How to Use Social Media Marketing Trends to Attract Prospective Students
Once upon a time, a student’s path to college was more straightforward than it is now. Today’s prospective college students are spoiled for choice and bombarded with messaging about various institutions and their benefits.
The good news is that higher education social media marketing is effective in attracting and retaining online students. The bad news is that many institutions are competing for students, but here is a guide to help you leverage the latest trends in social media marketing for higher education:
1. Build a Loyal Following in Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
Building a community is the key to building a loyal social media following and attracting and retaining students. This means making public and private spaces where students feel like they belong and can easily connect with their classmates, even though they’re learning online. It is also essential for online cohorts where the option to meet in person is only sometimes available.
Here are some ways social media strategists are building a loyal social media following:
- Use social listening to monitor sentiment about your institution
- Share transparent, up-to-date information with the school community
- Engage with users when followers interact with your content
- Share approved student-generated content where your college or university has been tagged
- Demonstrate value through informative, cohesive content calendars
- Create private school-sponsored groups where students can engage with one another and/or student ambassadors
2. View Your Social Media Marketing as Social Commerce
The bookstore is in the business of selling textbooks and college swag, but higher education marketers are also selling experiences. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can help you reach a broad audience of students and alums to promote your institution.
Prospective students want to learn as much as they can about your institution. They want to learn about academic programs, campus life, extracurricular activities, and more, and social media is the perfect place to show them why your institution has it all.
Viewing social media marketing as social commerce allows colleges and universities to build relationships with prospective students by engaging in conversations and showing what your institution offers. So how can you shift to a social commerce model while still remaining student-focused?
Here are a few ideas:
- Create templated responses for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in direct messages and have a plan for qualified personnel to follow up
- Actively monitor comments to hide spam and inappropriate comments and to engage users
- Use student testimonials to build trust
- Coordinate with students across campus to highlight what makes your school unique
3. Incorporate Social Search into Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
One of the major takeaways from the 2023 Online College Students report is that students are conducting their own research, and while the website is the hub and one of the most powerful marketing tools, so too is Social Search.
Students, mainly Gen Z, are now using TikTok, Reddit, and Instagram for “reviews on” “alternatives for” and the “pros and cons of” the topics they are searching for. This presents an opportunity for SEO in your social media marketing strategy.
- Incorporate SEO into copy
- Develop targeted, efficient hashtag strategies
- Identify highly searched topics to ensure your content is meeting student needs
4. Partner with Student Ambassadors as Part of Your Social Media Marketing Strategy for Higher Education
Last fall, you may have seen news features about a surge in TikTok content from potential sorority sisters participating in rush events at a well-known Southeastern university. The content featured themed dances, Q&A sessions, and “Day in the Life” videos that racked up millions of views.
This university used a specific branded hashtag to promote sorority recruitment week, which became a viral trend on TikTok and Instagram and helped to create an online buzz around the school. The university capitalized on the viral trend by using it for other promotional campaigns across its various social media accounts.
Not only did this campaign increase their brand awareness, but it attracted more students interested in building relationships and being a part of the community of sorority sisters that they saw online.
While the institution benefited from sharing user-generated content, planning and coordinating content with student ambassadors ahead of time may have made this campaign even stronger.
If you want to reach out to your target audience, build credibility, and save money, start working with student ambassadors. But first, here are some best practices:
5. Create Engaging Short-Form Video Content for Higher Education
It should come as no surprise that short-form, “snackable” video content is the most successful at a return on investment. Most online college students are either Millennials or Gen-Z, the most digitally savvy generations to date. They are also most likely to decide about their education based on what they see online.
That’s why it’s so essential for higher education institutions to create engaging, short-form videos that will capture the attention of these digital natives.
Connect with prospective students and build a solid social media presence using the following tips:
- Run broad awareness campaigns using short-form videos on Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok
- Shoot and edit short-form videos according to each platform’s requirements
- Optimize videos for sound-off with captions
- Lean into “lo-fi” content or content that feels less produced and more spontaneous
- Implement both organic and paid campaigns using short-form video
6. Be Strategic About Content Creation in Your Higher Education Social Media Marketing
Let’s go through the checklist: You know you need to prepare content in advance while still being flexible. You know short-form video content works and that strong images and copy are key. And ideally, you will feature students, either through an ambassador program or by working closely with them. What else?
Leaning into trends can be tricky, as the moment you’ve discovered them, it may be too late to attempt to create viral content. Instead, curate trending audio that makes sense for your brand and make content that is relevant to what is happening in the world and with your audience. It’s also important to be consistent with your content creation. Ideally, your content will be varied so that a student looking at your content on LinkedIn does not see the same exact content on TikTok.
Here are a few additional tips for creating an effective social media marketing strategy for your higher education institution:
- Use social scheduling tools to ensure consistent posting and to identify ideal posting times
- Build modified content for different platforms, if possible
- Employ user-generated content as much as possible to relate to audiences for organic social media
- Create organic TikTok content that leans into trends by using trending audio
- Use AI to regenerate copy or to modify it for other platforms
Elevate Your Institution’s Social Media Marketing Strategy with Professional Guidance and Support
Social media is a powerful tool in higher education that can be used to reach a wide audience of prospective students. By adopting strategic approaches such as consistently creating engaging content and using relevant hashtags, your higher education institution can effectively demonstrate its commitment to prospective students while reaching those unaware of your offerings.
If you still need help with your social media marketing strategy, reach out to EDDY’s team of Social Media Strategists that have over three decades of experience. Take the first step towards enhancing your institution’s online presence by contacting our team today.