It’s no surprise that colleges have embraced social media. Today’s students have grown up communicating and sharing experiences on social media sites like Facebook and are now helping grow the popularity of newer platforms such as Instagram. Using the power of different networks and engaging content, schools are using social media to attract students, interact with current students and stay connected with alumni.
Attracting Future Students
“Social media has been key for us and has been a great audience connector not only with prospective students but with prospective parents.” – Kayla Germain, E-Media Coordinator, The College of Saint Rose
When searching for a college or university, students want the world-class program, facility and faculty, but they are also looking for a place to fit in and call home. Move over printed booklets, campus visits and overnights; students can now connect with a school’s campus life 24/7 through the power of social media.
Schools have taken notice of what students are looking for, and are using social media to share their campus culture with prospective students and their parents. Colleges are sharing campus life as it happens, using Instagram photos, YouTube videos, tweets and more.
“One of the basic ways we use social media is to share what’s going on on campus right now – sharing different photos, and event information can help showcase to incoming students what’s going on at The College of Saint Rose and what makes our campus different from others,” says Kayla. “Using social media we relay that you’re not just a face in the crowd. With parents it’s been really helpful because they love seeing some of the more engaging activities that we’ve been doing. Parents love seeing what we’re doing outside of the academic arena that makes Saint Rose stand out.”
Sharing Students’ Experiences
“We want to engage and make sure the student voices are heard… It’s all about authenticity.” – Jason Boucher, Social Media Coordinator, University of New Hampshire
College will be some of the most transformative years in most students’ lives, and the most successful schools on social media are using social networks to collect and share these experiences. Two popular ways schools are curating student content are blogs and hashtags.
Vital can’t emphasize enough how important it is for schools to have a blog. It’s a place where all your content can live, driving visitors back to your website and boosting your SEO rankings.
Jason Boucher sees the value in their student blog as an engagement tool with current students, but also a recruitment tool for prospective students. “UNHTales gives students the opportunity to speak in their own words and to be published, which is good for building their resume and getting some real-world writing experience,” says Jason. “Our audience for UNHTales is not only students, but prospective students and their parents read the voice of the student and what their experience is like at UNH coming from actual students not the administration, so it’s genuine and authentic.”
Hashtags are a great way to connect users and build conversations around specific topics. Hashtags have become a powerful tool as their popularity grows and more social networks and users use them. One network that uses hashtags and is gaining popularity with students is Instagram.
“What makes Instagram work so well is how fast you can post photos to not just your mobile, but to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, and Flickr,” says Jason. “One photo taken can amplify your message across many social networks within seconds… Our ability to comment and like photos on Instagram that are tagged with #UNH or #instaUNH make us very successful. We also re-post a weekly #instaUNH tagged student photo to our social media outlets.”
Connecting Students with the Answers They Need
“We use social media to answer students’ questions, listen to their opinions and take action so that they understand that they are being heard.” – Stephen Boucher, Director of Marketing and Communications, Southern New Hampshire University
As colleges embrace social media, they’re finding that more and more students are using social media to ask questions and share feedback. Being helpful and responsive is key as it shows students that social media is a place where they can communicate with their school.
“They call it social media for a reason – it can’t be a one way conversation. So if we have students who are asking us questions or giving observations on some of the things we have going on around campus, if we just take that information in and do nothing with it, we’re not only doing the students a disservice, we’re doing the institution a disservice,” says Stephen.
Being responsive also means being available when students are available. Stephen says that it’s common for his team to be online at 11 p.m. responding to students. “They are floored when they see we answer at that time. They wonder if it’s an automated service or a call center—but no, it’s just a team that cares about what they do and that our students are well served.”
Staying Connected with Alumni
“I consider our social media ‘ours,’ not ‘mine.’” – Moira Gentry, Associate Director for Alumni Communications, UMASS Amherst
Colleges and universities that are doing a great job connecting with students also know how important it is to keep those connections alive after graduation. Social media now plays an important role in helping colleges stay connected with alumni and also increasing the value of their education by expanding their school’s recognition.
Schools are now able to share alumni’s life and career achievements on social media. These notes such as marriages, promotions, etc. are helping reconnect alumni, grow the school’s exposure and also increase the SEO value for alumni and the school. “Alumni send in their stories, and we can share on social media to a huge wide audience,” says Moira Gentry. “UMass Amherst also has regional alumni groups around the country and I can share their accomplishments as an alumni group and give them a much wider platform to boost their signal and help reconnect with each other.”
Sharing these stories on a blog not only drives traffic to a school’s website but also offers a huge SEO value to the alumni. UMASS Amherst’s Moira Gentry encourages alumni to share their stories on their website to just that – increase their SEO rankings. “I can boost their signal and give them good SEO, so next time an employer Googles them they’re going to be much more present,” says Moira.
Connect with the featured schools
It’s clear that the schools we’ve featured are leading the charge in social media. Many creative ideas came from talking with the schools and we’d encourage you to connect with them using the links below.
If your university’s social media strategy needs a jumpstart, we can help. Vital specializes in engineering social media strategies that foster engagement and ultimately drive users back to your website as part of a comprehensive online lead generation strategy. Contact us today.