Most universities are already well on their way in leveraging social media, and some are even acing it. Higher Education’s target audience is hypersocial. Between sharing status updates with their friends on Facebook, taking Instagram photos and tweeting, the 18-24-year-old college-age students and 15-18-year-old high school students spend so much time on social media, it’s a wonder any of them are even getting passing grades.
Most universities get it – social media is key to effectively reaching their students and prospective students – Facebook was born at Harvard University! But not all universities and colleges are truly getting it right – it’s one thing to simply have an online presence, and another to effectively communicate your brand’s message and reach and engage your audience.
Show your University’s Personality
Social media is a perfect way to show your university’s culture and voice. What does your university’s voice sound like? For most universities, it’s easy to tell how they identify themselves and their student body – but the trick is to stay consistent with this tone across all your social media engagement and content. A university’s social media presence is an extension of their brand – it shows outsiders who you are, and promotes school spirit among your students.
At Georgetown University, Hoya fans love their mascot Jack the Bulldog so much that they made him his own Facebook page. They even celebrated the introduction of Jack Jr, the mascot-in-training, with a #WelcomeJJ hashtag.
Reach out to your Alumni
Social media has made it possible for universities to uncover what alumni really care about, and to teach them the way they want to be reached. Authentic and helpful engagement from your university’s social channels will strengthen the ties with your alumni, keep the conversation and the relationship going, and create advocacy around your university’s brand. The stronger and more meaningful relationships with your alumni, the more effective your fundraising efforts will be.
McMaster University had a goal to raise $125,000 for student bursaries in 48 hours – they called it the 125 Bursary Challenge. They created discussions around the campaign on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. McMaster Alumnus, Andrew Pettit decided to join the cause tweeting that “I’ll donate $5 for every RT: #McMaster’s 125 Bursary Challenge aka sharing ‘the best time of my life’ with #HamOnt youth. mac125bursary.ca.”
The university surpassed its goal, raising $180,942 from alumni worldwide. They even reconnected with some alumni on their “do not call” list who reached out to the university through social media.
Show Your University’s History
Universities are well-known for having rich and interesting histories, full of academic achievements, prominent figures speckled throughout their alumni body, and quirky bits of trivia that put each university on the map. Taking pride in belonging to a unique and academically credible community and culture that stretches back for decades, is important to your students, your alumni, and your prospective students.
To bring history alive for their students and create engagement with those outside the campus, University of Nevada created Facebook profiles for two alumni from the 1910s to show what it would have been like if Facebook had been around in the early 1900s. One of the profiles is for Leola Lewis, who graduated in 1913. She is “in a relationship” with Joe McDonald, who also has a profile and who frequently comments on her posts.
Provide Interactive Engagement
Social media provides countless opportunities to share information with your community and create a two-way dialogue. Find clever ways to interact with students, alumni and prospective students to gain feedback, answer questions and create a community around your university – on-campus and off.
Stanford University also launched “Stanford Open Office Hours” on Facebook. Stanford posts a video from a faculty member on their Facebook page, that faculty member then invites questions from participants, and later the questions are being answered in a video.
Duke University has been using Google+ Hangouts to interact with prospective students. Students text questions to Duke staff who answer them via video chat.
Find and Recruit Prospective Students
Students generally have lots of questions about which University to choose and the best programs to enroll in – it is their future, after all. Students are on Facebook, Twitter, forums, and blogs, discussing their own academic experiences and turning to others for advice. Implementing a social listening strategy can help you find these conversations, learn the hot-button topics of interest, gain feedback on student’s perception of your university’s brand, and help answer questions.
Which universities have you noticed acing social media?