Social media provides ample room for your higher institution to grow, evolve and capture new audiences. Despite these opportunities, social media can feel overwhelming. Like parenting, social media doesn’t come with a handbook on how to be successful. What works for one institution may not work for another.
It’s also worth noting that you have a tough audience to impress. Today’s junior and senior high school students have grown up in a world with the internet. Even when you are successful hooking this young audience in, keeping them engaged is complicated.
As difficult as social media can be, it’s a channel that cannot be ignored. Simply posting pictures and sharing campus news isn’t enough, either. You must find ways to join in the conversations surrounding the college selection process – even if the conversation doesn’t involve your school. You never know when reaching out, connecting with the right students and making a positive first impression will pay off.
In this post, we will explore the ways that you can be more social savvy and connect with prospective students who are in all stages of the college search process.
Be Where Your Audience Is
It’s impossible to be on all social media channels. Even if it were possible, it wouldn’t be the best idea. You can only spread yourself so thin until it affects your school’s image, professionalism and accountability. The best approach is to choose the social media networks that offer the most opportunities for your college or university to shine, as well as the networks where your audience is most likely to be.
For most higher institutions, popular social media channels include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Some schools have seen success with LinkedIn, especially when connecting with alumni. Less common but still useful channels include Pinterest, Yik Yak and Tumblr.
We recommend starting with the top three sites – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and then moving your way through the list as you become more comfortable. Snapchat has recently rolled out new advertising opportunities for brands of all sizes that are worth checking out. For an affordable cost, you can reach a young audience on this channel.
Mind Your Metrics
Each network deserves your full attention, which is why it’s best to start small. You need the time and patience to fully nurture your relationships. You should be checking in each day to reply to feedback, answer questions and monitor your page. Every few days, these channels should get fresh content in the form of images, videos and links to articles, resources and blog posts.
Additionally, pay attention to your metrics. When you know how your audience is responding to your campaigns, you can make the most of them. For example, you may notice that your audience behaves differently on the different networks. Your Facebook audience may prefer links to blog posts and resources, while your Snapchat audiences prefers interacting with funny content such as memes and gifs.
Another effective way to follow your metrics is by using tracking URLs. These special URLs determine what content piece brought a visitor to your site, as well as the social media site where they found the link. If you find that you’re getting a lot more traffic from Facebook compared to Twitter, you can allocate more of your budget to this channel.
Align Your Goals with the Right Channels
What goals do you have for prospective students on social media? Do you want to bring more qualified traffic to your site? Do you want to increase the number of attendees at your events? Do you plan to generate more activity in the admissions office?
When you clearly define your goals, you can focus on the channels that will help you meet them. In many cases, it makes sense to have different goals for different platforms. You may want to use Instagram to drive interest to your campus events using behind-the-scenes looks. Facebook may be more effective at bringing people into the admissions office for questions, especially with CTA buttons such as “Contact Us” or “Watch Video.”
Utilize your content to help you meet your goals. As you post information to your blogs, share them on the appropriate channels. Include keywords and hashtags to help prospective students find this content.
Create More to Work With
Part of being social is creating content. Content shares information, tells stories, entertains readers and more. It’s not difficult to create content in the beginning, but it can become tedious on a regular basis. Coming up with fresh topics is demanding and time consuming.
Keep in mind that social media content is more than posts. Content can include images (gifs and memes), videos, links to blog posts and articles, updates about campus news and more. Visual posts get the most engagement and can communicate your message in a more profound way. If a young student is scrolling through their news feed, they’re more likely to see your image and have some feeling toward it. A wordy post, on the other hand, can be skipped over entirely.
To ensure that your content gets into the right hands, make use of hashtags, tagging and keywords. These tools help prospects find your content, even pieces that are older. If you post a link to your admissions references and six months later a prospect searches for this information, they can find it using hashtags and keywords.
Social media is a big place. To make things more confusing, each network is different from the next. What works on one channel won’t necessarily work on another. Not to mention, people won’t care to follow you on multiple channels if everything you post is the same.
To be socially savvy, you must think like a college prospect and the types of information they would find useful in their search. You also have to move outside your comfort zone and join conversations that involve the college selection process. If your school is responsive, professional and friendly, there’s no question that you will earn a positive reputation and have more people coming to see what’s behind that attentive personality.