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Are you using social media? If so, do you know WHY you’re using social media?

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So many colleges and universities are using social media to recruit prospective students. So many colleges and universities are using social media BADLY to recruit prospective students. Sorry, but it’s a fact.
Before you get in too deep, consider the following points:

Have a strong understanding of your target audience:
Your school must grasp the concept of “socialgraphics,” the measurement of how your prospective students (and their parents, and their friends, and their guidance counselors and anyone else who impacts their college decision) use social media. What social media technologies are they using? How? Are they using them just to chat with friends or do they do research there?

Do a social media audit:
Who in your college (especially, on your marketing or Admissions staff) is already using social tools, what are those tools, and what is their status? If an Admissions Counselor has a personal Twitter account, is it successful? Why or why not. Learn lessons from the people who are already doing it – don’t learn the hard way by trying it and failing. Get the same information about your competitors.

Develop business processes:
Everyone is busy. Each of your existing employees already has a full-time job so no one is going to be able to take on enough new responsibility to make social media successful. Develop a hierarchy for how information from different sources (departments, faculty, research centers, etc) will be categorized and dispersed. And then…

Create qualified roles:
Your college needs at least two specialists dedicated to social marketing: the social strategist and the community manager. The strategist should guide you as to where your messages should be put (blogs, or comment sections, or Tweets) and when. Choosing which social media platform to use for specific messages is just as important as choosing which magazine or newspaper your ad will be placed in. Your community manager is the day-to-day person who checks the blogs, Facebook pages, etc to see what people are saying and respond accordingly.

Create a crises response plan:
Shit stuff is going to hit the fan. Bad news travels fast – and even faster in social media. Build some scenarios and how you will react to them. What if a faculty member is caught in a scandal? What if a student starts blogging about how unsanitary your cafeteria is? What if these things happen between Christmas and New Year’s when the entire university is closed?

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