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:

  • Establish expertise: Share your knowledge, stories and perspectives; your target market is looking to the experts (like you) to share their expertise.
  • Target particular audiences: There are a lot of channels – focus on where your current and potential students spend time. If they are on Twitter, add to conversations. If they are on Instagram, participate.
  • Show your personable side: Talk like people talk. Provide quick responses; empower your team; reduce editing touches.
  • Drive business results: Results are long-term (compounding, not campaigns – it does not work overnight).

Social Media Changes All the Time

Across platforms, the algorithms and best practices that determine content prioritization are in constant flux. What worked to reach students as recently as six months ago might not work today – or might not be an option. Just like any industry, social media platforms are businesses that evolve to make money. Click To Tweet

So 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.

Invest, Assess and Measure

Building a large following is no longer enough to establish social media success. Click To Tweet 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:

  • Do they complete their goal on your site, then leave?
  • Do they check out other pages on your site?
  • Are there barriers to conversion?
  • Are the conversion points clear, and do they make sense?

Where Should You Post?

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:

  1. Who is your target audience?
  2. What are your short-term goals?
  3. What are your long-term goals?
  4. What is your area of expertise and your value proposition?
Consider creating personas based on your target audience demographics. This can help you align content topics and calls-to-action based on what these individuals want and need, as well as your business goals. Click To Tweet

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.

Curious what prospects are talking about? Schedule a free consultation to discuss social listening tools.

Syndication, Workflow and Tools

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.

Quick Higher Ed Social Media Tips by Platform

Facebook

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.

  • Don’t rely on organic reach. As the old marketing adage goes, you have to spend money to make money.
  • Use hashtags as relevant to your content, particularly if you are sharing posts across Facebook subsidiary, Instagram.
  • Consider your targeting options. Refining the scope of your audience too narrowly can result in suboptimal reach and engagements.

Instagram

Owned by Facebook, this visual platform is home to authentic, real-time images and videos. Young people tend to use IG more than Facebook.

  • Use hashtags. Users can follow specific hashtags, which serve related content into their feeds. For example, we tag #StamatsNation on company posts and add additional tags as relevant (#highered; #healthcare; #contentmarketing).
  • Use filters sparingly. Authenticity is key for brands. Showcase the real people and places in your industry, not always the polished version.
  • Add a relevant link to your profile. For example, to a campaign landing page or another conversion page on your website.
  • Set up an Instagram Business page so you can run campaigns and promote posts from the platform.

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:

  • Post video and audio segments with captions to allow accessibility when playing sound isn’t an option.
  • Similarly, always post a transcript with media files to allow content to be searchable.
  • Avoid over-polishing. Edit out obvious errors, but keep a human, realistic vibe to connect with your audience in their terms.
  • Post consistently to generate a following:
    • Consider posting at least one blog a week. Best practices in 2019 suggest 500 to 1,000 words per article on average.
    • If your primary media is video or podcast, one a week is a respectable goal.
    • Include calls-to-action in each post that tie back to your business goals (subscribe, schedule a consultation, learn more).
    • Post videos natively to your blog or vlog (upload the file there rather than linking to YouTube) to create a streamlined user experience on the front end and to improve trackability on the back end.

LinkedIn

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.

  • Add captions to LinkedIn videos to improve accessibility.
  • Use hashtags to allow users to follow you based on topics you discuss.
  • Consider sponsored LinkedIn messaging to reach specific audience segments in their inboxes.

Twitter

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.

  • Use hashtags in your posts to tie to what others are talking about.
  • Live tweet your webinars and podcasts to increase the reach.
  • Share audio, video and images to stand out from the sea of text.
  • You can talk on Twitter up to every 15 minutes since the feed moves so quickly; check in at least once a day to stay current.

Pinterest

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.

  • This is an effective platform to promote specific products, infographics and checklists. Write a catchy description with a link and add an attractive image.
  • Promotion can be effective to reach specific audience segments.
  • Share a few pins a week as relevant.

Snapchat

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.

  • Post video, audio and images with text overlays as appropriate.
  • Carefully consider your use of filters. Some are fun but can easily take away from your brand image instead of adding to it.
  • One Snapchat story a week is a respectable goal for brands.

Conclusion and Final Tips

Every piece of content you create should have a unique angle. Click To Tweet 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.

Questions, thoughts, comments? Feel free to book a call with us here.

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