March 12, 2019
Google your favorite celebrity, and their social media channels are likely to appear among the top five search results. Business and casual conversations happen on social media, and the information you share in these channels bolsters your expertise and reputation. Social media is an active engagement in which your organization can meet prospective students, their parents and future faculty where they are – and invite them to read, listen and contribute.
The average American uses three social media platforms; young adults use five or more. Today’s teens and nontraditional students are on the go and eager for attractive visuals and relevant content that answers their questions. But “doing social media” isn’t as easy as posting pictures and collating content on Twitter. Successful social media strategies are built around your audience, your business goals and a never-ending curiosity for what’s working and how to improve.
A solid social media strategy offers the opportunity to:
Across platforms, the algorithms and best practices that determine content prioritization are in constant flux.
How does one stay up-to-date on current best practices? Stay active on social media and don’t hesitate to try new options and platforms as they emerge. For example, Twitter pioneered the use of hashtags to collate conversations online. Today, hashtags are a mainstay across nearly every platform. Audiences on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn can follow specific hashtags to view content that is personalized to their interests.
The Stamats content marketing team regularly tries new social options, from Instagram TV to Twitter live audio. Some efforts are successful, and others don’t work as well as expected. However, each time we try something new, we learn more about what our audiences want, where they are and how we can improve our communication with them.
If you want current and prospective students to find and engage with your content, investing in paid promotion should be part of your ongoing strategy.
Start with a set budget (we recommend $200 for a starting point) and assess the reach and engagement your post receives. From this baseline, you can hone your messaging and try targeting the ad to audience segments based on their user demographics, such as personal interests and geography.
Just like any other paid or organic promotion, it’s important to measure conversions – what happens after a user clicks through your social media content. Monitoring conversions helps you prove return on investment to your stakeholders. Also keep in mind that many users don’t click at all. We recommend having an on-network goal as well.
Regular assessment of your platforms, content and strategy offers a chance to rectify poor user experience issues, such as broken links, unclear directives or mismatching of content to audience needs. Questions to consider include:
Most higher ed organizations don’t have the bandwidth to use every social media platform. We recommend originating your content on a platform you own, such as your blog or website, then pushing it out on two to three social media channels your students use most as a starting point. Sometimes link back and sometimes use pieces of your content and adapt it to the social media networks.
When considering which platforms to use and what to share, consider the following questions:
Doable, quick-win business goals in the short term might include increased brand awareness, such as reach and engagement. Over the long term, you can prove return on investment if you strategically track conversions and keep a pulse on changing audience needs. Bonus: Consistent publication of relevant content improves your status as an industry expert and thought leader.
Winning content can only perform well with strategic syndication. We recommend the COPE method – Create Once, Publish Everywhere. In other words, publish a piece of content on a central location and distribute the content through your priority channels.
A common practice is to post a blog about a trend, then share posts, images and media files across Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Marketing automation tools and social media scheduling platforms can help you publish and monitor posts and engagements across multiple platforms.
One person will have difficulty doing all these things themselves. Collaboration becomes key, either with an internal team, a trusted agency partner or a combination of both. Your brand voice is like your baby: It can be difficult to hand over responsibility to someone else. Surround yourself with partners you can trust to reduce the need for multiple edits, overproduction of images and visuals and other rigid process that slow syndication and foster suboptimal results.
This platform is still the No. 1 social media platform for adults (parents and nontraditional students) – 65 percent use it at least once a day, and more than half visit multiple times daily. Though Facebook has become pay-to-play for brands, the targeting options and potential for expansive reach make this platform relevant in 2019.
Owned by Facebook, this visual platform is home to authentic, real-time images and videos. Young people tend to use IG more than Facebook.
YouTube, Blog, Vlog and Podcast
Yes, these platforms are now considered social media. Why? Because they are hubs for cornerstone content – the main creations you can parse and distribute across other channels.
YouTube is the second biggest search engine behind Google, which owns the platform. Posting here can help publishers rank high on both search engines. About 75 percent of adults use YouTube, and 95 percent of adults 18 to 24 year use it.
Blogs are traditionally text based but are being used more and more as a tool to distribute more visual content, such as infographics to audio/video media, embedded within the article. Podcasts are similar to blogs, but in audio form instead of text. And vlogs are video-based stories, with audio and text included in the mix.
Best practices for these platforms include:
This platform for professionals is similar to Facebook in that you can post text, images and videos in followers’ news feeds. Nontraditional and graduate student prospects are a key target audience.
However, the content users expect on LinkedIn should be business-related, including thought leadership and straight news content. About half of Americans with degrees use LinkedIn, and Pew Research suggest that 90 percent also use Facebook.
This fast-moving platform offers the opportunity to follow hashtags and contribute to larger conversations. Students and parents use Twitter to get news and quick updates.
Each post can be no longer than 280 characters, necessitating succinct and pointed posts or planned threads for longer messages.
Similar to Instagram, this platform is highly visual and geared toward adults. However, it’s more of a collating platform, pulling in items a user identifies as relevant to them based on their personal interests.
Though generally considered a fun, in-the-moment app, some brands have found success reaching young adults and teens with Snapchat stories, which offer the option to add links to web content.
Conclusion and Final Tips
This includes evergreen, topical content that answers user questions/needs, which should be the bulk of the content you produce, as well as newsy, trending content, which also should be part of your strategy. Give a unique opinion about the topics you pursue and why the topic should matter to the audience.
Content should always include at least one relevant call-to-action as well. The CTA should tie to a business goal, but more importantly should be a next natural step for the visitor.
Social media platforms offer a unique opportunity to share your stories, appealing to prospective students and parents through a variety of media. Today’s options offer a richer, deeper way to connect with your current and potential clients, as well as glean inspiration for your own content marketing projects.