Posted on 3/17/2016 in Business and Strategy
By Dean Dorazio
It’s 2016, do you know where your students are?
In this new age of technology, traditional marketing techniques don’t fare very well. People have endless streams of content presented to them 24/7 and can choose whatever they want to read and hear. When brands try to force content on their target customer, they can appear intrusive and annoying, giving them a bad image – and this is just the average user. Imagine trying engage with an audience who has grown up with this technology and is wired to ignore traditional marketing?
Why Social Media for Higher Ed?
Social media is a major channel for accessing Millennials on their own terms. SDL’s Understanding Global Millennials states that upcoming students check their smartphones 43x/day!
With social media apps directly on their phones, they rely on social media to tell them everything from the latest breaking news to where they friends are eating dinner. These sites are full of social proof, guiding a lot of the choices Millennials make, especially when it comes to choosing a college.
If you want to successfully reach and engage with Millennials, bring your content to where they are and present it in a way that is interesting and engaging. By employing a strong social media strategy for your college or university, you can:
- Strengthen your connection with potential and current students
- Be easily accessible and in the eye of potential students
- Use user-generated content to strengthen future marketing efforts
What Channels to Leverage and Why?
Your team already leverages social media for your school, but what channels should you target? There are a wealth of opportunities from Facebook to Pinterest to Periscope to Snapchat. With so many channels available it can be confusing which to target. We can save you the trouble and recommend three large platforms:
Instagram is a great option for targeting potential undergrad students. Younger generations are attracted to visual media, like pictures and video. Teenagers are 50% more likely to be active on Instagram and can be reached early to build a strong bond with your school and its brand.
Instagram’s benefits for higher education are everywhere:
- Potential students are researching colleges on it
- Instagram ads receive a 2.5x higher click through rate than other social platforms
- Ad recall from sponsored posts are 2.9x greater than average
This platform thrives on high-quality photographic content, allowing you the opportunity to focus on the beauty of your campus, share photos of students , and add “human dimension” to your social media presence that students love. By showcasing different locations at varying times of day, sporting events, theater productions, even class sessions, followers experience campus life in a virtual setting. By interacting with them regularly, it’s almost as if they are on campus already and act as brand advocates before the application process ends.
When posting, include appropriate hashtags (7-9) to help prospective students find you.
No one can deny the power of Facebook. People are on it constantly to connect with new and old friends and even leverage it as a search engine. When prospective students are considering their options in higher education, they look into a college’s Facebook account.
Social proof has a strong influence over potential buyers for anything and your university is no different. When they see people making positive comments about your school, people tend to view you more favorably. When complaints are handled with aplomb, you can even create a brand advocate who will help boost your efforts.
Facebook’s focus is on connectivity. Potential students can start their experience with your school by connecting with your account. That way they will receive updates and receive a taste of the campus life to come. If they have any questions, they can ask you and you can use it as a way to strengthen your relationship with them and convert them into a student.
The other beauty of Facebook is its ad process. For a minimal budget, you can promote your brand and increase impressions. Some benefits are:
- Minute targeting efforts – you can denote your ideal persona and tailor Facebook ads to target them, so you know your message is going to appropriate people
- Lookalike targeting – you can use your current followers as a base to promote your content to similar demographics who would be interested in your school
Twitter is another hub for reaching potential students. With 26% of all millennials are actively using Twitter, the platform provides a great opportunity for your school can reach and engage with prospective students. By tweeting about student life, events, and answering questions, you humanize your brand and make it more approachable. You can also use Twitter (and other platforms as well) to employ contests for your current, former, and future student body.
By utilizing Twitter’s unique capabilities for short, visual content that is easily shared, you can build up your brand image. Creating contests like describing your school with the most appropriate hashtag, best campus photograph, or just sharing your name with their followers, can get you more prominently placed in the public eye. You engage and build a relationship with your target market all while strengthening your brand. Win/win.
How Social Media Engagement Leads to a Stronger Content Marketing Strategy
The ROI of your social media is never clear-cut. However, when used intelligently, social can strengthen your overall content marketing strategy. With all of the interactions and contests you’ve had, you have a wealth of user-generated content. All of these statements, testimonials, pictures, and questions from current and future students will direct you towards creating content they really want, or better yet, create the content for you.
You can relieve their pain points before they even know they’re there.
The power of social media is undeniable, especially for the younger generations. Attracting and engaging with students and potential students on social media can help take your school from the bottom of their list to the top.
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