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March 25

5 Social Media Trends for Higher Ed Marketers in 2024

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With the enrollment cliff just around the corner, higher ed marketing teams must stay on top of ever-evolving social media trends.

Staying ahead of these trends is essential for engaging prospective students and strengthening your institution’s brand awareness.

Here are five higher ed social media trends your college or university needs to be on top of in 2024.

1. Embrace Short-Form Video Content

Did you know that 91% of American brands incorporate video in their marketing strategies?

That’s because video is the most efficient vehicle for these organizations to get eyeballs on their products or services.

The explosive popularity of platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels underscores the impact of short-form video content in particular. As of early 2023, TikTok alone had over 150 million monthly users in the U.S.

Short-form videos don’t just cater to the decreasing attention spans of Gen Z and Gen Alpha digital natives. They also have the potential to go viral, significantly amplifying your school’s messaging.

The best part about short-form video marketing is the barrier to entry is much lower than you may think. Here’s what social media influencer Rob Clark, creator of That Tall Family, told us on The Higher Ed Marketer about getting started:

“The tools are the iPhone. That’s it… Now, if you want to get fancy, you can get a ring light for 20 bucks on Amazon. But most of the time, just stand across from the window, and [your lighting] will be perfect. I’m a big fan of [doing] everything. So it’s not “you do this” or “do that.” It’s like, “Yeah, we do it all.”

Unfortunately, there is no secret sauce to short-form video content. The best advice I can give is to just start doing it and see what sticks.

If you don’t feel particularly inclined to get creative in front of a camera, then this next tip is for you.

2. Partner With In-Touch Social Media Influencers

When it comes to brand perception, people tend to trust other people. It really is that simple.

According to Hubspot’s research, 71% of consumers are more likely to act on a purchase because of a social media referral as opposed to traditional marketing.

It’s a big reason why influencer marketing exploded to a $21 billion industry in 2023.

Influencer marketing has transcended traditional consumer brands to become a powerful tool in higher education.

That’s because collaborating with influencers who align with your institution’s values and appeal to your target demographic can significantly extend your reach. They could be notable alumni who’ve made their mark, faculty members renowned in their fields, or even current students who are influencers in their own right.

But this tactic isn’t just about who you partner with. It’s also about how you engage with the current meta.

Tapping into current social media trends, such as viral music, challenges, or memes, can dramatically boost your institution’s visibility and appeal. So collaborating with influencers who are already immersed in these trends can lend an air of authenticity and relevance to your content.

These partnerships help humanize your school’s brand and communicate your values in a way that resonates with prospective students.

3. Post Personalized and Authentic Content

Today’s traditional students crave genuine connections with the institutions they’re considering.

Higher ed marketing can no longer be just about showcasing your campus and listing academic programs.

It’s about sharing real stories from real people within your community. 

Authentic testimonials, day-in-the-life videos, and student-generated content bridge the gap between prospective students and your institution, making your campus feel like home before they even step foot on it.

Sometimes, that can mean getting a little vulnerable with your school’s brand. Consider what Nate Jorgensen, Senior Director of Marketing at Miami University of Ohio, had to say about his experiences with student-produced content:

“They’re not all 100% positive. And that’s great. We learn a lot from that. The authenticity of that pays off way more than being super protective.

I think anyone within higher ed knows that no institution is perfect. Once you accept that and let people share their own voice – that has resonated so much! It’s really dedicating ourselves to that authenticity that has just been a game-changer for us.”

Prospective students are smart, and they can differentiate real, raw content from overly polished advertising.

It’s okay to let some of your school’s blemishes show through in your social media content as long as it stays true to the core of your brand’s message.

4. Engage With Online Communities

Building and nurturing online communities has become a critical aspect of higher ed social media strategy.

Platforms like Reddit, Discord, and LinkedIn allow institutions to foster spaces where prospective and current students, alumni, and faculty can connect, share experiences, and offer support.

For example, since I last wrote about the unofficial Reddit page — or “subreddit” — of The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, their community has risen to over 86,000 members.

These digital communities not only enhance your institution’s sense of belonging but also serve as a rich resource for prospective students seeking authentic insights into campus life.

By actively participating in these spaces, institutions can bridge human connections and strengthen their relationship with their audience.

5. Use AI Tools to Elevate Your Social Media Content

I am a strong proponent that using AI tools does not make your content “inorganic.”

AI tools like ChatGPT can help you generate data-informed content, personalize communication at scale, and optimize social media campaigns for better engagement.

By leveraging AI tools, institutions can produce more relevant content efficiently, ensuring that their messages resonate with their target audience.

AI’s ability to analyze data and predict trends will also enable marketers to stay ahead of the curve, crafting content that addresses prospective students’ interests and concerns practically in real-time.

If you’re concerned about how your target audience may feel about AI-assisted content, don’t be. According to an extensive social trends survey by Hootsuite, 80% of Gen Z participants said they would engage with content they believed was created with the use of AI.

AI in higher ed marketing is inevitable. The best time to start integrating it into your social media marketing strategy is now.

These Social Media Trends Should Be an Integral Part of Your Content Marketing Strategy in 2024

In the face of the looming enrollment cliff, the importance of adapting to these social media trends cannot be overstated for higher education marketers.

Engaging with these trends is about more than just “keeping up” with the digital times.

It’s about securing your institution’s future during a very uncertain period in the history of higher ed.

Traditional methods of student recruitment are about to face unprecedented challenges, so embracing innovative strategies will be crucial to the survival of many small to mid-sized schools.

If you have questions on how to incorporate any of these tactics into your marketing efforts, we can help. Let’s ensure your college or university’s legacy for 2024 and beyond!


Chasing Mission Fit

A Marketing Guide To Fill Your Institution With Students Who Will Succeed.

The essential marketing book every higher education institution needs! If you are a higher education marketing professional seeking a fail-safe plan to make your institution stand out, “Chasing Mission Fit” is your guide.

Chasing Mission Fit book cover Discover how to:

    • Precisely target your ideal student
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So you can empower your institution with audience-focused marketing strategies, and attract mission-fit students who will flourish in your unique academic environment.

Ready to transform your institution’s marketing approach?
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Featured image by PheelingsMedia via Adobe Stock

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