ed Social Media | Exploring the Role of Social Media in Education
edSocialMedia provides social media training for educators and schools. edSocialMedia organizes professional development events and workshops to help organizations, such as schools, non-profits and associations, discover the power of social media.
It seems a new marketing method comes on the scene nearly every day. Many of those are well worth our time and effort to explore and use. But let’s not forget a method that is tried and true: email marketing.
Who still reads their email?
The short answer is everyone. Even those in Generation Z. While it might not be their heaviest patrolled social channel, Len Shneyder of MarketingLand says email is still the world’s number one method of communication – even those between the ages of 10 and 22.
In addition to the traditional audience for colleges, universities and independent K-12 schools, email is widely read by the target audience for adult, graduate and seminary degrees.
According to Hubspot, 99% of all consumers check their email every day. In addition, 73% of the Millennial Generation prefer email from business and organizations over other methods of communication.
And one more statistic to win you over — 77% of people would rather receive promotional communication through email than social media channels or SMS.
There’s another critical truth about email marketing we must address, which is how many users open and click through email content on mobile devices.
The importance of mobile-first
We live in a mobile-first world, and email marketing is no exception to that rule. More than half of emails are opened on mobile devices. When developing your email marketing campaign, it’s imperative you choose a layout and format suitable for a mobile-first view. Here’s how:
Imagery first: A person opening email on their phone will always be more drawn in to a visual first. It could be a static image or a video file.
Personalization: Statistics show that emails with personalization in the subject line are 26% more likely to be opened. Not many of us enjoy reading an email that is clearly not personalized saying things like “Dear Sir or Madame.” Using videos inside email marketing campaigns personalizes it even further. I’m a big fan of BombBomb. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a software allowing you to send simple video to your audience in the email body itself. I’ve used it a lot recently and had excellent results. Here’s an example.
Most important content: Think about the inverted pyramid style of writing. The most important information needs to come at the top/beginning of your email.
Consider color: The bottom line is there’s psychology behind colors. While there is no right and wrong answer, it is important that your calls to action and your buttons contrast dramatically with the background color to encourage clicking through.
Keep content minimal: The ideal situation is for your user to either click through to your website or take some other form of action. Therefore, point them in that direction in as concise a manner as possible. According to Hubspot, the ideal length for a marketing email is between 50 and 125 words.
Know and segment your audiences
I’ve written in the past about the importance of knowing your audience when it comes to a successful email marketing campaign. Specifically in higher education, you could be emailing to prospective traditional students, prospective adult, graduate and seminary students, alumni and friends of the college or university.
When segmenting these lists for the appropriate emails, think about what questions they might be asking. And, then answer them. It’s really that simple. The power of the content in your email comes from you understanding the audience and its needs.
Since you are dealing with such a variety of audiences, take some time to tap into the departments at your school dealing directly with them each day. This will help you come up with a list of questions they’re asking. When you answer them in your email marketing campaigns, you become the expert in your field – which is exactly where you want to be.
How and when to send your emails
It matters. And, while evidence shows certain days of the week and times of the day are more successful for email reading rates, it will likely differ per college, university or independent school.
Using automation for your email marketing campaigns is a must. Be it Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Drip, or others, the reporting aspect of each can help you be very pointed about when you send emails. And, you can bank on the fact that each of your segmented audiences will open their emails during different peak times. Pay attention to these and adjust your campaigns accordingly.
Ensuring a quality landing page
It doesn’t do much good to create a beautiful, well thought-out email if what the user ends on is not effective. They’ll just end up shaking their heads.
If you’ve taken the time to point your user somewhere, make sure it communicates exactly what you want them to do next. And, make it easy on them. Just like everything I’ve said so far, that landing page needs to be mobile-responsive and user-friendly.
Here are a couple of examples
You recently sent an email to alumni regarding your Fall Homecoming events. Your objective behind the campaign is to get people to sign up to volunteer. When adding a “click here” button to this email, it should point the user directly to a sign-up form to volunteer. That sign-up form should be mobile-ready and easy to fill out.
Another example would be when you’ve targeted high school juniors (and their parents/guardians) in your enrollment and marketing funnel. The purpose of the email is to promote an upcoming financial aid seminar you’re holding on campus. The email itself should give “teasers” about the upcoming event and should then point the user to sign up. The landing page should then have all the details of the event along with a very brief and easy-to-use form.
There’s more life to email marketing
A lot more life. If your school isn’t already including email marketing campaigns in its mix, it’s time to bring it back. If you’re already using it, it’s time to use it even more effectively.
A common challenge we help our education clients overcome is understanding where they stand as a brand. While not an exact science, there are ways to gauge your school’s brand perception.
The concept of brand perception is a bit nebulous, but it’s an important topic for school marketers to consider as you work to raise awareness of your school and what it has to offer.
Brand perception is how your audiences see your education brand.
It’s the feeling they get when they see your logo. It’s the memories they have of their time in your classrooms. It’s the stories that get played back in their imagination when they hear your school’s name.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
Because brand perception is made up of all these various components that you have no control of whatsoever, gauging your school’s brand perception is like herding cats.
