In an age where teenagers are increasingly adept at “tuning out” traditional media, and technology gives them more ways to do so, social media is becoming the channel that offers prospects the most authentic view of a college.
To convey the impact that a great social media presence can have on meeting your enrollment goals, I’ll draw your attention to a significant statistic: 72% of high school students used social media to research a college, and 38% were influenced by social media when deciding where to enroll, according to the Zinch 2013 Social Media Report. While the most important decisions you make will be how to create content that is reflective of the “truth” of your institution’s brand, how and where you present that content matters, too. Below are five easy ways to improve your school’s social media presence for student recruitment.
With the onslaught of new social media networks showing no sign of slowing down, it is more important than ever to strategically decide which networks deserve your focus. To do this, look at the basic demographics of who is using which channel, and also think about which channel will allow you to most successfully convey the spirit of your messages.
For example, while nearly every school maintains a presence on Facebook — the venue that current high school students use most to research colleges — individual schools and programs at your institution may fare better on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. A film program may choose to utilize Vine, a short-form video sharing service acquired by Twitter, to push out information about the school, showcase student and faculty work, and engage prospective students. Athletics recruiters may choose to take a more personal approach on social media by using SnapChat to post updates and interact with potential recruits one-on-one, and the career center may find its most successful presence is on LinkedIn. Focus not just on which channel has the right audience, but the right medium to express your brand and messages.
2. Use Visuals
It is hard to stress this point enough, with videos and photos driving significantly more engagement on social media than text and links alone: The number one thing that current high school students say would improve a college’s presence on social media are more photos of campus. Empower your students, alumni, faculty, and staff to get out there and get snapping! All you need are a few dedicated visual storytellers with smartphones, and you have an instant enhancement of any social media channel. Check out these ten colleges that are “Going all in on Instagram” for some ideas and inspiration.
3. Post In Real Time
This doesn’t just mean live-tweeting from orientation or commencement, as engaging as that can be. When a new scholarship or internship opportunity is available, make sure it gets posted immediately. When events are about to happen on campus, make sure people know about it.
Having an editorial calendar is an important guide that will help you plan your posts so you have an even, uninterrupted flow of content throughout the year, but a little spontaneity is necessary, too. Don’t let your editorial calendar get in the way of the entire idea behind having a social media presence—to authentically tell the story of your institution as it’s happening, and to engage with your audience in real time.
4. Update Your Videos
I know what it takes to create an amazing video for a college website. I coordinated the production of quite a few in my former life as a Student Affairs staffer, and believe me, plenty of time, energy, and money is involved. When that shiny new video is finally done, the last thing on earth you want to think about is making a new one. But videos are very important. They go a long way towards recreating the on-campus experience for prospects, they provide better recall from viewers, they deliver information more quickly, and there is an emotional element to videos that is hard to replicate through text. Prospects know when your videos are dated, and it affects their perception of your brand, so it’s it’s important to have a video capture plan that fits within your overall content strategy.
5. Don’t Hide
While making your social media channels easy to find may seem obvious, many colleges and universities provide prominent links only to their main institutional profile on each channel. One easy way to solve this problem is to create a social media hub. I particularly like William and Mary’s Social Stream, organized by Official, Official-ish, and Unofficial designations. All of their social media channels stream to one location, offering an up-to-the-minute peek into the daily life of the college. When I worked at UCLA, we also added a social media hub to our divisional website, which can be filtered by both channel and publisher.