Social Media for Higher Education

By Katie Wiederman | Nov 14, 2014

Colleges and universities all over the world are discovering the outreach power of social media. Using the most popular platforms — Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter — schools recruit, deliver information to students, faculty and fans, and stay in touch with alums.
Since each network serves a different purpose and reaches a different audience, the most innovative approaches tailor their social media activity accordingly. Check out these great examples:

INSTAGRAM

Especially popular with the young demographic, Instagram is the place to share beautiful photos and cool videos. Nearly one-third of all Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use Instagram regularly. A school Instagram account is a great way to show off your beautiful campus or photos of a fun and exciting school event — as they did at St. Lawrence University in New York.

Last fall, Meg Bernier, the social media manager at St. Lawrence University, took a big risk and opened a second Instagram account for the school and allowed any student who was interested to take control for a week. After all, she reasoned, who better to capture what’s happening on campus than the students who are living it?

Since she launched this project, the school’s Instagram account has seen great success. Not only did current students start engaging with the account, but the younger siblings of the students who ran the account also got involved and shared it with their friends. What started as a tool to engage current students ended up becoming a recruiting tool as well.

instagram

YOUTUBE

YouTube is the most popular site for sharing and watching videos. In fact, over a billion people visit YouTube each month. Why not showcase your university happenings through a video?

Furman University released a video a few months ago called the “Furman Moments,” which is a collage of student submitted video clips of university activities. Some clips include students building a snowman during Snowpocalypse 2014, a music major composing new music, and cheerleaders rooting for the Furman soccer team.

Videos like this one can be great recruitment tools, and with over 4000 views since, it was posted in March of 2014, it’s clear that Furman students are engaged.

Facebook

By far the most popular of all the social networks, Facebook reaches a massive 71 percent of all adults who use the Internet. Because of its tremendous appeal with adults ages 30 to 64, it’s the clear choice for promoting alumni events or generating support for a giving campaign. How well do Facebook campaigns work? Ask the University of Maryland.

In February, the University of Maryland Alumni Association used its Facebook page to launch a marketing campaign to increase alumni engagement. During a five day drive, they gave away daily prizes to randomly selected alumni who entered a contest. When the drive ended, they emailed those who opted into the contest and urged them to join the association as members.

The results? They reached over 100,000 alumni in just five days and had a 27 percent membership increase.

Twitter

For breaking news and real-time updates, there’s no better medium than Twitter. Schools all over the country use Twitter for admissions information, in-game sports updates and important announcements for students and faculty — as well as for a little fun and that personal touch. Twitter is also a great tool for generating awareness for your university and can allow for some conversations with prospective students.

In June 2014, the online version of US News and World Report hosted a public Twitter chat for prospective college students. A variety of experts helped students plan college visits, prepare for tours with appropriate questions, and evaluate their choices following visits. Schools wanting to boost their recruiting outreach or build awareness could easily follow this model for Twitter.

What Does it all Mean?

Each social network serves a different purpose and reaches a different audience. Take the time to develop a strategy for your social media efforts and you may just see the results you were hoping for.

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