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Effective social media for higher education communications

image of generation Zer's checking social mediaStop us if you’ve heard this before. You’ve got to use social media because all your students are addicted to it. Okay, you probably have heard this before and maybe you’re sick of it. However, the rise of social media usage is well documented. According to Pew Research Center, in 2018, 88% of people ages 18-29 are using social media. The eyeballs of your current and prospective students are glued to their devices and much of that time is spent on social. What we want to show is that social media can be an effective and even a fun way to reach your audience, build your brand and enhance your culture.

Does social media have an impact?

Marketers sometimes feel frustrated with social media initiatives because they struggle to prove the effectiveness of their efforts on social media. It starts with integrating social media metrics into your marketing analytics efforts is the key to overcoming this challenge. We’ve written about four key ways to measure marketing effectiveness. Through Google Analytics and similar tools, you can determine site traffic and leads generated from social media. This feedback will help you confirm and improve the effectiveness of your social efforts.

Next, to understand the impact of social media, you must acknowledge the Zeitgeist of your audience. Zeitgeist is defined as the “the spirit of the time” or “general trend of thought or feeling.” The general trend of your audience is an immersion in social media as usage rates and content consumption rates continue to soar. It’s a bad strategy to follow every marketing tactic just because it’s popular at the moment. However, it seems clear, social media use is a long-term trend. It’s something your school needs to and can succeed at. Here’s how.

More: Learn why you need a social media plan.

Three keys to effectively using social media in higher ed communications

Many higher education institutions are present on social media, but struggle to see the results they desire. Here are three key areas that we have identified that most organizations need to focus on to see the effectiveness of their social efforts increase.

Be goal oriented

We’ve already mentioned the importance of having a good strategy vs. tactic chasing. It is worth repeating here. In order to effectively use social media, you need to be goal oriented. Once your goals are in place, you can design and a thoughtful strategy to help you achieve your goals. This should all come before you begin deciding what social platforms to use or types of content to post.

Be authentic

Be authentic. By this, we mean act like a human. Of course, you are an institution and there will be significant differences between your profile and the typical personal account. But you can be the official account of an organization while still talking like a human. People don’t use social media to interact with businesses – they use it to interact with other people. The more human, the more authentic you can be, the more your message will resonate with your audience. An authentic view of your institution will connect with your students more than a glossy, overly promotional presentation.

Be creative

There are several creative ways you can use social media. Here are a few that you should consider.

  • #IAmDePaul: This Instagram account features a different student each week, allowing students and prospective students to see DePaul through the eyes of a peer. The posts contain a picture of the student and a short, first person account of what they are doing this week, whether it’s classes, sports, different activities or just fun. Here is an example:

#IAmDePaul instagram screenshot

  • Show off research/academic prowess: Sure, college kids like to have fun. But they also care. They want to know they are part of something bigger, especially something that is making a difference. So, while showing off the fun and lighthearted side of college is important, It’s also 
  • Reconnect with alumni: while college life can be all-consuming at times, every student has in the back of their mind that one day they will graduate face challenges in the “real world.” Showing off alumni helps build confidence and show the many opportunities that await after graduation.

The ways to creatively use your social media accounts are almost limitless and as the platforms continue to evolve so will the opportunities. Establish your goals and subsequent strategy, be authentic and be creative. Effectively using social media isn’t impossible, it just takes the right approach.

Download our free resource, "Intro to inbound for higher ed marketing" to learn more about the best way to meet and beat your enrollment goals.


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