You Need a Social Media Strategy if You Market in the Education Sector
Social media strategy for the education sector is very important for marketing success. Widespread access to the internet and digital media has transformed the education sector completely.
As incoming students and their parents start looking through different school options, they are increasingly using social media to help them decide where to enroll.
According to UNESCO, by 2025, the students expected to enroll in higher education alone are expected to hit 262 million.
Just like any other business, your educational institution is a brand. Your job is to make your school stand out from the rest to attract the most enrollees while keeping your alumni and present students engaged all year long. Social media is the best platform to do that.
Among countries with Facebook users, India by and far has the largest number of users at 310 million. It is not so closely followed by the U.S. with 190 million and Indonesia with 140 million.
But as you can see, global usage distribution is not limited to the U.S., which is good news for international businesses or brands who are considering an international expansion.
The continued increase in social media popularity is advantageous for the education sector.
A correctly implemented social media campaign can increase engagement and interaction with both potential and current students, create healthy online communities, and establish a worldwide brand.
The Challenges of Establishing a Strong Social Media Campaign
A strong brand image is necessary to attract and engage lifelong advocates for your school.
The challenge is to put together an effective social media strategy. Your objective is to communicate and establish a relationship with potential enrollees and other stakeholders, such as parents and industry experts.
Another challenge is figuring out how mobile behavior and social media fit into your target audience’s lives, and how you can best use that data to your advantage. How do you maintain your brand as you share content across multiple devices and platforms?
In the next section, you will learn how to create an excellent social media strategy. It begins with understanding your target audience—including their behaviors and key motivators—so that you can effectively roll out your campaign with a unified and well-directed message.
You will also be guided through tried and tested social media techniques to engage students and stakeholders with your school’s brand.
A good marketing automation platform like SharpSpring has social media management built right into its “all-in-one” marketing automation software. Here’s a quick peek at social media management.
10 Strategies to Build Your School’s Social Media Campaign
An unfocused and non-targeted social media campaign will bring in unsatisfactory results.
All great marketing efforts are built with a deep understanding of the market, a strong brand identity, and a clear-cut message rolled out on the appropriate digital platforms.
Here are ten critical social media strategies to follow when designing your school’s social media campaign:
#1. Analyze your Social Media Data and Your Social Media Strategy for the Education Sector
According to Schneider B Media, these eight steps will give you a more unobstructed view of your audience:
Step 1: Identify your target audience
Create a list of your target individuals.
Step 2: Use an audience insight tool
A social media tool to gather data about your target audience such as Facebook Audience Insights.
Step 3: List down the characteristics of your audience
The most common things to watch out for are socio-demographic, psychographic, geographic, and preferred channels of communication. You should also look for other opportunities, for instance, where your audience spends their time and the activities they engage in.
Step 4: List down the behaviors of your audience –
The factors that commonly influence behavior are knowledge, attitudes, self-image, perceived risks, norms, self-efficacy, emotions, social support and influence, and personal advocacy.
Step 5: Identify facilitators and barriers
What factors could potentially hinder your audience from reaching out to your school? What about those that encourage or drive them to?
Step 6: Consider further audience segmentation
Does your audience have a subgroup that is hard to reach and will require different methods or channels? Do some members of your market have distinct concerns or views about enrolling in your school that will require a different approach?
Step 7: List down the key influencers of your audience
Know the behaviors of those who impact your audiences’ decisions. This is key to further understanding who you are talking to and why they behave the way they do.
Step 8: Create a customer persona
You know one for parents, prospective students, students, and other stakeholders.
Tell the story of your audience as a person. Incorporate what you have learned in the first seven steps. Include the basics such as income level, gender, age, marital status, and nuances such as what kind of activities they have? What is their biggest worry in life? What does a typical day for them look like?
#2. Identify the Best Platforms for your Social Media Campaigns
An effective social media campaign entails using the right platform to convey your message.
Each social media route contains its specialties and advantages unique to them. Knowing what type of campaign to put on which platform will strengthen your message and reach your intended audience more efficiently.
Here are the most popular social media platforms and what they are best used for in a social media setting:
- Twitter. With 326 million active users, this is the best place to share news and updates about your school. It’s also an ideal place to entice new followers and increase brand awareness through branded content.
- Instagram. It is considered to be the ultimate photo-sharing platform. About 60 million photos are posted daily, which garners at least 1.6 billion likes. It’s also popular for its stories, where users can share videos or pictures in a slideshow format.
