Social Media for Educational Institutions: How to Get Started

Spend any amount of time around prospective students entering universities, and one thing will quickly become very apparent: they are social creatures. Their social interactions extend far beyond in-person interactions. They are always connected via various social networks and eager to learn more about the things that interest them.

So it only makes sense, then, for universities to develop a strong social presence. Apart from being an excellent way to build campus community and culture, it adds a new dimension to ‘The Great College Search.’ As these secondary students begin the process of researching colleges, they’re almost certainly going to be using social tools to do it (think Facebook’s new Graph Search). They are going to want to get a good feel for what the schools are really like, and interacting with them on social media is a more personal way to do this than by simply reading brochures and static web pages.

Furthermore, it’s not just about the students using social media tools. Parents are on Facebook and Twitter now, too, and being able to receive updates from their children’s schools helps them to feel in the loop.

But how do universities get started with social media?

If you work for a post-secondary institution, then you’ve undoubtedly found yourself asking this question.

To begin in the most fundamental way, ask yourself some key framework questions:

Why do you want your school to be present on social media? What is the purpose? Do you have objectives outlined? Is it for:

  • Communication/ marketing
  • Student enrollment
  • Student retention
  • Alumni engagement
  • Media outreach
  • Donor engagement

What is the goal for your social media involvement?

  • Content
  • Listen, monitor
  • Use cases
  • Metrics – define and measure
  • Publish
  • Campaign and target

Who will manage these social accounts?

  • Culture, governance
  • Leadership
  • Admins, agents
  • Availability of people, time
  • Expertise, training
  • Frequency, volume
  • Rules and responsibilities
  • Strategy and tactics

When do you launch your accounts?

  • Organizational readiness
  • Use case finalization
  • Tool selection

How do you start using social media within your organization?

  • Experiment, learn, launch
  • Phased, Big Bang
  • Selective / all channels
  • Tools, resources
  • Analyze, engage, integrate
  • Measure results – refine and reiterate

These framework questions, along with the key points that accompany them here, should serve to help you get organized in your social media endeavors. They will help you identify why, specifically, you want to use social media at your institution. This knowledge will, in turn, help you to tailor your efforts and see more success. Also have a look at Social Media for Educational Institutions on Slideshare.

Is your educational institution using social media? What steps did you take to develop your plan of action? If you’re not using social media, what’s holding you back? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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