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The explosion of social media has shown how users are connected to each other, brands, and institutions. Social media is more than a broadcast channel. In the ideal situation, it is a relationship-building channel to inform, answer questions, provide world-class customer service and build relationships through conversation.
While most institutions have a handful of social media channels that are regularly managed, most have yet to discover the power of social media for education to build audience and demonstrate brand benefits and distinctives. Here are just a few ideas:
Twitter has taken off with prospective students. We have dedicated an entire blog post to the importance of utilizing Twitter as one of the key channels for your social media for education.
Twitter has emerged as a leading source of news of various types. Much of today’s breaking news comes through Twitter before major news outlets. Many Twitter users also use Twitter to keep up-to-date with thought leaders and will follow specific users, subjects, hashtags and competition through dashboards such as TweetDeck, Hootsuite, Buffer or others. They are seeking regular information updates, looking for the latest news and insights, and looking for thought leaders who are sharing content relevant to them.
Twitter skews to a younger demographic, and as such, has become one of the social networks for teen and young adults, especially in following celebrities and niche entertainment content. Twitter is also a popular way to engage “real time” during events, television broadcasts, and community activities.
Since Twitter moves fast and is a “river of data,” specific strategies of repeating tweets and utilizing automation tools are critical if you want your content to stay in front of your potential audiences.
LinkedIn is known as the business social network where the user’s profile is the equivalent to an online resume. Networking with business contacts and sharing information critical to business are key activities on this social network.
Connecting to users on LinkedIn is a great way to build a brand following for businesses or professional groups. LinkedIn groups are an often overlooked resource for engaging with niche affinity groups ranging from professional organizations to alumni groups.
Read our entire article dedicated to Linked In For Education.
While there are mixed reports regarding Facebook’s decline with prospective students, parents and other influencers will be the primary audience for this channel.
Look for ways to engage with followers through creative content and conversation. For example, feature “Throwback Thursdays” or other engaging themes to suggest user-generated content, in addition to the official content posted by your institution.
Also consider enhancing engagement with users by investing in promoted content within users’ Facebook newsfeeds.
Pinterest established itself as the visual content destination. Content ranging from quotes to infographics; from recipes to fashion ensembles makes up the world of Pinterest.
Pinterest skews to the female demographic, and as such has become a popular source for retailers and services that target the family decision-makers.
Be sure and use Pinterest to leverage your best infographics regarding your school.
While Pinterest is the visual content hub, Instagram provides tools similar to Twitter, but through visual sharing. Instagram has primarily been smartphone based, and as such, most of the content is photography captured from mobile devices. Creative use of visual content can lead to successful strategies for Instagram, especially for the younger audiences that it attracts.
Instagram is also the key network of growth for the teen market, making it a key part of social media for education.
Best practices for Instagram include leveraging posts to illustrate life on campus and the liberal use of hashtags.
Google+ is a growing network most similar to Facebook. While it has not experienced the growth that was once projected, this channel is still extremely important, although its importance eludes many organizations. One of the primary reasons to include Google+ in your social media mix is the importance that Google places upon content through Google+ and how that will ultimately affect your search engine rankings for content regarding your brand.
We recommend that Google+ be added as part of a regular mix of curated content through Buffer to assure higher placement for the original content that will also be curated through Buffer and other social media automation tools.
While blogging may be seen as an older form of social networking, with Google’s algorithm placing high value on dynamic content, blogging and content creation is more important than ever. Blogging needs to be fresh and relevant with timely information for your segmented audience, including prospective students and parents.
Best practices include a dedicated blogging platform or pages within your CMS. WordPress is an ideal blogging platform because it allows the integration of the blog with various plug-ins to improve SEO and inbound marketing opportunities. Best practice goals for a blog are to inform and encourage next steps for deeper-level engagement and conversion.
Next practices include enhanced integrations with blogging and other platforms to allow for social amplification. For instance, every time a blog is posted, an automated social share calendar is set up, pushing out the blog to various social media channels on a predetermined basis. You can see more in our blog about marketing automation.
Forums/Private Social Networks
Forums are an older style of social network, and there are many software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools that allow you to create custom private social networks. These can be beneficial to build a community of accepted students to engage with one another and build community, ask questions, and make plans for the fall.
Best practices include leveraging SaaS tools such as Disqus to make it easy for engaging in the community and posting comments. Keeping the forums and communities organized is important, as well as creating a core group prior to launch (no one wants to be the first person in a forum that they are unsure about).
As technologies such as Google Hangouts, Skype, and other video-based chat and community platforms continue to develop, more and more students will be drawn to the ability meet in realtime, develop relationships, and ask questions on their time and terms.
Others to Watch
- Snapchat: SnapChat is very popular with prospective students. There is a mixed bag right now on its use for branding and enrollment. Unless you are doing the other networks very well, you may want to wait to see how things develop. Read what University of Michigan is doing with SnapChat.
- Vine: Six-second video social network. Works well with Twitter and provides the ability to include small video files as rich media content. Includes followers and similar tools to other networks.
- Tumblr: Microblogging platform for multimedia and short-form blogging.
- YouTube: Video site with social functions. Currently the number one “social media” site for teens based upon time spent on site.
- MySpace and Last FM: Music-centric social networks.
- Flickr: Photography archive site with social media tools.
- FourSquare: Location-based social media site. Originally the only site to allow for the geo-specific “check-ins” that are now standard on most networks.
How have you effectively increased social media for education engagement at your institution? Share your comment below.