EDS, an HP Company 'Cat Herders' - YouTube
Again, you do not have control over people’s perception of your brand.
But you can gauge it fairly accurately, and then design your messaging strategies to build trust in your brand based on how you think your audience sees you.
Remember the old marketing adage, “Perception is reality”? It’s probably even truer today as students, alumni, and donors can share their experiences and opinions of your institute on more platforms than ever before.
If you don’t have any idea of what people are saying or feeling about your school, you’ll be flying blind, thinking that you’re more loved (or disliked) than you are.
So to get the “reality” of your brand perception, there are several ways to do it.
Focus groups are a labor and time-intensive method, but if you want to pull out more complicated or nuanced opinions from your audiences, they are a great way to go.
For the best results, pick one aspect of your education brand or school to talk about with your audience. Otherwise, the discussions will never end as you go over every detail of life at your school or some other topic.
Make sure that you are recruiting participants for your focus groups from a clearly identified audience. Get as specific about them as possible.
One last thing about focus groups: When you’re talking with your audience, start out with positive questions like “What is your best memory of living in the men’s dorm?” These questions “loosen up” the participants before going to negative questions like “What was the worst thing that happened to you while living on campus?”
Survey platforms like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms are making the task of creating and distributing surveys easier and more economical. They can be a fast way to aggregate a large volume of opinions, and many survey tools can graphically represent the data that you collect.
One piece of advice here: Come up with a good incentive for filling out the survey.
Even though it would only take 5 minutes of their time, people are notorious for ignoring survey requests. You’ll get a much better response for your survey if you offer an incentive for taking the five minutes out of their day for filling it out.
Social Media Polls
Like surveys, social media polls are cheap and easy. Also like surveys, most social media platforms give you insightful analytics of the results of your polls.
The disadvantages of a social media poll are that your questions are limited to a certain amount of characters and normally they limit the types of responses your audience can give you. For example, Twitter polls only allow up to four multiple choice questions of 25 characters each.
Social media polls have a short time limit to them, too. After a few days, they’ll disappear from your feed.
But if you want a quick peek into how your audiences perceive a certain topic or question, social media polls are great for that.
Social Media Listening Tools
While we’re on the subject of social media, there are some innovative resources out there to give you more insight into the opinions and behaviors of your school’s social media followers.
Tools like Tweetdeck, Google Alerts (free), or paid tools like Hootsuite, NUVI, or Brandwatch aggregate what your audience is saying about your brand. They can tell you which posts are being shared, how many likes you receive, and a rough idea of the organic reach of your posts.
If you’ve got a little money to spend on these services, it can be a worthwhile investment.
Even online, people do vote with their feet. That’s why web traffic is one of the most accurate ways to gauge your school’s education brand perception.
Pages on your site that have higher amounts of traffic give you a genuine look into what your audience wants to hear more about from you. Likewise, pages with little to no traffic are pieces of your brand that just do not interest your audience.
Another clue into your brand perception offered by web traffic analytics is to see where your traffic is coming from. Is it coming from sources that are positively disposed towards your education brand, or critical of your brand?
One thing to note here: Traffic data will not tell you how your audience feels about the content on your site, just that they were there or not there. It’s highly possible to have something on your site that negatively impacts your audience. Keep that in mind.
Dealing with “Reality”
There you have five powerful tools to get your ear to the ground and hear what your audiences are saying, feeling, and sharing about your education brand.
As you get closer to understanding your school’s brand perception, remember that every education brand has people who are devoted to it, and others who are critical of it. If you’re encountering critical perceptions of your brand for the first time, or much more than you thought you would, that’s a good thing.
That means you’re getting closer to the “reality” of your brand perception. Now, you have the information you need as a school marketer to craft messaging that can build trust in your brand.
Need a brand audit to help you find out where you are and where to go? Get ahold of us today!
With every generation, education marketers must consider changes in culture. Especially when marketing to multiple generations, you’ve got to mark the cultural differences well.
For years, Millennials have dominated the minds and strategies of education and enrollment marketers.
They are a large generational cohort, and so there have been enough of them to market to as traditional undergrad students as well as adult students.
But now there’s a generational shift happening. The first members of Gen Z are coming of high school and college age.
And this has significant implications for how enrollment markers should approach their brand messaging to traditional undergrad students.
But adult and online students who are returning to finish, further, or begin their higher education will still be in the Millennial generational window.
This generation gap will force enrollment marketers to begin marketing to multiple generations for the next four to five years.
Marketing to Multiple Generations Begins with Personas
If you haven’t gotten serious about identifying your marketing personas, now is the time to do so.
Well-defined marketing personas will help you and your team create laser-focused content for both your Gen Z, traditional undergrad (TUG) students and your Millennial adult and online students.
In my experience, the best marketing personas go beyond raw demographic data.
Take your stats, like “45 – 60 year-old female,” and craft something more personal like…
“Sally, a stay-at-home mom who worries just as much about her children now in college as she did when they were home—maybe more.”
Although “Sally” is fictional, this kind of marketing persona allows your creative team to create relevant, compelling content for audience members in that demographic.
