Being active on social media is essential for building brand awareness and cultivating meaningful relationships with prospective and enrolled students, as well as other key stakeholder groups, such as alumni and donors.
But it can be hard to know where to start.
If you’re in the process of setting up your college’s social media accounts or if you’re working on a higher education social media strategy for 2022, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 10 strategies along with examples from colleges doing great things on social media right now.
Think about what makes their content so effective and how you might be able to adapt some of their approaches for your own social media campaigns.
1. Focus on outcomes
Students who enroll in vocational training programs tend to be outcome-driven. In other words, they’ll want to know how studying at your college will help them further their career.
In the post below, Heavy Equipment Colleges of America incentivizes prospective students to apply by outlining, in very simple terms, what they can expect to achieve.
It also links to a website page that includes further information on apprenticeships, and a “Start Enrollment Here” button to encourage those who have tapped through to take their first step to completing an application form.
2. Factor-in finance
A 2021 study by Western Governors University discovered that the cost of attending college is one of the biggest barriers non-traditional students face.
You can help set prospective students’ minds at ease by being transparent about fees and sharing helpful resources on social media, like Porter and Chester Institute does in the post below. Finance isn’t the most exciting topic, but it ranks highly on students’ agendas.
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3. Share behind-the-scenes content
Stakeholders—including your students—are interested to know what goes on behind the scenes at your college. “Work in progress” posts often gain high levels of engagement because they show that your college values the journey just as highly as the finished work.
HCH Aviation’s Facebook page is well worth looking at. As well as some behind-the-scenes photos of its upcoming location, it regularly shares student success and graduation stories (see number 6 for another example of this approach in a higher education context).
4. Ask a (specific) question
If you’re going to ask your followers a question on social media you could try making it specific like the Automotive and Diesel Institute has done in the example below. You’re more likely to elicit a response this way because it requires less effort on the part of the audience.
You may also want to think about why you’re asking the question. Are you going to use any responses as research to inform, for example, the contents of a webinar or in-person event? Or is your intention to build up a sense of anticipation?
Here are some other types of questions you could pose:
- Polls and surveys
- Reactions to something new at your college
- Opinions on a topic or idea
- What someone’s favourite _______ is
- Choosing between two images/concepts
- Ideas for improving a service, program or resource at your college
5. Show people around
In the Instagram post below, Pittsburgh Career Institute inadvertently shows its followers around by sharing an image of its enrolled students visiting a facility they will be working in as part of their program. Could your institution do something similar?
Using your social platforms to help orientate people is always a good idea, particularly at a time when more interviews are taking place online and students might not even set foot on your campus until they’ve started their studies. It’s beneficial for international students too.
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6. Share graduate stories
In this inspiring YouTube video, Angelica “Jelly” Weimer, a 2021 graduate from The Modern College of Design, explains how she saw an opportunity to solve a problem within the mental health community by developing a concept for a new app.
The video forms part of the college’s #PowerOfDesign campaign.
According to research by Wyzowl, 86% of video marketers say video has increased traffic to their website and 84% of video marketers say video has helped them generate leads.
7. Promote your events
What makes the post below so effective is that the college has tagged the speakers and people associated with the event that is being promoted, in this case, a webinar on wellness programs and holistic education in schools. People are more likely to like or reshare your content when they’re tagged, but you should only tag people when appropriate.
The aim of TutorEye’s post is to build momentum: it encourages future engagement by telling followers to “stay tuned” for further details.
8. Celebrate student success
Interestingly, the content was originally posted on the college’s admissions Instagram account and this version is a repost, illustrating how effective reposting across different accounts can be at widening your reach and engagement levels.
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9. Share fun and education content
Social media also lends itself to games and trivia. As part of its “Microscope Monday” series, American College of Healthcare Sciences shares an image of…actually, we’ve got no idea what it could be…do you?
Gamification helps knowledge retention and drives engagement by providing incentives for people to pay attention – even if the incentive is something as simple as the adrenaline and dopamine rush of getting the answer right.
10. Show gratitude
Finally, don’t forget to show gratitude, just like Northern Virginia School of Therapeutic Massage did to their first graduates of 2021. A simple thank you can go a long way, especially at a challenging time like the one we find ourselves in at the moment.
Ideas for people you could thank include graduates, alumni, donors, teachers, newly enrolled students, caterers, cleaners, technicians, your admissions team…the list goes on.
In the words of the famous management consultant, Peter Drucker: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Keeping track of how people engage with your social media posts can help you reflect on what works well and what doesn’t.
A higher education CRM will enable you to capture student inquiries from all your lead generation channels. You can use it to track people’s activities on everything from TikTok to LinkedIn, and curate your content accordingly.