Over the past few years, social media has become one of the best higher ed recruitment tools for student engagement. Prospects and current students alike often rely on online correspondence for program updates, quick informational blurbs, or answers to general questions. The availability of this information becomes even more critical when students are exploring online learning programs.
How Do You Find Your Waldo (Online Student)?
Online learning students differ from traditional students, in that: 1) Their confidence in the university’s brand strength often diminishes as geographic proximity decreases and 2) They often balance busy work/school lifestyles that require that they have constant access to digital resources. In fact, a study from Learning House shows that out of 1500 colleges and universities surveyed, 54% of students live less than 50 miles from the campus, and 80% of students use a mobile device when searching for an online program.
Therefore, marketers must account for geographic proximity, as well as the student’s educational goals, to assess whether the program is a suitable match. Once the geographic constraints are met, marketers could benefit from running Follower Campaigns or Promotional Post Campaigns to boost engagement on the page (likes, comments and shares).
Knock, Knock … Who’s There?
Once you’ve identified your target audience, it’s important to put out content that captures their interest. Marketers should always use social-friendly content that sets the university apart, like images, videos, testimonials, and infographics. These written and visual student accounts help to establish brand trust and perspective on the program’s effectiveness.
Social Media moves quickly, which is why it’s important to create a sense of urgency in your content. Most of your prospective students are juggling multiple balls in the air while pursuing their education, so it’s easy for them to place their education on the back burner. However, seeing frequent deadline reminders on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can encourage them to plan around school-related tasks.
Social media runs 24/7. Your team, however, does not. That’s why higher ed marketers should be encouraged to post links or documents on your social channels that answer common questions about the admissions process. Self-service tools can be more efficient for prospective students (and of great relief to your team). These can be listed in the format of FAQ’s, Top 10 List of Program Need-to-Knows, or a checklist that students can download.
All your social media efforts will be in vain if it isn’t easy to apply. To ensure that prospective students understand what next steps to take, include a link to your admissions website in your social media profile and call attention to this link frequently around application deadlines.
And the Winner is …
Social media provides us with the shortest feedback loop in marketing, so you’ll be able to tell very quickly how well your content is performing. Therefore, it is of the upmost importance to monitor and evaluate your engagement efforts throughout each campaign. When you find that certain content or topics are under performing, you can analyze your data relatively easily to find out why. The most important KPIs for higher ed social media pages are usually audience growth rate and engagement, so be sure to pull and monitor those stats regularly.
Using these top four strategies throughout your marketing efforts will allow you and your team to work smarter and not harder when it comes to the higher ed recruitment and retention, while providing an intimate and personable experience for the potential student as well.