In a generation that grew up in the digital age, it’s hardly a surprise that social media is one of the best mediums for reaching today’s student. Not only do 88 percent of Americans 18-29 years old use social media regularly, 83 percent of students say they used social media to actually help them choose a university.
That means if you’re in higher education, you not only need to be on social media, but it should be a central component of your communications and recruitment strategy.
Here are four social media best practices for marketers in higher education:
1- Proactive Content Marketing
Content is the engine that drives everything we do for our higher education clients. If you’re going to spend time, effort, and money to produce content, ensure that it’s worth your users’ while.
How do you do this? For one, create what your audience wants. Effective content will be more impactful if you learn and anticipate your audience’s needs. Educational and relevant social content will build a sense of trust and credibility, which supports the brand of your institution and can help influence whether or not students choose your school. However, take care not to self-promote with every post. Better to create a mix of content that is engaging, educating, and entertaining your users.
Lastly, create once and repurpose often. Instead of a one-and-done approach, plan to repurpose your posts multiple ways across multiple channels.
2- Prioritize Effective Community Management
Checking for questions or complaints on social channels periodically just doesn’t cut it anymore. Sixty three percent of social media users expect companies to offer customer service through their social media, while 90 percent of social media users have already used social media as a way to communicate with a brand or business. (Source)
This means you need multiple people tasked with around-the-clock community management. Your audience wants convenient answers fast– it’s why they went to social media in the first place. While a 24-hour or less response time is ideal, try to answer as soon as possible, even if it’s simply with, “We will look into this and get back to you ASAP.” This way, your students, alumni, or prospects feel heard and respected.
There’s another side to community management that may be just as important: engagement. Don’t just answer your audience – connect with them! Too often brands only answer urgent questions and complaints. Where YOU can be different is how you engage – even if someone just leaves a general comment, respond in an excited, conversational, and professional way. Ask questions so they can elaborate and start a conversation. Not only does this make the user feel special, it personalizes and humanizes your brand.
3- Differentiate Paid and Organic Content
While organic content is great for informing, engaging and building a sense of community, don’t ignore paid content, as it allows for developing new relationships. Paid social allows you to amplify your audience reach in a way that organic cannot do alone – awareness, consideration, event RSVPs and video views – just to name a few.
Get creative with paid media tactics to draw student interest by showcasing curriculum, culture and faculty. For one University client, we developed a 10-month funnel campaign consisting of a variety of content to generate awareness, interest and consideration as the spring application deadline approached. This method allowed for a conversation rate 68 percent above the higher education industry average, and we got a cost-per-application for as low as $3.
With that in mind, organic and paid content shouldn’t be exactly the same. Paid media should be straightforward and informative with clear calls to action.
In contrast, organic content has more flexibility and can range from informative to interactive. This is where you should highlight campus events and important academic days like the first day of classes. Use these as conversation starters with your audience to create a sense of culture and community.
4- Leverage Your Community as Social Influencers
When you think of influencers, do you think of celebrities and detox juices? Think again. Influencer is a hot buzzword right now, and it’s not going away any time soon. In fact, brands are set to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. (Source)
Look to students, alumni and employees as credible and powerful influencers who can engage your target audience. Students and alumni can be the greatest marketing tool you’re not accessing. Capitalize on your excited and eager new students and proud alumni by creating university influencers.
This peer-to-peer marketing is unique and can be activated in creative and impactful ways. Students and alumni can market your university to prospects or highlight student life to their classmates. However, you have to be careful to set strict guidelines and amount of flexibility. This relationship does require a considerable amount of trust to ensure the university’s reputation is in safe hands.
To sum up, in the competitive world of higher education, it’s more important now than ever to stand out amongst the crowd to prospective students. Keeping up with social media marketing trends and best practices, like influencer marketing and engaging your audience, sets your university’s online presence apart from the rest.
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