University admissions promotes campus inclusion through social media marketing

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 Mat Gilderman, digital media specialist for the  University of Minnesota Duluth Office of Admissions . Photo courtesy of Mat Gilderman

Mat Gilderman, digital media specialist for the University of Minnesota Duluth Office of Admissions. Photo courtesy of Mat Gilderman

Social media has become a marketing tool used by individuals, companies and organizations all around the world. Various social networking platforms are being used by admission offices nationwide in order to influence potential students in choosing their university.

Mat Gilderman is the digital media specialist for the University of Minnesota Duluth Office of Admissions. His job is to run social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat for the admissions office. He creates posts, videos and advertisements aimed at turning eyes toward UMD.

“My job is to show potential students what UMD is like,” Gilderman said.

One of the challenges that comes from working at the UMD Office of Admissions is recruiting students from diverse backgrounds.

“It’s an uphill battle because this community is predominantly white so the school has to start from scratch,” Gilderman said.

The efforts UMD has made to improve diversity have been “monumental,” according to Gilderman. He also believes their marketing has substance because of established programs at UMD, like the Multicultural Center.

“The Multicultural Center is legendary,” Gilderman said. “We have organizations like the Black Student Association, The Asian Pacific American Student Association and many others.”

Gilderman is working to improve diversity through strategic social media campaigns. This fall, the UMD admissions Instagram launched a series called “Show me UMD.” The series followed six students around campus for one week in order to show what it’s like to attend UMD.

Gilderman attempted to select students that show that UMD, though predominantly white, does have students from diverse populations.

“There’s a total balance between showcasing our diversity and seeming fake,” Gilderman said. “If we only posted minorities we would be lying.”

According to Gilderman, the goal for UMD admissions is not to show that the school is perfectly diverse. Their goal is to show that the university is welcoming to students of color and that there is a place for everyone here.

“I focus our social media efforts on inclusion more than diversity,” Gilderman said.

 One of the "Show Me UMD" participants, Dagan Osman. Photo courtesy of Dagan Osman 

One of the "Show Me UMD" participants, Dagan Osman. Photo courtesy of Dagan Osman 

One of the students that participated in the “Show me UMD” series was sophomore Dagan Osman. She was contacted by Gilderman and was happy to participate.

“I honestly felt normal about doing it,” Osman said. “I noticed they were trying to add students of color, but it’s a good way to show our school’s diversity.”

Osman contemplated how she wanted to be featured in the series. She was excited to identify with Muslim students and let them know they were welcome at UMD.

“I know the school is predominately white,” Osman said. “I feel normal about it and don’t feel out of place.”

One of Gilderman’s concerns is that students from diverse backgrounds may feel they are used in social media just because of their skin color. Gilderman was asked if there is any statistical method or rule of thumb used to measure diversity in their marketing.

“When we have a minority student in our videos, it’s not because of their skin color, it’s because they are truly awesome students,” Gilderman said. “The range of diversity on our social media usually just happens organically.”

While Gilderman believes that the school’s diversity has improved, he still thinks there is room for growth.

“I feel like it will always be a challenge to have diversity up here, but I think it will continue to improve,” Gilderman said. “I think a broader range of ideas comes from a broader range of students.”

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