Personas like this help us put a face to the data so that we can create emotive, or emotionally compelling, narratives that draw our target audience into our content.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when creating your TUG and adult student marketing personas.
Gen Z: What We Know
Unfortunately, we don’t know very much.
But we do have a few insightful studies and observations showing some emerging trends.
The digital world is so embedded in the daily activities of a Gen Z prospective student, it has become essential to their experience of the world and their expression of themselves.
In particular, social media is very important to Gen Z because it is the digital equivalent of social life.
Getting serious about social media by creating a social media marketing team will become more and more necessary for education marketers to stay relevant with Gen Z prospective students.
They are the only generation not to know what the world was like before 9/11. They’ve never known a day without a 24-hour news cycle.
They’re also growing up in homes that were significantly affected by the Great Recession that started in 2008.
All of this means that you need to keep your messaging grounded in the realities of life so that it doesn’t come across as inauthentic.
Having grown up with the wonders of the Internet, Gen Z prospective students are not used to relying on any kind of institution for help.
If they need to know how to fix something, they don’t go to the hardware store, they go to YouTube.
If they need to study, they don’t go to the library, they go to Wikipedia.
This kind of knowledge independence means that Gen Z prospective students are looking for private colleges and universities to provide them something different.
Mentorship, character-building experiences, helpful social networks – these are just a few of the benefits of higher education that Gen Z will be more attracted to.
In short, don’t compete with Google in your marketing.
Gen Z is looking for security.
They want you to reach them digitally, because that is the world they know and are comfortable with.
Their realism can sometimes border on pessimism, leading them to distrust any messaging that is too optimistic or cheery.
And their independence can be caused by their distrust of institutions rather than a pioneering spirit.
In other words, they’d rather find out for themselves because they don’t trust that traditional institutions are going to give them real answers.
When crafting your messaging for Gen Z, it’s important to show them how their investment in their education at your institution will bring them a return.
Present information like job placement rates, alumni stories, and career-oriented programs to Gen Z students so they know that choosing your educational institution is a rational choice supported by real data.
Millennial Adult and Online Students
When you market to adult and online students, Millennials, you’ll have to approach them a little differently.
Marketing to Millennials as adult and online students is different than marketing to Gen Z prospective students for two main reasons:
Millennials are a different generation with different behaviors, and
Millennials have responsibilities like raising children and careers that shape their fears, needs, and desires.
So here are the main characteristics I recommend for your Millennial marketing persona:
Older Millennials remember a time without high-speed Internet and instant connectivity.
Their childhood saw the beginning of computers in classrooms, the rise of the big social media platforms, and the shift towards digital content marketing.
Like Gen Z, make sure you’ve got your digital marketing covered. However, there will be a few differences.
For example, consider increasing your presence on more career-oriented social media sites like LinkedIn.
Professional Millennials are also active on networking sites like Meetup, so make sure you are posting events for adult and online students there.
Location-independent. Flexible. Freelancer.
Millennials have been breaking the mold of what it means to have a career in today’s modern economy.
When marketing to adult and online students, be aware that many of them are not going to be looking for traditional, 9-to-5 jobs.
Many of them will be coming back to school or continuing their studies because they want to do work that brings them freedom for their lifestyle.
Show the lifestyle freedom your education programs can bring by emphasizing flexibility in your messaging.
Enforce this freedom motif through images and video that show Millennial professionals taking their work around the world.
Millennials are famous for their entrepreneurial spirit.
Most of them are optimistic about the future, and they want to carve out their own identity and future.
Stress the aspects of your business and professional programs that can help Millennial adults achieve their entrepreneurial or startup dreams.
Millennial adults are beginning to feel the weight of their responsibilities like never before.
Many of them are becoming parents for the first time. Others are changing careers. Others are facing mortgages and hefty student loan debt.
No matter what generation we’re a part of, growing up will always make its way to us at one time or another.
When marketing to your adult and online students, don’t forget to touch on the fact that your program is an investment, not a cost.
They are investing in their careers and their families.
Use all of these areas of responsibility to show how your Millennial prospective student can make an investment that will pay off dividends in the future.
Your adult and online students understand that life’s not all about them.
Now their personal desires are starting to involve more and more people like their spouses, children, churches, and communities.
So your marketing needs to touch on these important themes when reaching out to your adult students.
Times are a changin’…
As an enrollment marketer, these generational shifts are important.
And when marketing to multiple generations, it’s even more critical that you understand the nuances between how your TUG students and your adult students think and feel.
Have any thoughts you’d like to share about these changing generations? A question?
Millennials are those who have one foot in the passing analog world and one in the new digital world.
Older Millennials remember when phones were on walls and had cords.
They remember having to wait for their favorite program to come on TV.
They remember the horror of realizing their favorite album was too scratched up to play in their CD player.
But while these nostalgic characteristics of Millennials are fun to think about, education and enrollment marketers really didn’t have to focus on that.
The truly important thing for education marketing was Millennials’ psychographics, the way they view themselves and the world.
The World of Millennials
Millennials grew up in a positive and growing economy and have an incredibly high amount of buying power.
