June 2

Social Media Strategies: How to Go Viral Like an Influencer


In the higher ed community, we’re very cautious about new strategies. But there’s no need to be nervous about using these powerful social media strategies we’re talking about today. 

When you think of higher education institutions, I’ll bet the word “risk” doesn’t come to mind.

Perhaps prestigious, venerable, or rigorous…

But risky? Not so much.

Yet you’ll have to take some risks to be successful at enrollment marketing for upcoming generations of prospective students.

Nowhere is this more true than with social media strategies. 

Risk is just built in to this medium when you consider how fast marketing changes, especially with social media.

To help us out, my co-host, Troy Singer, and I interviewed Rob Clark, Content Creator and Founder of That Tall Family

With over 1 BILLION views and nearly 1.5 million followers since March of 2021, Rob and his family have been taking social media by storm.

@thattallfamily We don’t mind though. #tallfamily #tall ♬ original sound – 🌀

And they’re the perfect guys to talk to us about the fast-paced world of social media strategies for higher ed. In a previous life, Rob was a higher ed marketer. 

There’s something important that we need to understand about marketing: It’s different than it used to be. 

Of course, we still have radio, billboards, and newspaper ads, and I’m not even saying that’s wrong or bad. But at the same time, we have something new [with social media] that I feel we’re just a little bit behind in [in regards to implementation within] higher education marketing. 

For example, as an admissions team when we were wanting to create our own TikTok account, we got some pushback from the university and from the marketing department. We had to cross all our t’s and dot all our i’s, and we had to have some meetings. 

Yet before that first meeting happened, we had already created the account with some videos with over 100,000 views. 

So how do we take advantage of this new tool in our hands?

Rob went on to share some of his social media strategies with us.

Different Platforms Are Different Watering Holes

One of the first things we learned from Rob is how each social media platform is a watering hole attracting a slightly different audience.

Yet even with different audiences, short-form content is growing more and more popular.

What happened is that TikTok surpassed Google this year for engagement. 

[As a result,] what we’re seeing is that everyone is trying to be like TikTok. Instagram now has Reels, and YouTube now has Shorts. 

So it’s this idea of short content of a minute or less – sometimes 15 seconds or less. It is about, “How can you tell a story in a short amount of time?” 

I still think there’s a place for long-form content in your social media strategies, but short-form is catching fire right now. 

Right now, short-form is the way to capture their attention.

@thattallfamily #tallfamily #tall #tallgirl ♬ Got It from My Mama – Honey County

So should you make different short-form content for different platforms?

Not necessarily. 

It is contextual. For us, TikTok is a little bit of a younger demographic. On Instagram, it’s more moms. On YouTube, it’s more universal. 

For us, we know that different content, even though it’s all very similar, [needs some] little changes like how we caption it. 

Ultimately, if it is the same piece of content, we know this one will do best on TikTok, or this one will do best on Instagram. It’s just putting [the content out] across all platforms, because [each video is] going to perform differently. It’s not about creating a bunch of different content. 

It is just realizing you’re going to reach different people on [each] different platform.

Make Stories, Not Commercials

One of the biggest takeaways of our conversation is where Rob talked about how the most successful of their advertising partnerships have been where the brand takes backseat to the story. 

Sometimes big corporations pay us to perform a 15 second video. But there’s been times where a corporation says, “We need you to say this.” And it is a long list of things that we need to say. 

[It’s] very hard to put all that into a 15 second video! [These videos] don’t perform very well because it is an ad.

Whereas there are other times where they’re like, “Hey, just do what you do, as long as you show our product at some point.” Those videos do very well, because it fits very well in with what we do daily on our social media accounts. 

Ultimately, it is about story. 

Is it educational? Informational? Entertaining? [That doesn’t matter as much] as long as we can tell a story. 

Even if it’s a 15 second story, then we’re going to win. 

Going to these watering holes, we’ve got to be careful not to create a commercial or an ad. Those just don’t work. As human beings, we don’t like to watch commercials. We don’t like to get postcards in the mail that just have facts on them. 

And yet, when it comes to marketing our universities, that’s what we do! 

It would be much better for us to think like, “Okay, what is the feeling of a student coming to the campus for the first time? How can we capture that on video? What is the vibe of a student eating in the dining commons? Is it busy? Is it loud?” Those videos are going to do well. 

If you can start telling those stories that we as human beings like to consume, then you’re going to win. 

Wrap your social media strategies around storytelling

Share the reality of daily life at your higher ed institution. This is the foundation of That Tall Family’s billion-view success. 

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.

Later in our interview, Rob explains more about how they use social media tools to create community among students at the top of the funnel. 

Listen to our interview with Rob Clark to get even more insights into:

  • How Rob grew That Tall Family into a social media behemoth
  • Why higher ed needs to tap into story and emotions
  • On-campus influencers and social media scholarships
  • Advice on cadence and content for schools producing social media content

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Featured image via app.mediakits.com/thattallfamily

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