Increasing student engagement is a constant goal for higher-ed marketers, and for good reason. Social media can be a powerful way to reach and engage with one of their most important audiences: students. You know they’re using it and chances are you’ve tried it out too. In fact, the average social media following for the higher education industry is 553,656 combined across all an institution’s platforms. But in the competition for attention online are your students engaging with your content or passively scrolling by?
Here are some of our top tactics for increasing student (and prospect) engagement with your social media presence throughout the student journey.
Recruit Student Ambassadors
People connect with content they can trust and what’s more authentic and relatable than stories from real students. Enlist a set of trusted students to act as “online tour guides” who give prospective students and their peers a glimpse into a day in the life on campus. They can write blogs about different aspects of the student experience for your website, use their own social media presences to share photos and chat with potential students, and more.
Harness the Power of User-Generated Content
By students for students! You can bet your students are already snapping and sharing photos of life on campus. Why not use them as part of your social media strategy? Work on increasing student engagement by developing a branded hashtag for your university and others for large school events (Accepted Students Day, Graduation and any major happenings in between). Promote those hashtags, encourage students to join in the conversation and re-share their content on your university pages (with credit of course). The chance to be featured on your page can be a great incentive to get students engaging with your social media presence. And an added bonus? People will ‘like’ pictures of their friends and keep the engagement going.
Scheduling posts out in advance is a great way to keep your social media presence consistent, but don’t be afraid to share what’s happening in real-time. Interesting event happening on campus? Live stream it on Facebook. Guest Speaker coming to visit? Live tweet so students on (and off) campus can follow along and gain valuable insights. Noteworthy tips to share with students and prospects? Host a live Q&A with Admissions or another office on campus so they can get their questions answered.
Make Use Of Geofilters
Snapchat offers geofilters (or location-based stickers) students and visitors can place on their disappearing images. Consider developing a branded one (or a couple) for campus. Don’t want to jump in right away? You can also purchase these for more short-term use. Create one for graduation or another large event on campus and see how your students respond.
Giveaway School Swag
One of the easiest tactics for increasing student engagement on social media? A giveaway! Everyone loves some new swag, especially college students. Consider hosting a contest on your social media platforms as an incentive to encourage participation in your social media communities. And reward the winners with some new school gear so they can walk around campus in style.
Target the People Who Matter Most
Let’s face it, sometimes the message you want to share won’t apply to everyone, but that doesn’t mean your engagement has to suffer. Need to say something that only applies to grad students? Undergrads? Alumni? Paid social media is a great tool for increasing student engagement. Use the social media platforms’ paid offerings to reach this specific subset of your audience with a highly targeted message just for them.
Invite People to Engage IRL
Make it easy for students to engage with your school’s social media presence IRL (or “in real life” for those not in the know). Having an event on campus? Offer photo frames that look like Instagram pictures or photo booths to capture shareable moments from the event. Use a social wall to stream all content associated with your hashtag live during the event itself so people can see what others are saying. The more barriers you take down the easier it will be for them to engage.
Post During “Off-Hours”
No, this doesn’t mean to post during frat parties (erm… late-night study sessions) but consider sharing your content outside class times and the typical 9-to-5. Posting on weekends can be great for engagement, especially if there’s an event on campus, but chances are your students (especially undergrads) are still sleeping at 8AM on a Saturday. Be sure to consider the schedules of the people you’re trying to reach. After all, if students don’t see your content, how can they engage?
Now that you understand methods of increasing student engagement with your social media presence, it’s time to put that knowledge into action. Share content that resonates, sparks conversations and, most importantly, gets students involved online with your school and the university community as a whole.
Kaitlyn is the Manager, Social Media at RDW and an all-weather beach enthusiast. When she’s not creating integrated social media strategies or launching campaigns, you can find her traveling and looking for the best local eats, hopefully at the same time.