Broadening Your Social Media Strategy

Jennifer Barker

Business Development Strategist

With millions of people active on social media, it’s a great platform for communicating with students and parents. In fact, the interactions on social media have evolved so much, prospective students are using the channel to talk about the schools they’re interested in and learn from others.

In some cases, there are very basic factors that higher institutions forget to mention that are significant to prospective students, such as scholarship programs, the ease of getting around campus and special accommodations for students with disabilities. When potential students learn about these small but crucial factors from their peers on social media, it draws them closer to some schools and further away from others.

Your responsibility is to get your institution into these conversations so that you can tell your side of the story. It’s possible that prospective students might not realize that your school offers an allergy-friendly cafeteria or rigorous financial aid packages. Get your higher institution into the discussion by broadening your social media strategy. Here’s how to do it.

Start With Your Personas

With hundreds of social media sites, it’s impractical to be on all of them. Rather than putting that pressure on yourself, think about the social media sites that your audience is using. More specifically, what social media outlets do potential students trust for information?

People rely on social media for news for a couple of reasons. First, if someone they know and trust recommends something, it speaks volume. Sharing content on social media is similar to a word-of-mouth referral.

Second, the more a person uses the social network of their choice, the more personalized it becomes. The major social media platforms use algorithms to determine which content to show first based on user behavior. If a prospective college student is researching fine arts schools, they will be shown more information about fine arts institutions.

Also realize that different personas will spend time on different networks. Facebook tends to be for the “older” crowd and is a great place for parents and alumni. Younger people tend to prefer chat apps such as Snapchat. Before you assume that your potential students are following suit with the trends, be sure to ask them about their social media habits. It’s possible that your audience enjoys being on Twitter more than Facebook or Snapchat.

Align the Networks with Your Goals

Chances are, your audience is on a handful of networks. Rather than trying to create a strategy where you reach out to all prospects, narrow down your social media list by establishing your goals. For instance, do you want your social media strategy to drive traffic to your website? Do you want to increase attendance at your events? Do you want prospects to engage more with your admissions departments?

When you define your goals, you can determine which social media platform will best help you reach them. Twitter tends to be the place for real-time communication, whereas LinkedIn is more professional and career-minded. To accommodate the audience’s on these channels, you might want to host a live Twitter chat so that prospects have the chance to speak with one of your representatives.

Also be sure that you take a look at the types of tools that are available on the social media sites that you plan on using. You’d be amazed at the targeting tools that exist to help you reach the right audience, as well as tools for distribution, communication and analysis.

Where to Get the Content

By broadening your social media strategy, you might be wondering where you are going to get all of this content. The good news is that you already have most of it; it just needs some updating. Take a look at your program pages, campus publications and curriculums. Adjust the content so that it fits the social media platform you plan on using.

For example, if you have a program brochure that details the top 10 things about your institution, turn it into a bright and interactive infographic that can be shared on Facebook. Here are a few tips for modifying your content and making it social media friendly.

  • Include images, videos and GIFs that potential students will take a second look at.

  • Use hashtags and keywords that help prospects find your school on social media.

  • Analyze the best times to post content on each individual network. Keep your specific audience in mind.

Metrics that Make a Difference

If you follow the tips above to broaden your social media strategy, how will you know if they are working? By tracking and measuring the right metrics.

Social media has a ton of metrics that you can look at, so pay attention to those that matter. You might think that likes and impressions are what make a difference, but they are actually superficial. Instead, focus on the metrics that impact the quality of your social media strategy. For example, track URLs to determine the content and social media channel that brought traffic to your site. This tells you which social channels are most lucrative and what types of content your audience is engaging with.

Final Thoughts

Social media marketing can be tricky at times, especially because you need to find a way to get the right content into the hands of the right students. Your content is important, but so is your distribution strategy. Thanks to social media, you have an excellent method for distributing and promoting content so that prospective students can find it.

About the Author: Jennifer Barker

Jen is the Business Development Strategist for SEMGeeks and the only team member born and raised north of the Jersey great divide, i.e. the Driscoll Bridge. Her BFA in multimedia design and extensive experience in digital marketing make her both an analytical and creative thinker. Jen has lived and worked for digital agencies in two major cities over the last 17 years but 3 years ago this “gypsy living, free bird” happily put her roots down at the Jersey Shore. The struggle to defend North Jersey to the rest of the team is an ongoing battle. #TaylorHam

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