However, their risk tolerance was curbed by events like the 9-11 terrorist attack and the 2008 recession.
When Millennials started coming of age, technology had gotten to the point where the costs of starting a business, especially online, were becoming much more accessible by more people.
You've Gotta Love Millennials - Micah Tyler - YouTube
So between all of these factors, Millennials started the trend towards a location-independent, freelance-style economy.
This is often called the “gig economy,” because the work centers more around the current “gig” than on a career with a certain employer.
Millennials also tend to have a positive outlook on life, focusing on areas of social justice and advocacy.
They’ve become accustomed to a 24 hour news cycle, and this fuels their view of the world.
Marketing to Millennials
Once education marketers realized in the early 2000’s that we were marketing to a new generation – Millennials – we began to change our messaging strategy to fit their way of seeing and interacting with the world.
All of this was good, and brought in great results. We see that these strategies will continue to be successful.
But education and enrollment marketing will now have to shift again as we meet the next wave of prospective students – Gen Z.
Meet the New Prospective Student, Gen Z
According to many sociologists, Generation Z or “iGen,” were born after 2001.
So that means anyone 18 or younger (as of the date of this article in 2019) could be considered Gen Z.
We’ve already seen that content marketing works very well with this young marketing persona, especially when done through authentic channels like live video and .
But a recent study, analyzed here by Bloomberg, just came out that brings to light some new information I feel is very important for education and enrollment marketers.
There are fewer prospective students than before.
You’ll probably hear in the years to come that Gen Z has surpassed Millennials in number.
Be careful with this statistic.
It makes you think that you’ll have more students to market to, and therefore, more students who will enroll at the end of your enrollment funnel.
But Gen Z outnumber Millennials globally – not nationally!
Here’s where they’re getting this idea of a generation boom though. Gen Z now takes up 32% of the world population according to UN statistics.
But that’s referring to world-wide population, which probably does not affect you as an enrollment marketer so much.
In the study, Bloomberg points out the fact that in the largest economies, this global figure doesn’t reflect the market reality.
“Millennials will continue to represent the bigger proportion in the world’s four largest economies: U.S., China, Japan and Germany. The combined population just shy of 2 billion in those four countries will have a ratio of 100 millennials for every 73 in Gen Z next year.” – Bloomberg
The ratio of Millennials to Gen Z is going to present a massive challenge to higher education enrollment in the future.
If there are “100 millennials for every 73 in Gen Z,” that means there are fewer prospective students to market to.
And if you have fewer people to market to, you’ll have fewer people who’ll end up enrolling in your private college, university, or independent school.
I don’t want to scare anyone. That’s not the point of this article.
There’s no end date on this generation yet, which means there’s a slight possibility that things could change in unexpected ways.
But these trends have enough time and data behind them that it’s fairly well set.
So if these statistics remain true, it means that many education brands will struggle over the next ten to twenty years with low enrollment numbers.
In the coming years, enrollment will not only be affected by a school’s level of marketing savvy, it will be hit hard by sheer mathematics.
At this point, there are and will be fewer people in the higher education student market than there has been in the last two to three generations.
And that will most likely affect enrollment numbers no matter what you do.
While I hope the data changes, as it stands, educational institutions must prepare for this unavoidable reality.
While you still have the resources to invest, put your efforts into low-cost, high-results strategies like inbound, content marketing.
Gen Z’s self-reliance will affect their relationship with education institutions.
You might have seen this coming with younger Millennials and their general distrust of established institutions.
This is what has sparked a real entrepreneurial spirit in a lot of Millennials.
For example, a higher percentage of Millennials are choosing to start a business or go freelance than Baby Boomers or Gen X’ers.
But Gen Z takes this self-reliance to a whole new level.
Millennials were introduced to Google and other search engines when these online site indices were in their infancy.
You had to physically go to a computer workstation, turn it on, navigate to the search engine, and type in your question.
Contrast that with today.
Prospective students in Gen Z are growing up with search engines as their personal virtual librarians.
Many of them will be growing up asking Google Assistant and Alexa for answers to their questions.
Beyond the rise of voice-activated search and 24 hour connectivity, Gen Z prospective students are growing up in a world where self-directed, online learning is becoming more popular… and offers a better quality learning experience.
Online, paid courses like MasterClass, Teachable, Udemy, and Skillshare are innovative education platforms that are shaping how Gen Z students understand the learning process.
Sure, these aren’t academically equivalent to a private college or university education – but they will form the expectations of prospective students to come.
Online courses and constant connectivity to virtual assistants are creating a culture of self-reliance in Gen Z prospective students.
In a report by Ernst & Young LLP, Marcy Merriman, one of EY’s executive directors, stated that while Millennials “looked to others, such as the companies they did business with, for solutions,” Gen Z “naturally sought to create their own solutions.”
What does that mean for education and enrollment marketers?
It means that Gen Z prospective students will look less and less to your educational institution as the authority on anything.
They will no longer automatically look to your education brand to guide them as they “naturally” go about creating “their own solutions” for their career, calling, or job training.
Content Marketing is KEY
To stay relevant to Gen Z prospective students, education marketers have to master content marketing.
