Magazine article Techniques

No Filter: The Power of Peer Influence

Magazine article Techniques

No Filter: The Power of Peer Influence

Article excerpt


At Meridian Technology Center (Tech), a career and technical education center located in Stillwater, Oklahoma, high school student recruitment is the result of a dedicated career services team, a creative marketing group, and inspired instructors and administrators.

But as our school found out, that's not the only recruiting that takes place. Out of sight from our well-crafted and well-thought-out messages, an even more persuasive marketing campaign was happening--and we didn't even have a hand in creating it.

First-year students consistently reported that their decision to attend Tech was frequently based on what they knew about a current student's experience. The need for an additional marketing strategy suddenly became clear--we needed to find a way to maximize the power of peer influence.

Survey and focus group findings revealed that Instagram was the primary social media platform students use. This inspired us to take a closer look at the way we connect with prospective students. Like many schools, Tech's marketing and recruitment process includes summer camps and career exploration events for younger students, various mailers and promotional materials for freshmen and sophomores, and time spent in programs of a student's choosing right before the enrollment period.

While effective, we recognized that we had the potential to reach a new audience with the addition of a peer-inspired awareness campaign. How to do it became the question. The answer was found in our marketing department's mission to connect with students where they are at and get them to Tech. With that, the concept of #TotalTechTakeover began to take shape.

#Total Tech Takeover Tactics

Back in the fall of 2015, the Meridian Tech marketing team decided to create a social media contest that gave students the opportunity to provide a behind-the-scenes look at Tech, posting their experiences on the school's Instagram page. We would select one student from each of Techs 10 partner or feeder high schools and give them free reign to share content on a specific day. We'd let our Instagram followers decide who did the best job of showcasing Tech and reward the student, his or her high school and community for the their effort.

Before we began we reached out to district high school principals and asked for their support. We knew if we wanted to reach new students, we needed the school's help to get the word out. To do this, we provided district high schools with posters promoting the contest, as well as content that they could use in their announcements at school and on their social media sites.

With contest details worked out, we needed to identify students for the takeover. We partnered with our Career Planning Center team and instructors to identify students, taking into consideration their academic performance, perceived peer influence (based on feedback from instructors, the student's Instagram usage and the number of followers they had), and their social media content in the selection process.

We established social media guidelines that students and their parents had to sign, agreeing that they would be brand ambassadors for a day, and each student had to agree to Instagram polices from a provided link. We also created a page on Tech's website that outlined contest rules and connected users directly to our Instagram page.

#Takeover Talk

To build excitement about the event we purchased disposable cameras and placed them around campus for students and staff to capture candid moments. The school's graphic designers created a camera wrap that mirrored the look of Instagram along with a clever poem to encourage students to take photos. Photos from the camera would be used on Instagram as a teaser for the upcoming contest. They would also be used during the time between the final takeover and the time voting began. …

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