Social media in higher education has become an essential chapter in the playbook of almost every institution. According to our research, 98% of schools use social media across campus.

Why? It is very valuable for schools to unlock these on social media. Universities are now campaigning for social networks to recruit future academics, promote the school spirit and raise funds.

However, social media in higher education offers more than just marketing. These platforms also serve as essential communication channels.

With so much at stake, higher education social media teams have a lot to manage. Not to mention the colossal task of serving a large international community across multiple channels. For this reason, having the right strategy, tools, and support in place is essential for teams to get the most out of social media.

Learn the best practices, get inspiration from the top institutions, and master social media for higher education with these essential tips.

Bonus: Sign up for our latest college webinar: How to Combat Mental Fatigue for Social Media Professionals. You will learn:

  • Best Practices for Planning Social Media Crisis Communication for Higher Education Institutions During COVID-19
  • Dealing with negative messages and comments to your institution
  • How to communicate the value of your social media strategy to leadership

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Benefits of Social Media in Higher Education

From using social media for college marketing to crisis communication, there are several reasons why post-secondary institutions should be active online. These are the main benefits of social media in higher education.

Recruit new signups

Students do not apply to a school they have never heard of before. But they use social media to research schools that they are interested in.

A recent study by TargetX found that 58% of prospective students use social media to search for schools they are considering. What they find can also have an impact: 17% say these sources are extremely influential, while 61% say they are at least somewhat influenced by their social research.

However, registrations are only half of the recruiting challenge. The other is to keep the students enrolled.

Research by the Harvard University Center for Education Policy Research found that up to 40% of potential students drop out before school due to difficulties with the admissions process. Social media can also help here. Georgia State University reduced this so-called "summer melt" by 22% by using an AI-assisted chatbot to answer questions.

Using social media, schools can get a glimpse of life on campus with virtual tours and student adoption. Inspire wanderlust with snapshots of the school grounds. Introduce the clubs, communities, and social opportunities attendees can get involved in. Make it easy for students to imagine their future at your university.

Take a virtual, student-led tour of Harvard! Register: https://hrvd.me/virtualtour9f

Posted by Harvard University on Saturday 1st Aug 2020

Promote values ​​and success

Make known the mission and values ​​of your institution. Social media can play an important role in setting the tone for campus culture. Promote and represent the environment your school wants to maintain.

We created a human rainbow on campus to tag @sydneymardigras! 🌈

We pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive environment for the # LGBTIQ + community and their allies and to show solidarity with them. 🏳️‍🌈 #UNSWPride pic.twitter.com/2jZ9GZoKsQ

– UNSW (@UNSW) February 26, 2020

Let prospective students, faculty, and partners know that they are welcome and supported in your community (in turn, share the types of behavior that will not be tolerated). For example, Dartmouth College ran an Instagram story series to show students how to update their pronouns and helped normalize preferred pronouns.

Provide reasons to be proud of their alma mater, both for current and past scholars. Transferring advances in medical research, sustainability commitments, or community investment. The value adjustment now informs everything from small purchases to important life decisions. Put them in the foreground to increase cheapness, recruit top talent, and boost public image.

See this post on Instagram

#TerrierTuesdays: Meet Simeon Webb (COM’21). Originally from Ellenwood, GA, his transition from living in a rural setting to city life was difficult but manageable. After just a few weeks on campus, he found that BU was helping him build his own community, and in no time he was proud to call Boston his home away from home. For Simeon, BU ticked off all of its college viewing requirements. Located in a city that was non-negotiable, it offered his field of study and the resources necessary to achieve his career goals. Today he is proud to attend @COMatBU and graduate in film and television with the goal of working as a professional film editor in Hollywood. Aside from his studies, Simeon is a social butterfly. He is the director of the student-run radio show BU in the Morning, sits on @wtburadio's e-board, coordinates a student group under the @BUHTC called Brothers United, and also works as a student admission advocate for @ApplytoBU . He also interned with Georgia Public Broadcasting and currently works for Pinewood Atlanta Studios. – Way to the hustle and bustle, Simeon. – When asked what advice he has to his terrier colleagues, he said the following: “Show people love! You don't have to know! You don't have to ask for permission to show someone some love. Make sure to tell the people around you that you love them! “- You can follow Simeon at @ Simbo_17

A post from Boston University (@bostonu) on July 23, 2019 at 10:00 am PDT

A bit of old-fashioned bragging goes a long way too. Rally school spirit by celebrating, winning and taking first place top athletes. Showcase state-of-the-art facilities, award-winning research, hazard appearances and other accomplishments from students, faculties and graduates.

Engage students on and off campus

Even under normal, non-pandemic circumstances, not all students live on campus. That doesn't mean they are less motivated to get involved in and participate in student life. A key benefit of social media in higher education is that students can connect – from home, in different locations, in work study programs, at a conference, or wherever.

Create channels and groups to bring students together on different topics, interests, experiences, and activities. McGill University operates more than 40 student life accounts, including a Facebook page on Campus Life & Engagement which has links to private groups such as the McGill University Entering Class from 2020-2021.

