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May 20

7 Storytelling Social Media Strategies for Higher Ed


Generation Z doesn’t want to be sold to. They want to understand your values, your goals, and why you do what you do. Which means in order to go viral or start trending, the social media strategies you implement need to tell a story. 

In a previous blog, we interviewed Rob Clark, Content Creator and Founder of That Tall Family. He said, “There’s something important that we need to understand about marketing: It’s different than it used to be.” Later in the interview he added, “Ultimately, it is about story. Is it educational? Informational? Entertaining? [That doesn’t matter as much] as long as we can tell a story.” 

Stories are powerful marketing tools. 

They help you inform, entertain, and position your brand as a guide to the mission-fit students you want to attract. 

But figuring out how to shape and share your story can be a challenge. Especially with so many social media platforms and strategies to choose from. All those possibilities can make us freeze in place! 

Let me give you a place to start. 

Here are seven key storytelling social media strategies you can use, with a bonus of the essential elements needed for compelling storytelling. 

1. Emphasizing Micro-Moments in Your Social Media Strategies

Capturing the attention of potential students often hinges on micro-moments—those brief, intent-driven interactions where decisions are made and preferences shaped. 

To effectively capture these moments, create content that quickly addresses specific student questions or provides instant insights about campus life, academic programs, or financial aid options.

A quick Instagram story highlighting a day in the life of a student during exams can instantly connect with a prospective student going through the application process.

Start by: 

  • Analyzing the student journey to identify critical decision points, such as application deadlines or major event days like open houses.
  • Developing quick, engaging content tailored to these moments, such as FAQs, tips, or day-in-the-life snippets relevant to those specific decision points.
  • Scheduling posts to coincide with when these micro-moments typically occur in the prospective student’s journey, using tools like Hootsuite or CoSchedule for precise timing.

2. Data-Driven Storytelling

Stories that resonate are backed by solid data. They place the facts in front of our eyes and add power to the message you want to send. 

Utilizing analytics to inform your storytelling ensures relevance and significantly enhances impact. For example, if data shows high engagement with alumni success stories, develop a series that features diverse alumni paths and accomplishments.

Start by: 

  • Utilizing tools like Google Analytics and social media insights to gather data on audience engagement and content performance.
  • Creating stories that reflect the themes or topics that have historically shown high engagement rates.
  • Continuously testing different story angles and formats based on ongoing data analysis, refining your approach to improve engagement over time.

3. Virtual Reality and 360° Video

I highly recommend you include immersive digital experiences in your social media strategies. 

They are a highly impactful sensory experience that the prospective student is unlikely to forget. 

Perhaps more importantly, social media strategies that include virtual reality or 360° videos will make your posts stand out among other schools who’re just posting the same old stuff.

Offer prospective students a unique, immersive experience with virtual reality (VR) and 360° videos

From virtual campus tours that allow potential students to explore facilities from the comfort of their homes to 360° videos of key events like graduation, these technologies can provide a deeper connection to your institution.

Start by: 

  • Investing in VR/360° suitable equipment to produce high-quality VR and 360° content.
  • Training your content team on how to create and edit VR and 360° videos.
  • Implementing these technologies during high-engagement opportunities such as virtual open days, special events, or as part of interactive admissions packages.

4. Sequential Storytelling Across Platforms

To get more traffic on your various social media platforms, you can tell stories across your platforms. 

For example, you can give a relatable overview about a campus tradition on Instagram. I recommend using humor to create curiosity. Then delve deeper into that tradition and student experiences on YouTube. 

This strategy encourages engagement across multiple platforms and lets you tailor the content to the unique usage of different platforms. 

Start by: 

  • Outlining a story that unfolds over several parts and designate each part to a specific platform.
  • Creating platform specific content to leverage the strengths and user behavior typical of each platform.
  • Cross-promoting to ensure audiences are guided from one platform to another.

5. Enhancing Engagement with AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools that analyze viewer behaviors and preferences can significantly enhance the personalization and relevance of your institution’s social media. 

This might look like AI suggesting custom video endings on YouTube based on the viewer’s interaction history, making your content more relevant to the viewer depending on their needs and even their location! 

Start by: 

  • Using AI-powered tools to analyze user interaction and personalize content delivery.
  • Setting up AI-driven personalization on platforms where users interact with content, such as personalized video recommendations on YouTube or adaptive learning paths in educational apps.
  • Regularly reviewing the performance of AI implementations and adjusting strategies based on what is most effective at maintaining user engagement.

6. The Power of Involving Students

Students bring a fresh perspective to your social media. 

Most are digital natives and can help you tap directly into current trends and the unique, vibrant culture of campus life. 

When they share their daily experiences—from grabbing coffee before class to celebrating at campus events—it offers a genuine peek into student life that prospective students can relate to.

Start by: 

  • Recruiting a diverse group of students from various disciplines to bring a wide range of perspectives and ideas. 
  • Provide them with clear guidelines, training, and resources to ensure the content aligns with the institution’s branding and values.
  • Motivate students to create content by recognizing their contributions and offering incentives such as course credits, certificates, or showcasing their work prominently on the university’s main social media channels. 

These seven strategies will help you get a leg up when it comes to tackling the social media strategy for your institution. But each one of these approaches needs to center on storytelling.

7. Know the Essential Elements of Compelling Storytelling

Everyone knows a story needs a beginning, middle, and end. But creating a compelling story requires more than an arch. 

Compelling stories are: 

  • Authentic
  • Emotional
  • Relevant

Authenticity comes from using real stories from current students, alumni, and faculty. These experiences can build trust and allow prospective students to envision themselves at your institution. 

Try using authenticity to offer insights into everyday life on campus, special events, or unique traditions that define your school’s culture. 

Emotional content should tap into the needs, wants, and maybe even the fears of your audience. 

This could include sharing challenges or conflicts that have been overcome. Or speaking to the problems many of your mission-fit students might face. 

Relevance starts with timely topics that connect current events or trends with your mission-fit students’ values or societal movements. 

These three elements are the key to creating compelling stories. If you use the above social media strategies, combined with these elements, your content will likely be enjoyed—and seen—by many! 

But remember, all social media strategies need to be tried and tested. Don’t be afraid of risk in these strategies. 

See what works, and learn from what didn’t. Even the most viral influencers had to go through continuous trial and error. But if you keep the principles and strategies above in mind, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Need Help Diving In? 

The future of social media is conversational, full of stories, and relevant to the needs of its viewers. 

If you need help marketing your unique programs to catch the attention of your mission-fit student, or have a question about how to integrate AI into your marketing workflows, let’s chat

Are you and your team ready to take the next step with AI? 

Caylor Solutions now offers a 6-Session AI Masterclass that will empower your team to maximize AI for creativity, productivity and time-management. 

Email us at wilson@caylor-solutions.com to learn more.

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Featured image by Daniel via Adobe Stock

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