Social media interns pose for a selfie with Fairfield's Lucas the Stag mascot at the Mahoney Arena grand opening.

Fairfield's social media interns (l-r) Angeline Dortenzio '23 and Bianca Sasso '23 pose for a selfie with Lucas at the Mahoney Arena grand opening.

Fairfield’s social media accounts are growing fast and recruiting students.

Now that waking up each day and ricocheting between social media platforms is as commonplace as a morning cup of coffee, it’s no wonder the social media ecosystem has become a critical environment for universities as they present themselves to prospective students, many of whom live morning, noon, and night in this digital space.

According to a recent finding by the Pew Research Center, around seven in ten Americans use social media to connect with one another, and it is a communication technology that has gained popularity rather quickly. In 2005, just five percent of Americans used social media; today more than 72 percent of Americans of all ages are logging on to at least one social media network.

The average social media user spends roughly two hours every day scrolling, posting, exchanging media, and connecting with friends, family, colleagues — even strangers — on their preferred platforms. It is estimated that millennials spend 3.8 hours on social media each day, while Gen Z logs 4.5 hours a day; both demographics devote a large portion of their time to creating and consuming content online.

Matt Turner ‘17 World Cup

(1) Matt Turner ‘17 World Cup

What that has meant for Fairfield in recent years is the continued development of a suite of channels designed to engage with that huge audience, bringing the University’s message to the world. Short videos, alumni stories, student interviews, real-time news, and general snippets of academic and student life are continually curated and shared through Fairfield’s social media platforms. The channels — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and TikTok — are used to capture cherished moments, to mark special milestones in the University’s history, and to inspire followers to become lifelong brand advocates.

According to Vice President of Strategic Enrollment Corry Unis, the social media landscape is particularly important when it comes to engaging with prospective students.

“Our surveys of admitted students leave no doubt that social media plays an important role in the college search and selection process. We hear that our students want to get an authentic understanding of the Fairfield community, and the most accessible channels for prospective students to use are on social media,” he said.

(l-r): Leo D.MaHoney Arena Reveal,WBB First Game

(2), (3) (l-r) Leo D.MaHoney Arena Reveal; WBB First Game

Senior Admission fellow Angie Dortenzio ’23 cited three students to illustrate the importance of social media in attracting applicants and encouraging them to enroll — one from New York, one from New Jersey, and one from Vietnam. These three applicants appeared to have very little in common. Their connection? Each of them said their first introduction to Fairfield University was through Instagram.

Since Fairfield launched the first of its flagship social media accounts (@fairfieldu) with Twitter in 2008, the University has accumulated a combined loyal following of more than 124,700 people on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Twitter. Twenty-seven thousand of those are new followers who’ve joined since 2020, marking a period of explosive three-year growth, both institutionally and online.

Most of that growth came sharply in the past year, with Fairfield follower counts from 2021 to 2022 charted at a 72 percent increase cumulatively across all platforms, making it the single-largest year of growth on social in more than 10 years.

From left to right: Beach Sunset; Fairfield Egan - Austin Announcement

(4), (5) (l-r) Beach Sunset; Fairfield Egan - Austin Announcement

These 124,700 followers are students, parents, alumni, community members, and friends of Stag Country who yearn to stay in touch with Fairfield from various corners of the world. The spike in growth, particularly in the last two years, indicates that the University’s audience is invested in the Fairfield brand now more than ever.

Moreover, Fairfield is commanding the attention of those outside its first-degree network and receiving national and global recognition. Every time @fairfieldu posts on Instagram, the individual post reaches tens of thousands of people, and an average of 1,900 of them fall into the non-follower category, meaning that nearly 2,000 people who have no traceable connection to Fairfield are getting the message.

top Instagram posts

Often, growth is achieved through big stories and striking images. Top posts about trending topics — ones more inclined to ‘go viral’— have high-reach potential and increase viewership by new people. (See examples in sidebar on left.)

The University has found that, in general, posts emphasizing the beauty and vitality of campus have the best reach. In 2022, photos of Bellarmine Hall, the Leo D. Mahoney Arena, the Quad, and other quintessential campus locations stopped Instagram scrollers in their tracks — enough to convince them to follow Fairfield’s account instantly. In that year, @fairfieldu gained 500+ new Instagram followers this way — directly from campus photos — equating to 12 percent of the University’s total growth on the platform in 2022.

To capture the attention of high school students in their mid- to late-teens, TikTok — a relative newcomer in the social space — plays an important role in painting a vivid picture of Fairfield online. Launched in 2016, TikTok has evolved to currently host almost 850 million global users. The company’s higher education team recently reported that one in four students visits a university’s TikTok account first to learn about an institution and gain insight directly from students about what their college is like.

Fairfield launched its TikTok account in 2020, and now has just over 3,300 followers. The bulk of @fairfieldu TikTok content produced by the University nods to academics or extracurricular activities, addresses frequently asked questions, or aims to make the audience aware of unique opportunities available to admitted students. In many cases, the University hands the channel over to current students to help produce content under guidance.

The importance of social media connectivity doesn’t just apply to the new student funnel, but extends beyond, to alumni, for years after graduation. As Fairfield’s fastest-growing platform, the University’s LinkedIn account is home to 56,000 followers — 47,500 of whom are alumni working in education, healthcare, sales, finance, human resources, engineering, marketing, and other leading industries — in hundreds of cities across the globe.

Rather than treating social media as a one-way megaphone, using social as a communication tool provides daily opportunities to create shareable content that encourages people to respond, start a conversation, ask questions, and share their own experiences. For Fairfield specifically, social has become the place where alumni stories live on and inspire the next generation of Stags.

Join the Conversation:

Want to be featured on our channels?

1. Email photos and stories to social@fairfield.edu
2. Tag @fairfieldu
3. Tag #fairfieldu

Other Articles in the Spring 2023 Issue

Letter from the President

Read the Article

Online Learning, Fairfield Style

Read the Article

Grand Design

Read the Article

Play Ball

Read the Article

In Deep Waters

Read the Article

Alumni Profile: Colleen (O’Donnell) Thorburn ’97

Read the Article

Alumni Profile: Meaghan Mooney '05

Read the Article

Donor Profile: Robert Dawe '72, MD, Honors Wife Jean Dawe Through Gift to the Egan School

Read the Article

Search Results