Social media should be part of a larger marketing strategy, just not the entire strategy. This has been the advice of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) for several years now.
But it’s clear that a strong social media presence is something that universities can no longer do without if they want to reach today’s students and could greatly benefit your enrollment marketing strategy.
Social media involves a distinctive type of marketing — one that should be more informal, transparent, authentic and interesting — allowing for conversation with the intended audience, rather than the robotic feeling perceived by just pushing out links.
Here are some suggested social media practices universities might consider:
Schools can engage prospective students and parents with branding videos that talk about the university and what it has to offer. They may offer campus tour videos to show students around, or “A Day in the Life of a Student” series. YouTube videos are also a great way to show off your college’s extracurricular offerings through compilation videos of athletics, campus events, Greek life and more.
Universities may try to reach students by tweeting out event announcements (homecoming, campus visit days, etc.), deadline reminders (“Don’t forget the 2016 Enrollment Deadline”) and college tips (“Best apps to organize for your freshman year”). They can facilitate student interactions with hashtags (#FauxState20) and “Twitter Takeovers” in which the school allows a student to take over the university’s Twitter for a day.
This is a popular platform with high school students. Colleges can reach out to prospective students with school filters (mascot faces, school colors, etc.), campus photos, event promotion (“Campus Visit Coming Up July 29th!”) and “A Day in the Life” series. They also can encourage accepted students to share their acceptance letters, which increases brand awareness.
Target prospective students with event promotions (sporting events, social events, graduations, etc.), campus life photos, and “behind the scenes” photos (classroom, dorm, Greek life, local hot spots, etc.) This also is a good platform for encouraging hashtags (#firstdayatFauxState #ILoveFauxState) and sharing acceptance letters.
Facebook is a great platform for engaging parents through articles and information about upcoming visit days, sharing recognitions the school has received, forwarding tips on how to prepare for college, sharing financial aid information and helpful hints, and providing links to relevant pages on your website.
On Facebook, universities also can try to reach students with event announcements, campus life content, cool videos, general information about your school and links to relevant pages on the institution’s website.
“Having a strong social media presence increasingly seems to fill [a prospective student’s] needs in that it makes it easier for them to experience a friendly and dynamic relationship with what can sometimes seem like a difficult-to-navigate and faceless institution,” explains Elise Perachio Daniel, senior e-communications marketing manager at University of Washington at Seattle. “[Social media] gives them an opportunity to interact with us in a forum in which they’re already comfortable.
“I think it takes some of the stress out of it for them.”
Laura Hagan, Communication Specialist, Capture Higher Ed