It’s no secret that the race for social media success is on, but making sure your program has the edge to engage both current and prospective students does not have to be a guessing game. At any given moment, your prospective students are bombarded with an endless tsunami of online content demanding their attention; so how do you break through the pack? Here are 4 crucial tips influenced by Facebook Queen Mari Smith that help higher education digital marketers stay ahead of the competition.
1. Don’t just sell the story; find the story’s inspiration
Everywhere you look online, there is someone spitting out analytics to prove that adding an exclamation point or choosing a video over an image will get you more engagement, reach, etc., but the real value lies in authenticity. Yes, exclamation points, videos, and images are great ways to convey emotion while drawing attention on social media, but what can any of those add to your online campaign if the message itself is an empty one? There is no formulaic box of tricks to follow when trying to revive a struggling Facebook page or campaign. Instead, you must discover the connections and values that encapsulate your program and the audience that you’re trying to engage. Of course, targeting via profession or educational history is an invaluable starting point, but what ideals do your candidates hold? What dreams do you have the power to help them accomplish? Rather than looking at your social analytics as just another file of numbers to throw together a signifying trend, make it your mission to understand why those trends are emerging. Finding the igniting core behind story can give way to an endless amount of creative opportunities instead of blindly following what the data says to follow.
2. Tell students what to do, but make it quick and painless
Now that you know the core of who it is you’re looking for, tell them what to do. As you may have noticed, attention spans seem to dwindle as content continues to exponentially grow, so if your Facebook post leads to a website page where 10 steps must be completed, you likely aren’t seeing much engagement or follow through. Especially for the millennial generation, if participating in your campaign requires more than a 3-click process, it more than likely you won’t be successful. The trick here is to make your call-to-action as simple as possible. This does not mean that you must sacrifice quality for a lesser quantity, but it does mean you’ll need a creative strategy to draw in and engage your perfect target audience.
Since you’ve already dug into their core values in the previous step, it’s time to apply that legwork to quantifiable data. Using a simple “Learn More” call-to-action campaign requiring either an email or a phone number, there is a perfect opportunity to collect data for future outreach opportunities to offer more information or counseling. As a result, using a more succinct call-to-action will not only boost your engagement, but your older recruiting campaigns may also reap the benefits of the vital collected data. Social media is certainly not a game for the weak of heart, but it’s an essential tool. In the last two years alone, social media has revolutionized how content is consumed and sold, but finding your edge in the online jungle will take knowledge, a poignant strategy, and, of course, finesse.
3. Reimagine your content game
Did you know that less than 5% of your Facebook followers actually saw the story you posted this morning and even less followers saw your tweet? As discouraging as that may initially sound, allow me to explain why this is a major social campaign opportunity. When more than 95% of your following has no idea you just shared how incredibly bright their future could be if they knew how your phenomenal program is, then the potential for content creativity is endless! And the best part is you can reuse and repurpose the same textual content you used before. The text on its own, as Facebook Queen Mari Smith would say, should always fall into 3 buckets – information, entertainment, and call to action – but nowhere does it say that presentation should ever be the same. If you have a story that hit a particularly successful wave with your followers, do it again! You can use the same story and present it a new way or bring in a similar story with the same spin, but, either way, why fix what isn’t broken? And on the opposite end of the spectrum, if you have a vital piece of communication that seemingly fell by the wayside, reimagine it. Bring in someone else’s expertise, turn it into a social media contest, build a hashtag campaign around it, or turn the text into an image, infographic, or video – these are just a few of options at your disposal. Just because a campaign flops once, doesn’t mean it’s dead; it just means you need to re-approach it with a new strategy.
4. Be consistent!
This should go without saying, but reinventing your content’s presentation should by no means equate to reinventing your university’s image. Whether you’re promoting a specific program, department, or the university as the whole, your online content should mirror your school’s mission statement every single time. As it is, your university’s existence on social media likely pales in comparison to the history of the institution itself, so why compromise or water down your institution’s long-standing traditions? Instead, take advantage of today’s vast array of digital insights to tap into the precise arena of active, relevant, prospective students that will not only appreciate your message but interact with it and promote it.
As a Social Media Specialist myself, I know that no two days on Facebook, Twitter, etc. are ever the same. The content of course is always changing, the software and structures are never stagnant, and another university is always waiting just around the corner to steal your potential students, but what will never change are the people themselves. If you can tap into the essence of your students and faculty and relay that to form a substantial connection with your audience, then your engagement will not only improve, it will flourish.
As a recent UC San Diego graduate and one of Circa Interactive’s newest additions to the Content Marketing team, Tami’s theoretical and hands-on social media expertise adds new insight into Circa’s marketing strategies. Her passion for social media and emerging technologies allows Circa and its clients to always stay ahead of the online curve.