posted a video of himself asking multiple students how they pronounce hammock. Answers varied. Some students said “HamMock,” while others said, “HammIck.”

It was a fun blog entry to make, Hansen said, and it could help prospective students from far away see themselves as a Concordia student.

Hansen said he aims to produce meaningful blogs that appeal to anyone who may read them, from prospective students, to parents, to professors. Showing people the real Concordia experience is important to him, he said.

“Whether that be good or bad,” Hansen said. “I want it to be genuine.”

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