If your school has Twitter accounts, or you’re thinking of breaking into Twitter, it’s good to check your knowledge of the best practices to help increase student enrollment.

For starters, let’s talk about what doesn’t work …

Twitter with no strategy. Consistently.

You’ve seen it.

    • It looks like tweets that are way too long for the format and easily passed over.
    • You’ve also not seen it, because it can look like poorly timed tweets with no tags that no one notices.
    • Sporadic tweets don’t look bad in isolation. But then you visit the account page and see the long periods of inactivity that screams, “We’re not really engaged here.”
    • It looks like live weather updates with no context. (Thanks, but I’m already following The Weather Channel.)
    • Self-congratulatory tweets.
    • Dry, unemotional tweets. 
    • Tweets that are irrelevant to the audience.

Twitter with no strategy is easy. It’s also a waste of time. Let’s talk about the two main building blocks of any good strategy that can actually increase student enrollment: how to post, and what to post.

How to Post to Twitter (and Why)

Before we get into ideas on what to post, it’s important to get a firm understanding of how to tweet successfully. These 8 tips will go a long way toward building a strong strategy.

1. Post consistently.

The general rule is consistency. Go with the highest frequency you can commit to, create an editorial calendar, and stick with it.

2. Keep tweet length down to 100 characters or less.

Despite Twitter doubling their famous 140-character limit (to 280) back in 2017, it’s still recommended to keep your tweets super brief: 71-100 characters, to be exact.

That’s because what users expect from Twitter has never changed: a tweet should be just like a single bird chirp. Short, sweet, done. Until the next one.

3. Post with an image or video.

Like keeping tweets under 100 characters, posting with an image was part of my Twitter tips way back in 2015. Making your post visually engaging is essential, and at a minimum, you should be using photos. However…

What’s changed is the relative ease and prevalence of video. Video is far more common on Twitter than it was in 2015, but it still stands out better than photos. And good video will especially stand out.

4. Use hashtags.

More than any other social media network, Twitter is a collection of conversations. Hashtags are how those conversations are organized. Using hashtags is how you contribute.

You should use them in any conversation in which your school has authority. Human performance? Try #freshman15. Research? #sciencenews. And so on.

5. Engage on trending topics.

Twitter has a “Trends for you” section telling you what hashtags lots of people are using right now. Let that be your guide for conversations you don’t want to miss out on. You can also use a research tool like hashtagify.me to find hashtags relevant to your content. 

Use common sense. If it’s April 2020 and prospective students are searching #coronavirus, you want your tweets on the subject to be discoverable. But if your content isn’t actually about the pandemic, don’t use this popular hashtag to be noticed. Relevance is key to engagement.

6. Call out students and tag them.

Your content should be personal and student-centric as often as possible. Sports, academic achievements, awards – any time a student stands out, use the @ symbol to tag them.

If Jessie Doe did something good, let @JessieDoe know you noticed on Twitter. Her family, friends and all her other followers – prospective students likely among them – will know, too.

7. Tag others who have a strong following.

Let’s say Michael Jordan came to your school. Naturally, you would want to tweet about that and tag @TheReal_MJ_23 when you do. That should be obvious!

But don’t forget that you can tag famous people for any reason at all. Maybe a student gave a speech inspired by Jordan’s charity work. Tag him. Why not? Anybody else who follows him could then see your post and choose to follow you back.

8. Use tools to advise you on when to post.

There are lots of tools available now to help you determine when the best times are to post. Audiense, Metricool, Sprout Social. (I still like Followerwonk, but you can pick your poison.)

Until you’ve gotten your tool up and running, the basic approach is to make your default time midday local time. Aiming for the lunch hour is a decent start. Build out from there.

What to Post to Twitter (and Why)

Assuming you’ve got best practices set up around length, hashtags, @ tags, etc., you can start getting creative with content within those guidelines. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Exciting news updates.

Twitter is built around conversations, and those conversations are around the news of the day. Share your school’s news: academic competitions, performances, awards, student-organized events, etc.

2. Research coverage.

If you’re a research school, keep in touch with faculty and graduate students. Tweet any and all updates, even minor ones. Twitter is a great platform for sharing incremental progress to keep your audience aware of what you’re working on.

3. Crisis updates.

You might think that tweeting about a crisis on campus brings negative attention to your school. But it’s expected. And taking control of the narrative has an overall positive effect as you let your followers know what’s being done. Follow up with news about increasing safety and security.

A school’s use of social media to publicize crisis facts can help increase information accuracy and can more quickly dispel rumors or edit inaccuracies. Additional benefits of using social media for crisis response work include the ability for schools to post updates remotely, facilitate discussion and support, provide resource options, and increase community perceptions of a caring and helpful school culture.”
National Association of School Psychologists

4. Head-to-head comparisons.

Tweeting about the affordability of your school’s tuition and/or employment outcomes and other data is a great way to reach parents of prospective students. Technology-savvy parents follow schools and their own kids, making Twitter a great conversation starter.

5. Retweet with a thoughtful response.

Follow news sources, experts in higher ed, professionals associated with your school’s academic areas, etc., so you have plenty of material in your feed you agree with and might want to share, i.e. retweet. Just be sure to add a personal response so your voice comes through.

6. Paid ads.

While most of your Twitter strategy should be built around consistent, high-quality tweets, it is a good idea to use paid ads on occasion to drive engagement. This is budget-dependent, of course. But it can really help boost your enrollment-drive campaigns.

If you remember one thing about Twitter, remember this: It’s about starting and joining conversations.

Marketers too often think Twitter is chatter and all you have to do is yell the loudest. 

But that’s never a good strategy.

If it were, then all your admissions team would have to do on a high school visit is commandeer the loudspeaker and start reading your student handbook. Easy.

You know better than that. Higher ed marketing is the work of engaging in conversations … with students, parents, counselors, administrators, industry leaders, researchers.

And that’s what Twitter is. So take care not to use the platform to shout thoughtlessly. Start conversations. Join the ones already in session. Contribute respectfully and with authority.

If you need help, just reach out. Maybe follow me on Twitter (my handle is @bartcaylor). I’ll look forward to our conversations to come.


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Featured image by Valua Vitaly via Adobe Stock