Education brands that use quality content will be able to establish their authority and attract students through search engine optimization – which is getting more and more favorable to good content.
Social media marketing is an absolute must to establish your education brand’s authority and authenticity. Here are some helpful tips to ramp up your education social media strategy.
Being successful at education social media requires more thought and planning than most people think. Just because a college, university, or independent school is an institution with young people, that doesn’t mean it will naturally be effective at social media marketing.
And even if you’re an avid user of social media or have managed social media marketing for another organization, social media for higher education is a huge challenge.
But with these helpful tips, you can tame the beast and make it work for your school!
1. Create social media guidelines.
With social media, there are a lot of things happening you won’t have control over. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something to protect your education brand.
Publish a set of rules or guidelines on your website for anyone in your organization who wants to start a social media account representing your brand.
This way, you can direct all the managers or creators of the various social media accounts related to alumni, sports, or department interests to follow the brand guidelines.
Most social media accounts are happy to follow the rules, but if a social media account violates the guidelines consistently, you can petition the social media platform to have those accounts shut down.
I’d keep this as a very last resort, but you need to keep your brand voice and authority consistent, even if it means shutting down rogue accounts.
2. Organize your content distribution.
By nature, higher education social media is complex. But you can manage the chaos with a little organization.
Create distribution workflows spelling out who is responsible for publishing content on which social media channels and how they’re to receive the content on time.
For example, if you have students or staff writing content, they need to know who will edit the content, how documents are to be shared and stored (e.g., Google Drive, Trello, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.), and how to notify the social media managers when content is ready to be posted.
Some tools I recommend to help organize your social media workflow:
Google Sheet or other spreadsheet with tasks and responsibilities listed
Project management software like Teamwork, Asana, or Trello.
3. Make it easy for people to give you content.
You will always be in need of fresh content for your social media feeds. To keep you from running out of great story ideas, create ways for students, faculty, alumni, parents, and donors to send their stories or ideas to you.
You can crowdsource ideas and content curation by embedding a form on your website asking for stories.
Traffic and incentive are key to the success of your form.
Drive traffic to your form via email, print marketing, and social media posts.
Use gated content to entice visitors to tell their stories.
Consider running a contest or game where if enough people give you their stories, you’ll do something crazy like dunk your president in cold water or have your him/her kiss a pig.
4. Start social media groups.
One place that Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm does not touch is Facebook groups.
That means whatever you post there will get published to all the members of the group.
For this reason alone, you should think seriously about starting social media groups.
Another reason is you can create a highly loyal and engaged tribe of people centered around a specific issue, department, or activity.
Social media groups can be the start of mobilizing your campus for good.
You can create social media groups that encourage students to volunteer for various causes on your campus or in your local area. These groups are great for organizing the when, where, and what of these charitable activities.
If you’re in a disaster-prone area, think of how you can use your higher education social media strategy to create an information channel for students, faculty, and parents to use during natural disasters.
Is my loved one safe?
What do I do to stay safe?
Where can I go to get help?
What’s the status of the hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc.?
These are all questions people will likely have when they come to your social media accounts. Be prepared.
But don’t rely on rules of thumb alone. Your audiences will have their own unique preferences.
For better results, get to know your audiences and cater to their preferences.
Keep track of your social media analytics so you know where your audience hangs out and what they like to do on those channels. For example, many times you’ll find that students use Facebook for family communications and SnapChat when they’re talking with their friends.
7. Tell good stories.
Many social media platforms have launched their version of what’s being called stories.
Specifically, Facebook, SnapChat, and Instagram users enjoy the stories feature.
Facebook Stories are short user-generated photo and video collections that can be viewed up to two times and disappear after 24 hours.
The story format, originated and made famous by Snapchat, has been on Facebook’s radar for some time, with the Menlo Park-based company first testing a Snapchat Stories clone within Messenger in September 2016.
You can use stories in many different ways:
Share campus news
Talk about local attractions
Announce important research achievements
Share changes in departments
The basic idea is to have fun with stories. Don’t be dull. Use the filters and caption features to create an interesting way to post your story.
For a more in-depth look at stories, check out this tutorial YouTube video:
How To Create Your Facebook Story From Scratch - Facebook Stories Tutorial - YouTube
8. Leverage the power of influencers.
Influencers are those students, faculty and alumni who have a sizable following on social media. Try to identify these people on your campus and ask them to post your content on their feeds and social media groups.
You can take it a step further and ask them to create social media content for your official social media feeds as well.
9. Create accounts for students to run.
You can ramp up your influencer marketing strategy by creating social media accounts that are only to be run by students.
You can set up these accounts and have certain students run the account for a day or a week. Then, you can hand over the reigns to another student for their turn in the cockpit.
The benefit to student-run accounts is that while they keep within your brand guidelines, prospective students get a fun, authentic look at life on campus.
10. Don’t be afraid of diversity.
Don’t try to push your audience to one, monstrous social media page.
Encourage the creation of many pages oriented around their interest in your school — as long as they stick to the guidelines.
A diversity of accounts related to your education brand allows people to sign up to get news and conversation around their particular area of interest.
