Prospective higher education students have more options than ever when it comes to researching where they want to go to school. This includes traditional printed materials, but the migration of student research to digital channels has been widespread.
While many universities and other institutions have adopted a digital marketing plan, one of the most overlooked marketing channels is social media marketing in higher education.
98% of all 18-24 year olds are on a social media platform, and you can bet they’re doing some portion of their research on higher education institutions or trade schools there (especially early on in the process). It just makes sense for schools to be marketing where the students are.
Where are they really? There are literally hundreds of social media channels, so where are student prospects really hanging out? The most popular channels (and the ones that are easiest to use to make an impact on your student recruitment) are Facebook and Twitter. Start with those and then add new ones as you get comfortable.
The best digital marketing strategies employed by university, trade school and other higher education institution marketing teams implement effective social media strategies.
How to Use Social Media Marketing in Higher Education
Social media marketing is a bit of a different creature than traditional or even most digital marketing. It’s not enough to simply put out content and let the students come to you – instead social media is best used as a way to develop relationships with prospects.
Keep these strategies in mind when adding social media to your digital recruitment strategy:
- Listening and 1-to-1 outreach:
- By far, the greatest advantage of social media marketing is that it gives you a chance to listen to what your prospects are saying and then respond to them with tailored information. By setting up social listening alerts you can watch for student prospects who are early in their higher education decision process and reach out to them with information.
- Make your traditional marketing digestible:
- The nature of social media marketing for higher education is that you can’t put all your information into a single post. Instead, breaking it up into smaller, easily absorbed posts means that you’ll not only increase the chances of the information being seen, but improve the chances that a single post will resonate clearly with a prospect.
- Highlight your current students:
- Showing off your current students and student activities is a powerfdl social media marketing technique for several reasons. In addition to helping with current student retention, it creates opportunities for viral sharing and shows student prospects what life is like at your institution.
- Use the “Cutting Room” scraps:
- Newsletters, even digital ones, can only contain so much information and so, some pieces are inevitably left off. Your social media is the perfect place to keep that content from going to waste. The information which may not be relevant to a large percentage of your audience can still find its way to the people who it resonates for.
Don’t let your social media marketing plan be a one way street, with social supporting the other channels alone. Include a callout to your social media sites in your traditional marketing materials so that your audience can grow.
Measuring Successful Social Media Marketing in Higher Education
Tracking the ROI of your social media marketing efforts can be tricky – especially when it’s used in the early stages of prospective student decision making. However, social media integrates well into tracking tools like Google Analytics.
Colleges, trade schools and other institutions need to integrate analytics and conversion tracking into their digital marketing plans to be sure they get the information necessary to effectively use social media marketing. It’s only by using this analysis that you can learn which posts work and can integrate that information into their social media management.
As students use more and more resources to research their higher education possibilities, those institutions need to adapt to help them. Having an active, engaged and useful social media presence is a critical step in helping those prospective students find the information that you have to share.