A higher education establishment without a social media presence is like a broken abacus: ineffective and old fashioned. With Millenials living more of their lives on the internet than any other generation, social networks are without a doubt the number one way to reach out to current and prospective students.
Social media provides an opportunity to engage with students more deeply and meaningfully than through traditional print and poster marketing. This gives colleges and universities the opportunity to promote their emotional intelligence and highlight the human touch of educational establishments. In a way, social media is more than a marketing tool, it’s a new way to continue the task of teaching, and to push an institution’s values further than ever before.
Three Ways Colleges Can Use Social Media
The most obvious use of social media, and one that most colleges and universities have cottoned on to already. Attracting students to apply to your college or visit your campus has never been easier than with social media.
Cheryl Martin, a social media expert at Studydemic and State Of Writing, says “never underestimate the power of visual content. Instagram has become a market leader when it comes to engaging young adults, and its content revolves around highly-shareable videos and images. Find ways to promote your offering through visual content and you can reach much further than textual marketing ever could.”
Engagement & Community
The next way in which social media is indispensable is its potential to reach students on an individual and personal level. So often the greatest challenge facing an education institution is demonstrating its human capacity. A college is made up of human beings, but at a certain point humanity is lost behind bureaucracy and you lose the students’ trust.
Social media can help you regain this trust. Social networks were designed (supposedly) with the intention of putting your real life on show and connecting meaningfully in online spaces, so use that to your advantage.
Do this engagement right and you can make a long-term impression on students which can continue to thrive online. This is where alumni networks are so valuable: a college’s social media presence can be a place to reunite current and former students and allow them to share experiences on the institution.
This shared community links to a third use of social media for colleges: the promotion of values and actions relevant to students. Social media is like any other marketing tool in that it is a way to show off your institution’s best side. By displaying your institution’s capacity for human personality, your values of education and inclusion can really come across and stand a better chance of resonating with students.
Social Media Strategy For Colleges
Assuming you’re now convinced as to the practicality of social media for educational institutions, here are some tips on how best to use social media marketing.
Have a united style
Social media marketing should be an extension of your current marketing strategy, so it should be in keeping with the verbal and visual tone and style of your other marketing. Having a prim and professional tone on your website and a crass, jokey one on your social media will come across at best as incongruous and at worst as fake.
Toni Danza, an educator at Simplegrad and BigAssignments, points out that “This doesn’t mean you have to be dry on social media, far from it. Think of how you would present yourself in an email to your superiors compared to your colleagues — slight differences, same general tone. Try and find a middle ground that promotes both trust and fun.”
Know your platforms
Not all social networks are created equal: each platform has different purposes, styles and audiences, and you need to know those differences. Some content will work better on Instagram than on Facebook, even the length of content matters.
The challenge is to pursue this goal and stay consistent, as to the first point. For visual posts, determine a style that will stay consistent no matter what; a font, a filter, a border. You may find that some content works better with some audiences, in which case making different social accounts can be one way around it. Football fans will respond to different tones to theatre audiences, make two separate accounts with distinct tones to better reach each student base.
Move with the times
Social media marketing is not a set-it and forget-it strategy, you have to keep innovating if you’re going to stay relevant to students. New platforms emerge all the time, and old platforms develop new ways of engaging on a regular basis. Keep up-to-date on everything from boomerangs to live-streaming.
An important caveat to this point: don’t commit too hard, too early. The other side of the coin to innovation is fads, and for every long-lasting social media trend there are thousands of viral sensations users will forget within a week. Your attempts to stay relevant will backfire and you’ll seem even more out of touch than if you hadn’t tried at all. In plain terms: if you spend weeks putting together a Harlem Shake video, you’ve probably wasted that time (and if you didn’t get that reference, that proves my point).
Social media strategy doesn’t have to be daunting and it definitely shouldn’t be taken too seriously. While it is a powerful tool to engage students and promote your institution’s offerings, it is still most often the place users come to unwind. Try to emulate that in your marketing strategy: show your students that you’re having fun, trying out new things, and genuinely trying to engage with them.
If you find a new feature, give it a go. If a new platform comes out, make an account. As long as you make sure to follow the values of your institution, the worst thing you can do is seem a little dorky (and that can be pretty endearing).
Beatrix Potter is a professional marketer and content creator at the writing services Paper Fellows and Assignment Writing. Bea enjoys writing about further education, ethics and brand management. She also tutors at Essay Writing Service.