Social media marketing is essential for your university to establish brand awareness, brand loyalty, and relationships with students.
With so many people already active on social media platforms, you need to meet your prospective students, current students, and alumni where they are.
An effective social media marketing strategy can be a great recruitment tool, a convenient way to quickly share announcements, an effective way to build a community, and so much more. The possibilities are endless!
In this blog post, I want to share some helpful tips to take your higher education social media marketing strategy to the next level.
This blog post is sectioned off into two parts: the first part will give you social media marketing content ideas, and the second part will give you tips on how to effectively achieve those content ideas on social media.
Let’s get started!
Post content that increases brand awareness
What is brand awareness? Brand awareness is your target audience’s familiarity with your university’s brand.
For the most part, your social media content should be centered around increasing brand awareness.
Why is creating brand awareness important? This is to set your university apart from the crowd. There are so many universities and programs out there, so your goal is to communicate to a prospective student why they should choose your university.
There are plenty of ways to communicate that through your social media platforms. First off, think about some of the accomplishments and defining characteristics of your university. Then, start posting content around that.
For example, share the accomplishments of your students or faculty members. Whether it’s a breakthrough research project, a successful student athlete, or a student who made a positive impact in their community, share these accomplishment stories on social media.
Another example is to post defining characteristics of your school. For example, if your school is located in a beautiful greenbelt, post beautiful photos of the greenery that surrounds your university. Or, post content around your university’s brand colors, slogan, or mascot!
Create a hashtag for your university
Create a hashtag for your university that isn’t used anywhere else and that is specific to your institution. Then, encourage students to use that hashtag on their social media accounts.
You can tell students to use that hashtag to share photos of acceptance letters, sporting events, campus activities, and other university-related content.
Once students start using that hashtag, you are able to easily find user-generated content on social media by simply searching for that hashtag. And once you are able to easily locate user-generated content, incorporate it into your social media platforms!
You can do this by re-posting your student’s posts on your social media feeds or as Instagram Stories.
User-generated content is effective in higher education recruitment efforts because it displays authentic experiences from real students. It also increases engagement on your social media accounts as well!
Do social media takeovers
Speaking of user-generated content, another great idea is to do social media takeovers. This is a great way to tell stories or share events through an authentic first-person narrative.
You can use social media takeovers to share experiences of your student athletes, student clubs, campus events, and more!
Don’t know where to start or how to get this done? Here is a good blog post on how to run a successful and safe student social media takeover.
Feature student stories
Showcase your student body by sharing testimonials or stories from students.
Not only will this foster a sense of community within your student body, but it can also be a way to personalize your university to prospective students.
A great way to do this and to celebrate different cultures is to tell a series of student stories during certain heritage months. For example, during Hispanic Heritage Month, feature student stories from across your campus that talk about your Hispanic American student’s family history, heritage, and culture.
You don’t have to limit this to just students though! You can also involve your faculty and staff members!
Introduce key members of your university community
Another cool way to showcase your university is to introduce key members of your university community.
If your university has a smaller student population, this can be the perfect way to showcase your tight-knit community.
You can introduce new resident assistants for the school year, new faculty members that join your university, new peer leaders, social media interns, and whoever else!
Go live on social media
Going live on social media can be a great way to recruit students.
While college fairs and campus visits have been the traditional way of recruiting students, universities now have the ability to have a live discussion about their programs and campus life on social media.
By doing this, prospective students and their parents can engage and meet members of your university’s admission team without leaving their chairs!
Also, going live on social media can be a great way to engage with existing members of your university community!
Here are some ideas of what you can do when you go live:
- Special institutional announcements for the student body
- Q&A about the admission process for prospective students
- Virtual fundraising events
- Campus tours
Conduct online tours on social media
For prospective students who are interested in your university, but do not want to commit a visit, make sure to give them a way to view different parts of your university through an online tour.
The best way to give these types of tours is to have a student conduct these tours. This will establish authenticity and trust with the viewers and will make the tour a more relatable experience.
You can conduct dorm tours, campus tours, event tours, and more.
There are many ways to conduct these types of tours. You can create a long YouTube video that talks about certain spaces in your university in detail. You can create Instagram Story tours and leave them on your Instagram feed as a Highlight so that students can see the tour right from your Instagram account. Or, you can create a campus tour series on TikTok and Snapchat!
Promote your university events on social media
Have an upcoming event? One of the best ways to keep students informed about events is through social media.
Along with promoting your event beforehand, make sure to also share live Stories and posts during the event. Then, once the event is over, share recap photos and videos of the event!
Check out this social media event promotion guide from Hootsuite to learn some valuable tips about social media event promotion.
Now that you have some great content ideas, here are some ways you can achieve those ideas!
Define your social media marketing goals
What are your university’s social media marketing goals?
Is it to strengthen your institution’s brand? Recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff? Establish your social media platforms as a source for campus news and emergency announcements?
Define broad goals you want to reach with your social media platforms. Once you have defined these broad goals, create action steps for each goal.
For example, if one of your goals is to “recruit and retain more students,” one of your action steps can be: Build relationships with current and prospective students by engaging more consistently on social media by replying, retweeting, and sharing their posts.
Figure out which social media platforms to focus on
Depending on which generation of students you are trying to reach, they will have different tastes in their favored social media platforms.
For example, if you are trying to reach Gen Z students, these are the top 5 social media platforms Gen Z checks on a daily basis: Instagram (65%), YouTube (62%), Snapchat (51%), Facebook (34%), and Twitter (23%).
Figure out where your target audience is and focus on those social media platforms. Also, it is helpful to know the pros and cons of each type of social media platform.
Be consistent with posting on social media
Once you figure out which platforms you want to focus on, figure out how many times you want to post on those platforms.
The key is to post consistently. This is one of the best ways to grow your social media presence.
So create a social media plan and stick with it. For example, you can make it your goal to post 5 images on Instagram and Facebook every week, 3 videos on Snapchat and Tiktok a week, 1 long video on YouTube every month, and 1 Instagram Live Video every other month.
Be responsive and engage your social media audience
Engagement is key to not only beat the dreaded social media algorithm, but also to create a positive institutional social media presence.
It is not enough to just post content on social media and call it a day. To grow your social media presence, you need to engage with your audience.
So, make sure you and your team are on top of responding to DMs, comments, and mentions on your social media platforms.
By growing your social media presence, you will be able to create an amazing online community for your institution and in return, it will also have the potential to attract prospective students to enroll in your institution.
Utilize social media tools
There are so many tools available online that you can use to help you create and manage your social media content.
You can use these free social media templates to plan, create, and publish your content. Here are some other social media tools you can use:
Free high-quality stock photos: Pexels, Unsplash
Social media scheduling tools: Buffer, Hubspot, Hootsuite
Content strategy: Ahrefs, Google Trends, BuzzSumo
Video creation: Animoto, Biteable
Graphic design: Canva, Figma
Photo editing: Pixelmator Pro, Pixlr
Create a social media account request form
The obvious advantages of social media is that you can have a big presence online, but this can also be the downside of social media.
If someone posts something negative or harmful using your university’s name on a social media account, your institution can get into some serious trouble.
To avoid this from happening, consider creating a social media account request form on your website.
In this form, you can include fields such as name, department/school, phone number, email, the social media platform desirede, and the reason why they want to create the account.
Once someone submits that form, set up a meeting with that individual or group to discuss social media policies and best practices.
By doing this, you are able to regulate official university-branded social media accounts and can keep track of how many there are.