November 1

7 Social Media Objectives for Higher Ed


Would you know if your social media marketing wasn’t working? Rediscover these 7 social media objectives and see how your social media efforts line up. 

In today’s digital world, I’m willing to bet you’re running three or more social media platforms. 

But do you know what they’re supposed to be doing?

“Sure,” you might say, “they’re supposed to keep our channels full of interesting and useful content for our marketing personas.”

Yes, distributing quality content for your audiences is important.

However, this answer simply isn’t enough to give you the direction you need to know if your social media marketing is working.

To know this, you’ve got to know your social media objectives.

What do you want your social media efforts to do? What results are you looking for?

In this post, we’ll briefly explore the 7 most common social media objectives for higher ed marketing so you can see for yourself if your social media efforts are pulling their weight.

Of course, as you look over the list, you might decide to emphasize one social media objective over another in your strategy depending on your needs. 

Despite this fact, I do feel this list goes in order of importance for most institutions.

1. Raise brand awareness

Before you begin on social media, it’s critical to define your higher education brand.

Once you’ve got the essence of your brand written out, you need ways to introduce your brand promise to more and more people who don’t know anything about your institution.

Especially if you’re marketing for a private college or university, building brand awareness is going to be a top priority. 

Yet even larger, public universities which enjoy a little more visibility still need to introduce themselves to larger regional or global audiences.

Social media is one of the best marketing tools for raising brand awareness.

Traditional marketing uses interruptive channels like TV commercials or billboards to get your brand in front of new prospects.

But social media relies on the power of a prospective students’ social network – their friends and family – to suggest your school to them.

In other words, when people share your posts or like your content, they are creating “word of mouth” advertising for you. 

You can reach this social media objective in a few ways:

  • Create content that people naturally want to share (useful, humorous, inspirational, etc.) 
  • Explicitly ask followers to share your posts
  • Use giveaways and other “games” to motivate people to share or like your posts

2. Cultivate engaged communities

The second social media objective I recommend for your strategy is community building. 

One of the most beautiful things about social media is how it can create online communities that connect people who would normally be separated by geography, language, or ethnic cultures.

Online, you can be a part of virtual “societies” with shared interests – and your higher ed brand could be a shared interest for many people online.

A traditional example of this would be using social media to create an alumni community.

But if you allow yourself to get creative, you could cultivate engaged communities around topics of which your school has brand authority.

For example, if your institution features a unique conservation degree program, think of ways to cultivate conservation-oriented communities through Facebook groups, blogs, and hashtags.

Those involved in your computer science program could create a programmer’s community on social media. 

These kinds of online communities give you a way to meet prospective students and their families who otherwise wouldn’t have known about you.

3. Recruit new students

Finally, we get to the point! 

One of the social media objectives you should be looking for is to recruit new students. 

In other words, your social media marketing should ultimately help boost your enrollment numbers.

A lot of education marketers would put this social media objective at the top of the list, but I think that is asking too much of social media. 

Social media has its pros and cons. 

It is great at some things, and not so amazing at others. 

By placing social media in its proper order of importance, you can make sure that it is producing the results you should be getting.

And those results will ultimately affect your enrollment numbers. 

4. Measure how personas feel about your school

Another incredible benefit of social media is the ability to gauge how your audiences perceive your brand

Whether people have good or bad things to say, if they express it on your social media platforms, you have at least a little control over the narrative. 

You can respond in public comments or in private messages. 

Also, you can create content in response to certain attitudes or perceptions to help guide your brand perception.

On a related note, check out my conversation with Christy Jackson of UNC Charlotte to learn how she has managed several major PR crises in her career. 

5. Take care of students and families

Customer service is important in any industry – and that includes education! 

Providing high quality customer service to your prospective students, current students, alumni, and families helps maintain the integrity of your education brand. 

One of the most helpful social media platforms for customer service is Twitter. 

People can quickly DM or mention your institution in a tweet with their questions. 

If your school is ready, you can quickly give answers, mention other Twitter user handles, or link to articles in a response tweet.

Of course, you can conduct similar conversations on other social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.

6. Advertise your programs and events to target audiences

Another social media objective that you should keep near the top of your social media strategy is digital advertising. 

Social media advertising allows you to get your ads in front of prospective students and their families with incredible precision. 

You can target students of a certain age, gender, interest, geographic area, or even what they’ve clicked on recently. 

While search engine marketing can be helpful, if you are limited and have to choose where to spend your advertising budget, put it in social media ads. 

It’s best to have your ads in search engines as well, but I don’t recommend search ads at the expense of social media campaigns. 

7. Track your metrics and tweak accordingly

Another highly useful benefit to social media is the amount of data you can collect through your social media pages. 

Especially with paid advertising campaigns, you can monitor how many users saw your ads, their demographics, and even their online behaviors to a degree.

These metrics allow you to adjust your social media marketing plan to better tune your messaging for your audiences. 

But there’s something you should keep in mind when analyzing your social media results.

Measure results based on your social media objectives.

There are things social media can and cannot do. 

If your goals don’t line up well with what social media can really do, you might be disappointed or confused about the results of your social media campaigns.

This is why I recommend adopting this list for your social media marketing strategy. 

For more help moving the needle forward in your enrollment marketing campaigns, feel free to reach out to us

And if you’re looking for more insight specifically into improving your social media results, check out my conversation below with Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, President at Dillard University, about how he created a personal social media presence to promote his university.

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