Why Social Media Matters in Higher Education
Note: Even if you are not involved in higher education, these principles and ideas can be adapted for other markets.
Listen up admissions counselors!
The days of having the best brochures and look books are over! Well, okay – they’re not completely over. Printed materials are still important. But if you’re spending the majority of your money on pamphlets and ignoring your out-of-date website and non-existent social presence – you’re losing potential students to the tune of thousands of dollars.
I live just a few blocks from a high school in Lancaster, and today on my morning run I saw many students walking to school. What do you think they all had in common? Every single one of them was plugged in to their iPhone! They were all listening to music, texting, and using social media.
You know this, right? You’ve probably already set up a Facebook page and maybe a Twitter account for your school. But have you really thought about why it matters and what you should be doing?
Find and Reach Potential Students
The majority of students go to in-state or “local” schools. It’s comfortable, they’ve heard of them, they know alumni, they can save money – there are lots of reasons. However, if you can use social media to target other students and get your name out there – it’s an easy process on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all offer paid options for advertising and really excellent targeting by gender, location, interests, and more.
Social media can also allow you to reach students that may have never heard of you. Chances are that unless you’re an Ivy League institution – there are plenty of people who don’t know you exist. You can use social media to reach out to students that show a lot of potential. Search Twitter bios and start following them. Use alerts to find people talking about academic programs you offer, and then reply to them with helpful information!
Integrate with College Fairs
Does your school attend various college fairs or host a senior preview day? Use social media to your advantage and engage with students then. Try a contest where anyone that stops by your booth can enter to win a drawing by following you on Twitter (or something similar). Then you can follow them back and keep track of these high school students and engage them later. In Milwaukee, schools used QR codes (quick-response codes) to acquire emails and addresses of students who stopped by their tables.
If you’re a high school student in the Philadelphia area, come meet us tonight from 7-9PM at the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philadelphia!
— PSU Theatre (@psutheatre) September 23, 2013
Your current students are already tweeting about you, mentioning you in status updates, and using hashtags with your brand name. You need to be on social media monitoring what is being said. Since people tend to voice complaints over social media rather than positive sentiments, you have an opportunity to address concerns and complaints from your students. Potential students see this and will appreciate that you noticed and responded.
Market Your Best Resources
Your professors and students are producing content on a regular basis for you! What better way to show off your talent than to promote it on social media? How many of your faculty published books, did interviews, or were featured in publications this past year? Did your students win business competitions, athletic events, or academic awards? Highlight them and talk about how much they’ve contributed to your institution. Social media is also a great place to showcase the interesting aspects of your campus, your dedicated staff, or campus events coming up – musical, athletic, competitions, art shows, previews, and more.
— Hail to Pitt (@PittTweet) September 27, 2013
Tell Your Story
This is my favorite part about social media. It’s the absolute easiest way to tell the story behind your brand. Marketing is all about telling stories – and it’s what people want to hear. Any social media account I’ve managed has gotten higher engagement on posts that focus on the story of the brand – not the promotions. Get students to post pictures of their lives on campus using hashtags. My alma mater did a campaign last year to raise awareness for the alumni support that keeps the school affordable. They put red bows on campus buildings that existed because of alumni donations. Students had to take pictures with the red bows and tweet them using the hashtag #gccOneDay”. It garnered a lot of engagement with current students, parents, and alumni alike. Can you talk about why your school was founded? What current students are doing? What accomplishments graduates have made?
A few of our clients are involved in higher education, and competition is just getting harder. High school students and their parents are two of the largest groups of consumers on social media, and having a great social media presence is vital to your success. If you are interested in content marketing for higher education – I highly recommend reading this collection of interviews of people who are doing content marketing for colleges and universities and read their takeaways.