Encourage user generated content. Create a hashtag like #BerkeleyPOV or #MyNYUAd to have students share photos of the campus so they can be reposted. Run social media contests. Let the students share their work. Promote virtual conferences, lecture series and online networking events to create connections between ideas, departments and students. Don't forget to have some fun with virtual dance and tailgate parties.

Crisis communication

Nobody hopes for crises or emergencies. However, it is important for institutions to plan them. As people increasingly look to social media for updates and information in real time, this should be an integral part of any crisis communication plan.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for strong communication in universities and colleges. Mask guidelines, physical distancing requirements, precautions, and event cancellations are among the advice schools are now giving out on social media.

More than ever, we are responsible not only for our own health, but also for the health of others. Here are…

Posted by New York University on Wednesday August 12th, 2020

People also expect institutions to respond in a timely manner to social movements like Black Lives Matter, reports of sexual harassment, and PR crises. They want to see what specific measures the university is taking to address social or institutional problems.

Bad press, false rumors, and abuse spread quickly on social media, which is why it's important to actively listen socially. The support of leadership and clear guidelines for intercepting and handling negative news are vital for social media managers to be able to respond quickly and effectively.

Communication plans should also be established in the event of weather disruptions, natural disasters, active shooters, and other imminent threats.

Fundraising and advocacy

Several universities have found success in using social media in higher education as a lever for fundraising.

Purdue University's annual Purdue Day of Giving campaign has broken five consecutive records for a 24-hour higher education fundraiser. In 2019, the social media-based campaign raised $ 41.6 million in a single day, bringing the school's six-year total to $ 146.9 million.

Last year, Columbia University's annual Giving Day raised $ 22 million from more than 18,000 donors. By integrating these campaigns with CRM systems, universities can map funds collected through social media and measure ROI. Social fundraisers like this invite alumni to be active advocates and provide an invaluable display of support and camaraderie.

Proud to have donated to such a great school @BarnardCollege! May you continue to empower stronger and bolder Barnard students, especially first generation / low income students! #ColumbiaGivingDay #Barnard https://t.co/fvK3PJjkp8

– Alondra Lucero (@AlondraLuc) October 24, 2019

Using Social Media in Higher Education: 8 Essential Tips

Follow these tips to get the most out of social media in higher education.

1. Create a social media hub

There are typically many people and even more channels involved in higher education social media. According to our Social Campus Report 2019, in addition to 10 social media managers, an average of 36 more people are involved in social initiatives on campus. With more than 450 channels, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is likely well above this average.

Bring everyone and everything together with one central hub. Create a social media directory that lists and categorizes all social media accounts. MIT maintains a searchable website that allows visitors to search for channels by keyword or platform. The University of Waterloo lists more than 200 channels by department or domain with the option to filter by network.

MIT Social Media Hub homepage

Source: MIT Social Media Hub

As an external resource, the hubs allow people to find and follow the right channels and trust them to be official accounts. Admission forms, guidelines and guidelines can also be linked here for easy internal and external access.

The hub-and-spoke setup is also a good management model. With the help of a tool like Hootsuite, a core team can monitor all channels from a central dashboard. The platform often makes it easier for understaffed managers to assign tasks, approve and plan positions and mobilize them in the event of a crisis.

2. Set up social media guidelines

Lay a solid foundation for using social media in higher education. With the right guidelines, organizations can streamline the onboarding process, promote best practices, and maintain a unified voice across all channels.

Academic social media guidelines should include:

There may be a lot to do, but thorough guidelines are vital to social managers, who are often cursed on the front lines. They also enable students and faculty to participate independently and authentically, while reducing the need for support from the core team.

3. Develop a social media strategy

There is a strategy behind every successful social media channel. Add more channels to the picture and the need for strategy increases. But also the challenges.

The tremendous challenge in developing a strategy for a multi-channel organization is probably why this continues to be a primary target for professionals surveyed in our Social Campus Report 2019. 76 percent of respondents say defining a clear strategy and goals for social media is a top priority. Another 45% hope to coordinate the social strategy across the campus.

When it comes to developing a social media strategy for higher education, the university is a good place to start. Most institutions have mandates that can support social media. In fact, 64% of professionals agree that social media should be linked to the strategic plan and institutional mission.

Realign the social strategy with the core objectives of the university. Not only does this create a clear business model for social media, but it also allows managers to better allocate their resources. Develop a social media content calendar to identify and plan important dates, events, and holidays.

Tip: Integrate social media into your institution's CRM software so that you can measure their full impact.

Learn how to create a social media strategy in 8 steps.

4. Take a platform-specific approach

You can likely find more alumni on LinkedIn than on TikTok. Or maybe not. There is no way you can know for sure without dealing with audience demographics.

Get to know each of your social target groups. Look for trends related to age group, gender, location and, if available, occupation, education level and interests. With these insights, you can customize and personalize messages for each different audience. LinkedIn may not be the best platform for student recruiting – but it could be the ideal place to market education programs.

Look beyond your audience to identify new opportunities. For example, since 45% of international students are from China, Boston University decided to set up official WeChat and Weibo accounts.

