Does Online Reputation Management Matter for Colleges and Universities?

As a busy professional working within higher education, online reputation management may be the furthest thing from your mind. However, in today’s world where online conversations are shared 24/7/365 and holding more value than the offline world, it is critical for any college or university to have a strategy in place to manage their online reputation.

Higher education must cater to several distinct target audiences including prospective students and parents, current students and parents, past students, donors, and faculty. Each of these groups are having different conversations online about their respective school experience, all of which influences your online reputation.

But knowing that it matters is a long way from knowing why it matters.

Here are 5 reasons why online reputation management (ORM) is essential for higher education institutions.

1. Admissions

Falling enrollment and retention rates are impacting school admissions across the country. Students today have more options to consider than ever before including choosing whether to attend a residential vs. community college, on-campus vs. remote, in-person or virtual classes, do they take a gap year, just to name a few.

An important part of the admissions process is that prospective students and their parents are thoroughly researching schools online before applying. A recent study (ResearchGate.com) demonstrated that university reputation was second only to “good job prospects” as a factor in students decision making on which college to attend. Having a strong online reputation is the first step in the process that helps to increase admissions, and positions colleges and universities for success to recruit the top students to their institutions.

2. Retention

Current students are engaged on nearly every social media platform. It has become the default way of staying in touch for most students. Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram are in a commanding lead (Statista) meaning students are doing more than “talking”. They’re showing. They’re doing.

Students will discuss and show everything from housing, to classes, to what professors to avoid. Knowing what they are saying online can be an influential barometer to let you know what blind spots may exist that require your focus and attention. The more you make your students feel heard, the better your reputation with them will be. But to hear them you need to know where they are having their conversations.

3. Talent Acquisition

Every college wants to hire the best faculty. People also want to be proud of the institution they represent. Therefore, proactively building a positive reputation online is essential for schools as a part of their talent acquisition strategy. According to armworldwide, “ORM leaves a strong impression in the minds of people and represents your colleges as the best place to work. This helps institutes attract and hire the best faculty and improve the value of their educational staff.”

Hiring the best faculty has several additional benefits including attracting research investments and endowment funding, as well as improving the standing of an institution’s academic rankings.

4. Fundraising

Successful fundraising is the lifeblood of a university. It allows colleges and universities to increase the number and types of scholarships they can offer, develop grants, create endowed professorship and research fellowships, improve technology infrastructure and modernize buildings. Having a positive online reputation enables university development offices to build relationships with donors who want to ensure their contributions are going towards a school with a strong institutional reputation.

5. Risk Management

In a matter of minutes, a poor word choice by faculty member, a rumor or even a bad decision can go viral and ruin a highly reputed college or university’s reputation. The cost, time required, and resources needed to recover from this downfall can bankrupt some smaller colleges and drastically impact student admissions decisions, faculty recruitment and fundraising efforts across higher education institutions. With effective ORM strategies and plans in place, schools can be proactive in their vigilance to monitor what is being said online and take swift action to manage any crises before they spin out of control.

University reputation management doesn’t just happen. It takes focus, strategy and a plan, to be successful.

If your school needs help developing a strategy to manage its online reputation we can help. IntelliShop offers a full-service, online reputation solution that not only monitors 100+ review sites and social media channels, but also 150+ million other sources to get a full picture of how your school brand, campus locations and more are perceived online. We will provide your faculty and staff with an understanding of students and faculty experience from online feedback to increase acquisition strategies for new students and faculty, increase loyalty from existing faculty and drive fundraising opportunities.

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