People live in a world where being constantly connected is something to be expected.

Like many other schools, Plattsburgh State uses social media to connect with a number of audiences, including alumni, current students, parents of students and potential students and their parents. Marketing is an important part of the process, as they’re selling the PSUC experience.

Matt McDonald is the assistant director of student recruitment marketing and a PSUC alumnus. He works with the communications coordinator to oversee the content of the various channels of social media that PSUC uses.

McDonald said that as social media channels change, paying attention to trends and connecting to potential students in new ways is crucial.

“Facebook used to be the ‘big one’ for students,” he said. “They still use it, but, as a community, they are moving away from it now.”

McDonald said, for the most part, Facebook provides a better connection to the parents of potential students because if students view the institution’s Facebook page, they might look for specific information.

“They’ll go to the SUNY Plattsburgh page to gather information and form an impression of us,” he said. “But as far as interacting, they aren’t commenting.”

McDonald said social media is a hard thing in which to be an expert because it changes so often. The information PSUC collected shows that potential students are using Snapchat and Instagram more than Facebook and Twitter.

He said each person uses social media differently, so students are likely to have individual impressions and opinions of the content that is available to them.

Because students are using social media to familiarize themselves with PSUC, PSUC is starting to use social media to learn more about its applicants.

The traditional elements of a college application in the past have included a minimum high school grade-point average, test scores, extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, graduating class ranking and essays. However, a survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep revealed that the percentage of college admissions officers who visit applicants’ social media pages has reached 40 percent, according to a recent USA Today article. That percentage is nearly four times higher than it was in 2008 when admissions officers first started to explore the issue.

With the increasing presence of social media in people’s lives, colleges are looking to gather information from prospective students’ profiles, feed and dashboards.

Facebook launched in 2004, Twitter launched in 2006 and Instagram and Snapchat appeared with the last six years.

A Facebook profile can allow people to view years’ worth of someone’s information within the click of a button. The importance of managing the risks of using social media varies from person to person. The Internet can act as a spider web that collects information and never lets it go.

PSUC senior public relations major Sophie Deshaies said that because college admission officers are starting to look at many different forms of social media, it’s important to monitor every account carefully.

“I have a sister who’s a senior in high school, and she’s already pretty good about it, but it’s important to stay on top of that stuff,” Deshaies said.

Morgan Marcus, a senior in high school who recently toured the PSUC campus, just finished the college application progress and has been accepted to the University of Rhode Island in the fall.

“I got Facebook during my freshman year of high school,” she said. “When I did, my mother gave me a lecture about how careful I need to be with my posts.”

Marcus said she thinks that it’s easy for students to get caught up in wanting to seem “cool” to their peers and sometimes that can lead to poor choices.

“Once an inappropriate picture or post is posted, you can’t take it back. You can delete it, but that doesn’t mean that someone else didn’t take a picture of it before you did,” she said.

Marcus said that during one of her interviews with a freshman admissions officer, she was asked about a service trip that she attended during her junior year of high school.

“I was shocked. How did they know about that?” she said. “I was happy to talk about it because I was proud of the work I had done, but it was a little uncomfortable to know that they cyberstalked me without me even knowing.”

Marcus said that even though she had already been accepted, she is still very careful about what she posts.

Deshaies also thinks that monitorization shouldn’t end just because a student receives an acceptance letter.

“It’s the people who are underage drinking and never thinking anything will happen to them,” she said. “People get caught, and it’s upsetting.”

Deshaies said that she is still reminded by her public relations professor to carefully monitor her profiles.

“Whether you’re going to grad school or if you’re looking for a job, it’s very important,” she said.

“You need to think, ‘Hey, would I feel comfortable with a future employer seeing this?”

Privacy settings can be used to block specific content from being viewed by others. Another feature of the privacy settings is the ability to confirm or deny friends or followers. However, the increased security isn’t a perfect solution.

“There’s ways to get around it,” Deshaies said. “Imagine if your employer tried to follow you and you said no. That would tell them that you’re hiding something.”

Marcus said her guidance counselor uses the expression, “You shouldn’t post anything that they wouldn’t want their mother to see.”

Deshaies said that example is dramatic but stressed the importance of keeping your future in mind when you post things.

“When dealing with social media accounts, it’s better to start off on a good foot and keep up that habit,” Deshaies said.

Email Madison Winters at madison.winters@cardinalpointsonline.com

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<a href="http://cardinalpointsonline.com/byline/madison-winters/" rel="tag">Madison Winters</a>