So when a sports fan follows your sports Twitter account, they only get tweets during and about the games, not announcements from the business school.
There you have it, 10 useful tips for education social media. Now, go get social!
Content curation for education and enrollment marketing is a must-have in your content marketing strategy. But what kinds of content should you curate?
To be successful at content marketing for your educational institution, you’ve got to publish a lot of quality content regularly.
For best results, you should create original content as much as possible.
However, many education marketing departments just don’t have the resources to create the large volume of original content necessary for content marketing to work.
This is where content curation comes in.
Why You Need to Curate
Content curation is like art curation. The content marketer searches all media outlets for content related to their industry and relevant to their audience.
Once you have the content you know will serve your audience well and align with your content marketing goals, you need to modify the content so that it reflects your education brand’s value proposition or point of view.
It’s not entirely original, but it’s certainly not plagiarism!
Content curation has a very practical advantage. It gives you more content you can publish because you don’t have to come up with every topic that could be relevant to your audience.
But there’s an even more strategic advantage to curating quality content.
Content curation shows your audience that your education brand speaks with authority in the conversations that are happening in your audience’s world.
In his book Content, Inc., Joe Pulizzi shares the definition of content curation that his firm, Content Marketing Institute, came up with:
“Content curation is a means by which we either supplement or promote our brand’s point of view to our specific audiences within the context of how the ‘world’ is talking about thatparticular topic.”
~Joe Pulizzi. Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses
Content curation promotes your brand’s “point of view” to your “specific audience within the context of how the ‘world’ is talking about that particular topic.”
That means you’re showing your education brand’s authority by displaying the thoughts of others (sometimes even your competitors) and answering with your brand’s perspective.
So how do you curate content?
If you consider the millions of content producers on the Internet, curating content can feel like drinking the ocean.
But the reality is that you wouldn’t really use the content that most Internet sources would publish.
It’s far more likely that you’ll have a list of ten to as high as thirty content sources that match your target audiences, produce content that you trust, and are relevant to the concerns of enrollment marketing.
Yet even then, do you have time to go to each website and check to see if they’ve published a new article, blog, or video?
Yeah. Me neither.
And I’m really not a fan of signing up for all of their newsletters (although you can certainly do that).
News aggregators curate content they think you’ll like from sources they know and trust.
On the other hand, feed readers receive and show you all the new articles from the sources that you’ve already chosen.
That means you’ve curated the sources you want, so now all you need to do is curate the content pieces that come to you from your chosen sources.
Content Education Brands Should Curate
Now that you’ve got the tools to almost completely automate curation, what content should you be curating for your marketing personas?
Here’s my list of great content you should be curating for your education marketing audiences:
Education marketers should aggregate the various content being published across the school’s departments or programs.
In any independent school, private college, or university, there are multiple departments or programs in the school that will be creating content for your target audiences.
Therefore, the first place you should look when curating content for your education brand are the content pieces your school is producing.
Find out which departments of your educational institution are producing and publishing content.
For smaller institutions, this may be as quick as jotting them all down from memory. But if you’re a larger institution with any kind of history, you’ll need to ask around in meetings or around the water cooler to find out which teams or departments have a process of publishing news content.
Collect the URL’s of the blogs, sign up for their email newsletters, or follow their social media platforms to keep up with all the latest news from your fellow departments. Then, distribute their news through your marketing channels.
Executive, Faculty, or Staff Blogs and Articles
It’s very likely that you have staff or faculty who are publishing content somewhere.
Again, ask around and find out where your on campus “experts” are publishing their latest thoughts, aggregate their content as we’ve already discussed, and then distribute their content on your marketing channels.
Just remember, you should include your education brand’s point of view when you redistribute their content.
Even though they are staff, it’s still their content unless it was published by the school. So be careful not to plagiarize.
School Sports News
Many prospective students and their families are highly interested in your school’s sports program. Find out where your sports program publishes its news, aggregate their content, and republish it on your channels.
Alumni Association Content
Alumni development departments or associations do a great job of creating content to cultivate relationships with your school’s alumni. This is a great place to find content that would be interesting to your other marketing personas!
Scholarship, Trusts, and Foundations Information
Finances are among the top concerns of most prospective students. Curated content from scholarship sources like private trusts and foundations or even government scholarship or grant sources will be a big attraction for your education marketing audiences.
Education News (both higher education and primary)
Every now and then, news or developments that interest us in the education space can interest prospective students.
But be cautious with this one!
Students and their families don’t care much about the inner workings of the education sector. If you curate too much of this content, you’ll likely bore your audiences.
Psychology content producers often write pieces about how children grow or how to best guide your student as they mature and develop as a human being.
These kinds of pieces are content gold for the parents you want to motivate towards choosing your school.
Learning and Study Strategies
When it comes to the prospective students themselves, they’ll be very interested in any content that shows them principles, hacks, or new insights into how they can be a better student or get better grades.
Content from trusted sources relating to career development will ring true with older prospective students looking to come back to school. Popular sources like Forbes are a great place to find good articles in this area.