- Facebook. One of the most influential and popular social networking sites today, it is the platform designed for connections, building relationships, and sharing content. Facebook Groups allow you to build targeted communities in audience-specific spaces, while Facebook Live allows you to live-stream content.
- Snapchat. The platform has about 191 million daily active users and approximately 10 billion video views daily. It has a younger demographic, as 78% of its users are from the ages of 18 to 24. Its real-time video and photo content sharing capabilities have a more authentic aesthetic than the highly filtered photos on Instagram.
- YouTube. It’s the second most popular search engine next to Google, and it’s got a very specialized form of content—video. About 30 million people visit YouTube every day. This is the best place to load in your student-guided tours, testimonials, documentaries, live events, and other branded content in video format.
Remember to post specialized content for the right audience.
Consider making separate accounts for the different aspects, networks, or departments within your school. This way, your content will be tailored to the audience who follows that particular account.
Check up on the data analytics for each of your social media platforms regularly to find out which posts are the most popular, which aren’t, and which platforms work best for your school.
#3. Develop a Style Guide for your Social Media Platforms
A style guide is a set of guidelines and standards for how a brand should come across on all channels in terms of messaging, tone, voice, and images. It sets a precedent for how writers and content creators should make content for the brand.
It allows the brand identity to remain consistent across all platforms, thereby strengthening it.
To build a reliable style guide for your brand, Hootsuite suggests asking the following questions:
- What are the goals you wish to accomplish on each social media platform?
- Who is your target audience?
- What voice or tone do you want to convey your message in?
- What words, phrases, or slang terms do you use in your school?
Laying all of these elements out will ensure that your social media efforts are all on the same page and consistent with your brand identity.
This is also where content marketing tools can come in handy and help you with your content research.
#4. Tap into Student-Generated Content
As students are already active on social media, it makes sense to tap into the content that they are already churning out daily. Doing so adds an authentic feel to your campaign as student-generated material allows the audience to connect with your brand on a more personal and down-to-earth level.
Allowing your students and alumni to share content on your school’s official social media accounts will also organically increase your interaction and engagements, as each of them has their network that you can automatically tap into.
Here are some examples of successful student-generated campaigns:
A strategic higher education marketing campaign.
This is a more strategic and focused approach compared to random, everyday posts. The strategy behind the higher education marketing campaign is simple: come up with a common goal and assign a branded hashtag for all relevant posts to fall under.
For example, Vancouver Island University started an Instagram campaign to attract followers who love the eclectic lifestyle and outdoors. Under the #ilearnhere hashtag, the school’s Instagram account was able to loop in like-minded people to contribute, visit, and browse through their page. The hashtag produces about 400 contributions monthly.
Create an all-unifying hashtag.
A hashtag is a great way to incorporate users across a wide demographic to contribute content to your social media campaign. It instantly expands your content, reach, and engagement, while keeping your brand as the unifying factor that ties everything together. It can be an official school hashtag or more specific ones for your school events, sports teams, departments, or subjects.
Allegheny College created the #acgatorgram hashtag. The school encouraged students to promote the hashtag on their social media platforms. The community soon built itself as an organization, and even alumni, joined in and contributed content under the hashtag.
Encourage students to do online tours or diaries.
Student testimonials serve as an authentic, relatable, and trustworthy resource for any student considering enrolling in a particular school. Video content of regular students giving a tour of the campus or offering a glimpse into their school life created in their unique voice is refreshing and engaging.
Have students take over your school’s Snapchat account for a day.
This offers a very personal and in-depth account of life on campus from a student’s perspective. The audience will see a refreshing take on-campus experience, the best spots to hang out in, and what the students and faculty are like in all its unedited and unfiltered reality.
#5. Take Advantage of Live Streaming and Stories
More than 1 billion hours of online video are viewed daily. Moreover, there has been an increase of 47% in live video streaming as compared to a year ago. Live video is a popular way to engage students with real-time content that is mostly raw, unedited, and personal.
Real-time video allows you to share valuable insights into a wider variety of topics that other forms of content may be unable to do as effectively. For example, you can hold a Q&A session, webinar, or workshop where you can offer your audience a chance to engage with you in a real-time, in-depth discussion.
Meanwhile, sharing content via Stories is a popular way to engage with your audience. Social media platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram all offer prominently on their sites.
