One of your primary goals in marketing your university online is to attract prospective students to your institution, and social media is a tool being heavily leveraged by universities to create interest and draw in applicants. Schools doing this most effectively all have a common theme threading through their social interactions - a focus on history and tradition as key selling points.
You can use your social channels to share your university’s unique culture and history, and include current students in the creation of your story, by encouraging student generated posts and interaction. Sharing a culture and a sense of tradition makes students feel included and will encourage them to share your social posts with friends and family in their own social networks, as a proud student of your institution. And much of the power in social media exists in sharing content.
But how can you leverage social media for culture building and boost your marketing efforts at the same time?
Here’s a closer look at some of the ways that universities are using social media for marketing, which you can use to inform your own social strategies and creative marketing ideas.
Using Variety as an Engagement Tactic
While the bulk of your posts should be direct representations of your university online, be careful that you don’t get locked into doing the same types of posts all the time. You can assign certain days of the week for certain types of posts (like, Saturday Sports Update, Throwback Thursday, Talk About Campus Tuesday, etc), but keep in mind, the most effective use of social media is rooted in variety.
So, while your primary goal may be attracting new students via social media, you can’t just blast out recruiting materials on your social feeds every day, or do the same type of content every week expecting stellar results or engagement. The same type of posts get stale quickly and people will simply stop paying attention. Instead, you should vary your posts and create interest in many different areas, like:
- Research Published;
- Student Highlights;
- Sports Updates;
- Campus Events and Activities;
- Engagement Posts Encouraging User Participation;
- Scholarship Opportunities;
- Contests or Swag Giveaways.
Creating Campaigns Around Exciting Events
Sharing the news about the exciting things that are happening around campus via social media is a great way to boost current student engagement and also pique the interest of prospective students and parents who are scoping out your university. Social channels provide many tools for events, and you can share details and photos, encourage students to comment and share posts, and even create groups or events so that people who are interested in the events can interact.
Showcasing sporting events, concerts, special speakers or lectures, new student activities or orientations and clubs or group meetings on campus are all great ways to let your student body know about all the great things that are happening at your university, and give future students a peek into the things they too could enjoy by attending your university.
Using marketing automation software can also help you keep track of your various campaigns and measure what your students are responding to most positively. Using this type of software, you can track both email and social campaigns to streamline all your online marketing efforts, as well as get deeper insight into which types of campaigns and social posts are resounding with your audience.
Getting Creative with Pinterest
Pinterest is a social channel that is rich in opportunity for universities to market to new students and reach different target markets in a free platform that college students enjoy and use to scope out things they want to do, make, or accomplish in their lives. Many universities have yet to realize the (free) marketing potential that exists in Pinterest.
Including Pinterest in your social sharing options will give people who are already browsing your content the opportunity to pin content pieces, or photos of student life at your university to their personal boards. Pins are great for showing:
- Photos of your Campus;
- Recruiting Information;
- Sporting Events and Team Updates;
- Campus and Student Events;
- Career Boards;
- Items and Swag from the Bookstore.
Addressing Student Questions and Concerns
Social media is a great tool for addressing student questions and concerns. You can definitely leverage channels like Facebook and Twitter to encourage student conversations and see what students have on their mind or are needing from your university. You can start conversation threads by asking a question, or requesting student questions.
An especially creative way that universities are using the social app, Snapchat, is for building student engagement and holding Q&A sessions that all university Snapchat users can opt in to and benefit from. Snaps can also just be fun and silly (one university doing this actually sent out a squirrel drawing and asked students to doodle on it and share their masterpieces via Snapchat) to encourage students to use the app and engage.
Activating Word-of-Mouth Marketing Via Alumni
Social media creates a lot of opportunity for attracting new students and helps you stay actively connected with your existing student body, but many universities are also using social tools as a way to activate word-of-mouth marketing through their alumni who follow their social profiles. This social approach to marketing began somewhat organically because social media is the perfect way for universities to keep in touch with alumni (and give alumni insight into what’s going on with their alma mater).
However, what’s happened for many schools is somewhat of a grassroots marketing movement where alumni are sharing their stories, and adding to the rich culture and history of their schools with personal stories.
Today’s students value personal recommendations above any other targeted marketing efforts that feel like being “sold to”, and alumni pitching in helps validate your “brand” as university and helps drive more traffic and students to your institution.