Stay up to date on platform and demographic trends to see where your communities are most active. This allows managers to focus on channels that will ultimately produce the most results. Management tools like Hootsuite make it easy to compare how channels stack up against each other.

Know what's wrong with the young crowd. For many universities, this has meant brushing up on social slang and leveraging ideas for college content from teenagers on Snapchat and TikTok.

@ iubloomington

we miss you 🥺 we just want to protect you ❣️ #indianauniversity #stayhome #hoosiers

♬ Trap Sax – Nish

Give the teenagers what content they want to make. Share university anthems on TikTok. Upload GIFs to Giphy. The Ryerson University mascot-fronted GIFS received 35.1 million views. Create university branded face and geofilters for Snapchat and Instagram.

Who will come to us in September? See what you could #bethenext with our Instagram filter – head over to our page to try it out 👉 https://t.co/WiTnkgOFHg pic.twitter.com/IaX4wDwf70

– Uni of East London (@UEL_News) August 13, 2020

5. Build and strengthen communities

With a central hub, policies, and strategies, your infrastructure is in place for social media and college communities to thrive.

Create hashtags behind which the student body can gather online. In 2017, Georgia State University launched the #TheStateWay campaign to give the community the opportunity to share the school's identity and be proud of it. The initiative generated more than 2.4 million social impressions and was adopted by 90% of university executives. Three years later it's still going strong.

Develop an accessible admissions program so students and faculty can apply to create and manage accounts. Create flexibility so students, faculty or alumni can choose the channel and format that works for them, whether it's a Facebook group, a professional Twitter account, a LinkedIn Showcase page, a Pinterest -Forum or YouTube series. Let the students and their creativity take over – it pays off. St. Andrews University more than tripled its Instagram followers after launching undergraduate takeovers.

See this post on Instagram

The Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) was set up by the Principal & # 39; s Office to help the university develop a bold new environmental strategy. The ESB is led by Professor Sir Ian Boyd and has 5 working groups: Curriculum Sustainability, Student & Community, Energy, Estates, Environment (E3), Business Adaptation and Research. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The ESB is in the process of preparing the first draft of a strategy which will be shared with the rest of the university community for consultation. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The university is committed to developing an inclusive, ambitious and impactful student-centered environmental strategy that will develop a sustainable St. Andrews Plan in both the short and long term. Check out our story to find out who is sitting on the board! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The Student & Community Working Group will take over Instagram once a month. Keep your eyes peeled for exciting new green opportunities and updates in St. Andrews! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #Environment # environmentally friendly # sustainability #INSTAndrews #noplacelikefoam #evertoexcel

A post posted by the University of St. Andrews (@uniofstandrews) on Aug 13, 2020 at 12:23 am PDT

The more people share content there, the greater the reach and social part of the voice that your institution will ultimately have. With Hootsuite Amplify, employees and students can share audited branded content and increase reach.

6. Stay up to date with social listening

Social listening is important for addressing and suppressing negativity before things get out of hand online. But it can also be used to identify trends and opportunities.

OsloMet, Norway's third largest university, has set up specific keyword search terms on Hootsuite to find out which topics and careers are most interested in candidates and students. With their insights, they can create powerful content that matches those interests.

The school has also used social listening to help faculties and staff advance their research. For example, the social team listens to journalists and can react when they make expert calls. It has enabled OsloMet scientists and studies to reach a wider audience, from research showing the polluting effects of fast fashion to demographics showing why people on the edge suffer most from pandemics.

7. Explore 1: 1 news

The demand for one-on-one social media messaging for higher education institutions continues to grow. Recent research shows that messaging app usage increased from 37% in 2017 to 51% in 2019.

Some people are less comfortable posting in groups and forums and prefer the privacy of more direct channels. Others simply know apps like Facebook Messenger better.

Artificial intelligence enables universities to scale their responsiveness. Georgia State University used AdmitHub to create Pounce, a chatbot that answers frequently asked questions and questions.

The University of the People, the world's largest online nonprofit university, has partnered with Smartloop to launch a Facebook Messenger bot. In the first three months of its launch, the bot exchanged more than a million messages with 40,000 potential students, half of whom started applications after the chat. As a result, UofPeople was able to reduce the cost per application by 62%.

Smartloop 1: 1 messages

Source: Smartloop

8. Target ads to reach target audiences

The organic reach is decreasing. Not only when it comes to social media for university marketing, but in general.

Fortunately, GenZers are pretty much untouched by ads. According to the TargetX survey, nearly three-quarters of teenagers have seen ads online. Notably, more than half of those who see them actually click on them. In terms of marketing quality, a click rate of 56% is pretty fridge-worthy.

The University of the People advertised their messenger bot on Facebook with click-to-video ads. The Technological University of Mexico used a combination of Facebook and Instagram placements to attract new employees and increase registrations by 20%.

Social media advertisement from the Technological University of Mexico

Source: Facebook

New to college social media advertising? Get to know Social Media Advertising 101.

Put your college engagement strategy into action and save time by using Hootsuite to manage all of your social channels from one dashboard. Try it for free today.

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