Case Study: YouTube as a Student Recruitment Tool

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So the goal remained: With admissions changing so dramatically, how would UB capitalize on the need for automated communications that are personal and speak to the Millennial generation, which is known to be quite tech-savvy? Since the university planned to include a targeted streaming media campaign, the tool was uncommonly personal. Many of the prospective students already had YouTube identities, so connecting them to a video at the site was a natural fit. The initial campaign released two videos a week for a series of 12 weeks during the prime decision season. But what was remarkable was how the admissions counselors were able to send links to specific videos based on the issues they addressed.

For prospective finance/business majors, for instance, the featured student talks about being more than just a number and discusses the ways her professors helped her network to some of the largest companies in the field. For fashion merchandising majors, the featured student explains that UB is a fantastic school, that she regularly spends time in New York City, and that she can approach her professors about subjects that she doesn’t consider to be her strong suits.

Measurable Results
The university hoped that the Saxon Mills YouTube videos would have an impact on converting admitted students into enrolled students by giving them personalized insight about what it’s like to be a UB student. In April 2008, the YouTube videos along with a letter from the associate vice president for admissions were blasted to all current university students, faculty, and staff to generate buzz. Following this, each accepted student received a personal email with a link to a video corresponding to the major for which they were accepted. In addition, each admissions counselor was required to add the YouTube video link to his or her email signature, and a link to the YouTube videos was placed on all university-related communications.

For the fall 2008 semester, the enrollment goal for first-year students was 315. Because of the personal attention the admissions counselors were able to provide to their admitted students along with the deployment of the YouTube videos, the admission team achieved a 7% increase in yield from applicant to admit and a 4% increase in yield from admit to enroll from 2007 to 2008. The results were transformational for UB, which welcomed 409 new first-year students for the fall 2008 semester, the largest incoming class the university has seen in the last 20 years. The team also exceeded their overall enrollment goal by 30%.

For the fall 2009 class, the admissions team has incorporated the YouTube videos earlier in the recruitment process to generate more qualified inquiries and applicants. This year, all admissions counselors were given a laptop with the YouTube videos uploaded onto it. These videos were shown to prospective students during college fairs, group presentations, and two fall open houses that took place at the Bridgeport campus. As of November 2008, the undergraduate admissions team had experienced a 43% increase in inquiries and a nearly 100% increase in applications compared to the same time in 2007.

Targeting the diversity of the Millennial generation, the school found that multiple highly tailored messages were more effective than traditional broadly applicable ones, and the use of targeted YouTube videos has been tremendously rewarding for the university.

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