Topical News and Content that fit your Education Brand
One of the reasons I love working with private colleges, universities, and independent schools is because of the variety.
Private education is all about customization!
There are private institutions that have innovative programs in environmental studies, outdoor recreational leadership, ministerial training, and many more.
So I recommend you curate content related to the specific area that your school specializes in.
Bible schools should curate content from pastoral, church, or religious news sites.
If leadership is a big part of your brand, then hunt for content wrapped around leadership.
If the environment is what you’re all about, then curate content related to environmental issues and breakthroughs.
Although the content you curate will not always relate to the specific details of enrolling at your school, it will establish your school’s authority in the areas your brand wants to speak into.
Sadly though, no matter how amazing of an experience a student has had with your education brand, it’s not guaranteed they’ll be a good student brand ambassador.
Most students have no problem talking about their good experience with your school – if they’re prompted with a question to do so.
But that rarely happens.
Good student brand ambassadors are trained to lead conversations into helpful dialogues about your private college or university.
Student brand ambassadors know if they wait for the right questions to be asked, they’ll never get the conversation about their school started.
These young people have your brand messaging inside of them, and they know how important their role is in developing relationships with potential new students.
From Paper to Heart
There are few things more persuasive than someone else’s testimony about an education brand.
In print marketing, you can leverage testimonials through quotes and case studies.
With digital marketing, you can add to quotes and case studies by using video testimonies.
Yet neither of these is as influential as a face-to-face testimony from one of your student brand ambassadors.
To leverage the effect of these personal conversations, you’ve got to get your brand messaging from paper to the heart of as many students as possible.
The goal is for every student involved in a traveling activity to be able to articulate the elevator pitch, live out your education brand, and establish relationships that will continue after they leave the event.
After the event, student brand ambassadors should use natural follow-up tools like social media (Instagram) to continue the relationship, as well as blogs that can be subscribed to for regular updates during the tour.
Your objective as an education marketer is to create a strategy that will help these student teams be as effective as possible at raising your school’s brand awareness.
So how do you train student brand ambassadors?
First, you need to market internally to your current student body.
Every student should be aware of the language you use to communicate your education brand’s value, promise, and authority.
Make sure you have an internal messaging strategy that is clear and consistent.
Get updated email lists of the current student body from your admissions department at least once a semester. Your email marketing lists should grow each semester in this way.
The culmination of a thousand academic journeys is to be realized. Are you ready to make this year’s spring commencement the marketing success it could be?
The academic calendar marches on, mercilessly sometimes. It was just winter break—and spring commencement is just around the corner!
To make commencement the marketing asset that it should be in building your school’s brand and reaching more prospective students, you’ll have to start preparations now.
Events Are Assets
When you’re involved in the preparation and organization of any event, it’s hard to see it as an asset. Honestly, it can feel like a burden because of the enormous pressure and stress packed into one moment in the year.
But if you think about why there’s so much pressure on these events for you and your team, you’ll see why events like spring commencement are a critical marketing asset.
Events are a marketing asset because so many people will experience your education brandfirsthand.
Not every event on your campus is like this. But events like spring commencement are a pressure cooker where the ingredients of student relations, donor relations, alumni relations, and marketing all come together.
These separate teams have to come together to create a “wow” experience for your guests.
You need people to walk away from commencement thinking not only of little Susanne’s future, but also of that great school that she graduated from.
And this is what makes spring commencement pure, education-marketing gold.
In-Person Access to Your Audiences
It is one of the few events of the year where almost all of your marketing audiences are in the same place at the same time.
Graduating students and current students will be there. Their young Gen Z siblings will be there. Their parents will be there. Their grandparents will be there. In some cases, you might have members of the general public or local churches there.
All of these audience segments you’re working hard to reach all year long… in one place!
Now, that doesn’t mean that you can go to each of them and gather feedback or marketing insights (that you can do in other ways). They’re on your campus for a very specific reason—to watch someone they love graduate.
But you can take advantage of their presence to leverage the event as the marketing asset it really is.
Spring Commencement Marketing Ideas
Social media hashtags are an exceptional tool for helping your audience find and participate in the conversation.
If you don’t already have established hashtags for your education marketing strategy and events, take time to think through short tags you can use to label the event. Between now and the spring commencement ceremony, begin raising awareness of the event hashtag by including it in all printed materials, school announcements, and video ads for graduation.
Verbally encourage your graduating students to use the hashtag when posting about graduation. Tell them to spread the word about it so that their friends and family will use it as well when they interact on social media.
Bonus Tip #1: Include the hashtag in your corporate email signatures and in the commencement program.
Events are some of the most opportune times to get your camera out and create new pieces of rich content. Spring commencement especially is full of light, colors, smiles, and faces that can be used across your branded materials, website, and blog throughout the year.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to create video assets from the event!
Besides shooting your own professional content, consider creating a selfie frame where graduates and their families can take pictures and post on Facebook, or better yet, on Instagram. This will help you to brand all of the inevitable social photos that will be happening all over the school grounds.
Another spinoff of this idea is to have a photobooth or temporary studio that offers students and families school-branded props for their family photos.
Bonus Tip: Include your event hashtag on the frame!
