Nowadays students have grown up surrounded with technology and it plays a vital role in their lives. So it is no surprise that before, during and after their time in college, they depend on Social Media channels for gathering content and communicating messages.
One example would be when students are searching for a suitable university; they take to Social Media and other online channels and depend on content posted there by the school, current students, peers etc. The responsibility lies with the universities to engage on Social channels and share relevant content with the prospective students on how they differ from other schools.
But as with any Social Media initiative, universities need to begin by actively listening, engaging and delivering relevant content to the right audience. So how can a university or college leverage the power of Social Media? Who is the right audience, and what content should they deliver?
A great place to start is to identify the audience and understand what content they’re looking for:
When students search for a university, they are looking for the best programs, facilities, and a campus that they can call home. Universities can now reach out to students and share enormous amounts of information in a matter of seconds. Gone are the days of pamphlets and campus visits; students can get a glimpse of a university online via virtual tours, photos, tweets, and more. Students can find information on academic programs, scholarships and events on the school website or Facebook page. They can subscribe to the university’s Twitter handle or Facebook page and get immediate updates directly.
College is almost one of the most transformative and interesting times in students’ lives, and some universities collect and share these experiences. Schools can engage students by sharing stories about campus life on blogs, posting on Facebook and by using hashtags on Twitter. Blogs and Facebook are great ways to engage and recruit prospective students who want to understand how campus life is unique at a particular university. Potentially when the content is being shared by current students themselves, the experiences shared are authentic and don’t seem like the school has a recruiting agenda. Similarly hashtags on Twitter allow students to connect and build conversations on specific topics.
Some great examples of schools using Social Media for this type of engagement include Yale University and John Hopkins University. Yale University has a video titled “That’s Why I Chose Yale” (shown below) which provides a musical tour of their campus. John Hopkins has created a Social Media website called Hopkins Interactive where current students can share “uncensored experiences” with prospective students.
Social Media can also act as a portal for current students who need quick access to information. A good media initiative requires active listening, and what better way to do that than by answering your students’ questions in near real-time. Building an environment where students can engage in conversations with their school not only keeps them well informed, but also builds a sense of community. Universities can help students by providing information starting with simple and routine topics or help them with more complex tasks such as finding internships. Schools carry a vast amount of knowledge and maintain a large network of resources that can be shared with students who could benefit from it. Universities could also promote or respond to questions about events on campus or even issue advisories during times of distress.
Some schools such as the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Tufts University are combining multiple social network feeds to create a one-stop portal for students. This portal has information on organizations and events taking place around campus, and can also provide students with a place to interact with each other.
Universities understand the importance of networking especially with past students who have graduated. Social Media allows schools to stay connected with their alumni and allows them to share information about the ongoing performance at the school. Schools are also able to share alumni success stories, which can in turn increase the exposure of the school amongst the external audience. Additionally, schools can leverage their alumni to create other opportunities such as internships for current students, career mentoring etc.
A good example of Social Media being used to connect with alumni can be found at Notre Dame University. Notre Dame’s career center for alumni holds information on careers and provides job search resources. The school also uses a blog to provide career and management information, while maintaining a LinkedIn Group that contains a vast network of alumni.
Donors and benefactors are vital to universities and help students get better access to funding and scholarships to pursue their higher education. However, it’s vital that schools keep their benefactors updated on how the school is progressing and empowering their students. Universities can also share success stories and create buzz around specific programs.
Universities can benefit greatly from interacting with their diverse audience via Social Media and the foremost reason is branding. Schools are brands and their primary interest is to share information on what differentiates them from other schools. By using Social Media, universities can engage their students efficiently and share valuable information that builds their brand presence online.
For more examples on how universities and colleges are leveraging Social Media, please click here.
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