Sharing Stories is a great avenue to share with your audience the main attractions in your campus, facilities, sports events, and faculty members, among other relevant content you want to highlight.
To enhance and make your photos and videos more enticing to viewers, you can choose to add captions and filters.
Listicle content is a tried and tested social media strategy that has been used widely by businesses and individuals alike. According to CopyPress, these can go viral because:
- They have catchy headlines. They are specially written to catch the reader’s attention. By narrowing down the headline into something relevant to your school, you instantly resonate with your target audience because of their investment with the topic.
- They give the impression of being loaded with bite-sized information. In today’s fast-paced world, people opt for easy to digest content as compared to long-form ones. Listicles are short, numbered, and to the point, which is an attractive alternative for busy users.
If your listicle is done well, it can be shared mightily and organically across multiple platforms.
#7. Respond to your Followers
Applicable to all business niches, having a successful social media campaign in place, expect to have a lot of followers, engagements, and, most likely, get inquiries across your social media platforms regardless of.
For example, if you are selling web design services, aside from your portfolios, make sure you are equipped with the best customer service practices. Consider all these inquiries as potential customers deserving of a timely response.
An article by Buffer notes that one of the most efficient ways to respond to inquiries is through Facebook Messenger.
In case you are not able to open your Messenger regularly, the app features a Response Assistant that you can set up with automated replies to let users know that you will get back to them as soon as you can.
#8. Offer Career Planning Advice
Image Credit: Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay
Offering useful content such as career planning advice and support is a great way to raise and strengthen your value as an educational institution. Most incoming students have no real course of action yet or intended career path as they go through their studies. Offering content that addresses this will not only guide students but also be advantageous to your social media efforts.
#9. Add Variety to your Social Media Posts
Image Credit: 200 Degrees from Pixabay
Full Fabric suggests a smart way to ensure that you don’t end up doing repetitive posts on your social media platforms: have content pillars. This means assigning a specific post type for each day of the week. Think Mondays for school-related news and updates, Tuesdays for sports and recreation, and so on. This will keep your posts from becoming monotonous and predictable. Remember, engaging posts that break the mold ensure the best response in terms of reach and engagement.
#10. Create Campaigns around Exciting Events
Image Credit: Brett Sayles from Pexels
An effective way to build a buzz around your brand is by featuring big and exciting school events on your social media platforms. You can design a campaign for any of your activities by:
- Starting a hashtag.
- Creating a contest.
- Posting the elements of pre-production, including teasers, the planning stage, rehearsals, set-up, etc. all lead to the main event.
- Creating an event page.
A great example of this is Columbia University’s annual fundraiser called the Giving Day Campaign. They planted social media ambassadors on multiple platforms and called on their alumni to mobilize fundraising efforts. They made use of live video streaming to broadcast the 24-hour event to a broader audience across all their social media channels. By the end of the event, the school managed to rake in $15.6 million from 15,088 donors all over the country.
Wrap Up on Social Media Strategy for the Education Sector
An effective social media campaign starts with identifying and truly knowing your audience. Once you have set their behaviors and motivators in place, you can effectively craft a message that they can resonate with.
There may be a sea of social media techniques for you to try out, but remember that all of these will be futile without a deep understanding of what motivates and drives your audience.
The heart of any successful social media campaign is the ability to pinpoint what your audience is looking for and then be able to deliver that message most clearly and effectively.
Once you have built a relationship with your audience, take care of it through continued and careful communication. The objective is to make lifelong brand advocates who will ensure your growth and solidify your educational institution’s reputation in the global arena.
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General FAQ’s on Social Media Strategy for the Education Sector
Why is Social media Important for Schools?
Social media is vital for schools because of the excellent role technology plays in most students’ lives. The right social media approach can help raise brand awareness, drive enrollment, and increase student engagement.
A Pew Research Center study attests that the most widely used online platforms among adults in the U.S. are Facebook and YouTube. Young adults prefer Instagram and Snapchat, while half of all college graduates who live in high-income households use LinkedIn.
The best way to engage college students on social media is to use platforms that students are already using in a creative and resourceful manner that will incorporate valuable learning experiences into their social media usage.
A successful social media strategy grants individuals or departments autonomy over their social media channels while keeping content consistent with one brand identity. It also places value on followers by providing high-quality, fun content and giving them timely responses.