Despite lingering on the cusp of mainstream use and popularity, Google+ brand pages have opened up a niche door for universities and colleges to engage and entice potential students. Mashable recently highlighted 17 universities currently using Google+ pages (http://mashable.com/2011/11/08/universities-google-plus/) and their early procedures to attract an audience and increase interactions.
After researching more than 150 universities, colleges, university services, and alumni associations, it's clear that many are putting the network to efficient use. Google+ allows universities to offer a one-stop shop for insights and academic highlights, and even provides personal interaction through Google Hangouts.
Here are five ways upper education utilizes Google+ to draw attention to all they have to offer current and future students.
1. Highlighting the successes of former students and current teachers
When choosing a university, students and parents like to see a running record of achievements from both the professors and students. Many universities use Google+ to draw attention to these achievements. Sure, plenty of this content also goes on Facebook, but with Google+'s circle capability, postings are not only separated, but tend to stick around longer, so curious parents can check them out without digging through a dozen wall posts from students stoked about Saturday's football win.
(https://plus.google.com/110250075587409537680/posts) posts about former quarterback who now plays for an NFL team
(https://plus.google.com/106836091376278224056/posts) has its own Google+ page and used this post to highlight a professor's achievement
2. Offering a first-hand look at where the school is and, more importantly, where it's going
Before heading off to the campus of your choice, you want to see that it will live up to its brochure potential. Fear not prospective undergrads , Google+ already has schools posting expansion updates, giving virtual tours, and showing off attractive surroundings. Google+ is a great platform to see the aesthetic aspects of a campus and how it continues to grow.
(https://plus.google.com/118179402950317736399/posts) shares plans to expand and remodel their dining hall
(https://plus.google.com/109943622158643080618/posts) shows off the construction of their new Brody Learning Commons
3. Showcasing campus lifestyle and ongoing activities3. Showcasing campus lifestyle and ongoing activities
Google+ is a great place to see what really makes the heart of a particular school beat. For instance, Auburn University, not surprisingly, places a huge emphasis on sports in their posts (https://plus.google.com/u/0/104067549803139220381/posts), but also offers its circles a chance to view a webcam of the campus and posts beautiful photos of campus scenery.
(https://plus.google.com/106255314093328909806/posts) recently posted a video recapping an annual student ball to showcase the social activities the school offers.
It's also a great place to browse the various events and offerings that universities host. Speakers, seminars, and various academic and social gatherings are easily viewed and shared via Google+.
Drake University (https://plus.google.com/105032869959416861320/posts) let its students know that former student and percussionist from the rock band Slipknot was stopping by the campus to give a free talk to those interested in attending.
Many others share upcoming events, event recaps, and give outsiders a chance to see what a school has to offer its student outside of class lectures and labs.
4. Showing off the brains of the school
With Google+, one can also see what programs and scholastic focuses a school puts its time and money into. This way a prospective student can weigh both social and academic options in one place. Many of these updates are lost on Facebook, but proudly shown-off on Google+. Insights into cutting-edge studies and experiments, intellectual material produced by students, and fascinating fields of study can all be found on Google+.
(https://plus.google.com/109841773202627500780/posts) shows off photos from an engineering experiment going on inside the school. These photos were not posted to Facebook.
(https://plus.google.com/116871314286286422580/posts) highlights students exploring a particular medical subject
5. Inside look on what a school offers prospective students AND alumni
Before and after you attend a school, you want the comfort of knowing that your time, efforts and money go further than just four years. Many schools on Google+ have created separate pages to address that subject. They offer ways for grads to be involved after graduation and give prospective students resources to make their transition a little smoother. It's a great way to reach two separate audiences who ultimately want the same thing - to be involved.
The University of York Alumni Association (https://plus.google.com/106023956488710711464/posts) lets its audience know about networking opportunities and other ways to stay involved with fellow alumni.
The University of Iowa (https://plus.google.com/112684986232414588551/posts) uses Google+ to offer future students admission tips and reminders as well as information on new scholarships.
Google+ can help schools acclimate new students and keep former students interested in all aspects of campus life. The online information and networking makes it much less daunting to leave home for higher education and makes it seem much more worth it once it's all over.
Despite the display of uses for Google+ and universities, much of this can be, and is, done on Facebook. Some universities, such as the University of Michigan (https://plus.google.com/109901128392977416100/posts), take advantage of the exclusive tools on Google+, particularly Hangouts, to give students face-to-face personal time with the university's dean, professors and admissions offices.
It will be interesting to see if communities are built on this platform; professors might decide to use document sharing as a forum, editing platform, or sign-up sheet. Study groups may turn from Skype to Hangouts to make further use of it.
Either way, Google+ has so much potential for universities and colleges because it showcases important information without sifting through a clogged news feed, and readers can easily get to it thanks to the exclusivity of circles and the lack of wall post "clutter." Whether it's a community college or Ivy League university, Google+ has the potential to connect this niche market with the future brilliant minds of the world.
Constance Aguilar is a Social Media Strategist and Account Manager at Abbi Public Relations (www.abbipr.com) where she oversees client strategy on both social media channels and through traditional media relations as well as event producing. You can follow her on Twitter @ConnieAguilar and read her blog posts on www.abbipublicrelations.wordpress.com