Spring commencement is the perfect time to go live with Facebook Live or Instagram Live. You can choose to post content to your Facebook Stories or Instagram Stories. Don’t overcomplicate this if you don’t have the time or resources to devote to it. A mobile phone should do perfectly in most cases.
Bonus Tip: Have students or faculty “host” the live stream. They can comment on what the audience is seeing live and interview people at the event like Mario Lopez on the red carpet.
Before spring commencement hits, find stories among your graduating class that you would like to feature in video, blog, or print format. You can then post these on your social media feeds to build awareness of the event and get people talking about it.
For example, feature a story on one of your veteran students who is about to graduate and post it to social media before graduation.
Bonus Tip: Keep these stories and post them on other marketing channels throughout the year, or in future marketing campaigns.
Go Deeper with Commencement Speakers
Most commencement speakers have a good amount of influence and standing, whether in the local community or on a much greater scale. And many of them would be happy to show their followers what they’re doing for your school and what they’re saying to the next generation.
You can send them video content they can post about your school on their social media channels, have them record a greeting to your students that they can post, or send them a recording of their speech that they can post or share on their platforms.
Bonus Tip: Assign hashtags that your speaker and students can use!
Turn the Burden into a Benefit
Don’t let the busy, stressful work of spring commencement get in the way of creating these powerful marketing tools for your school. With just a little thought beforehand, you can ensure that you’ll have content assets for your upcoming marketing campaigns for months to come.
Need help creating or implementing your school’s marketing strategy? Contact us today!
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Enrollment marketing banner ads need to be implemented in tandem with other digital marketing strategies in order to work.
So here’s the overall process I’ve found works well with enrollment marketing banner ads.
Use an Inbound Marketing Strategy
Banner ads don’t work on their own.
They are the first step in a series of decisions your prospective student will make as they consider your private college, university, or independent school.
With that said, there is a notable exception. Schools with high brand authority or brand awareness can use banner ads with end-of-funnel calls to action.
But this tactic won’t work for most private institutions.
Enrollment marketing banner ads work best in lead-generation campaigns.
I’ve seen it’s more effective to use banner ads as top-of-funnel lead generators for an inbound marketing strategy.
Because users who will tend to click on the banner ads don’t know much about you…
If they knew about you, they’d be typing your name into the search engine.
By the way, this is why you shouldn’t use keywords with your brand name in banner ad campaigns.
Anyone typing your name directly into the search engine doesn’t need an ad to go to your site. Rather than prospective students, these users are probably current students or parents who’re trying to find your website quickly through Google rather than typing in your URL into the web browser.
If your ad shows up when they type in your brand name, you’ll end up paying for a click that was already yours for free.
So when you’re thinking of running a banner ad campaign, always think “top of funnel” lead capture.
Build Gated Content First
Before you design a banner ad, create a downloadable, digital piece of content called a “lead magnet” to attract the attention of prospective students and their parents.
Your content piece needs to be something of apparent value that prospective students or parents will want to download, something useful to them whether they eventually come to your school or not.
For example, we created an eBook for a client which gave prospective students practical ways to pay for their college education.
Students who download this paying-for-college eBook will benefit from it even if they decide not to enroll at Carolina College of Biblical Studies – and CCBS benefits from the exchange with more leads to follow up on.
“We’ve had students that have started on campus and a few online as well! It’s definitely increased our quantity of leads per month and our brand recognition and exposure for the online program.”
eBooks like this one are called “gated content” because your visitor will have to give you something in exchange for it. In this case, they’ll give you their contact information in order to get the download link.
Make a dedicated landing page.
The landing page is where your enrollment marketing banner ad points to.
When prospective students click on the banner ad, they will arrive at the landing page where they can choose to give you their contact info so you can send them the download link.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to do all of this. Automate your lead capture with marketing automation tools like Sharpspring or Hubspot.
Of course, don’t get stuck on written content only.
Your lead magnet can be an eBook, an infographic, videos, documentaries, or even unique sets of images (e.g., branded or inspirational desktop wallpapers).
Rule of thumb: it needs to carry enough value so that parents or prospective students don’t hesitate to give you their information.
You can also offer rich content like unique videos of popular lecturers or influencers who’ve come to your campus as gated content.
Set Up Your Digital Ad Campaigns
So you’ve got your lead magnet ready for download. The landing page is published. Your marketing automation tool is up and running.
Now it’s time to prepare your enrollment marketing banner ad campaign.
There are many banner ad networks or advertising platforms to choose from.
Google Ads is the most popular by far – but don’t go with it just because it’s popular.
According to higher education marketing firm mStoner, you should definitely consider Facebook Ads.
“Right now, Facebook is an important source for information about colleges for prospective students and is the main online channel for alumni engagement.
That won’t change, at least for now: Facebook will remain the foundation for online social engagement for higher ed.”
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Generation Z is unlike any generation before it. But like previous generations, it’s difficult to understand their preferences and motivations while they’re still so young.
This quality of unknowns creates a challenge for enrollment marketers in every kind of private college, university, or independent school.
While many Millennials remember a time when digital technology was not integral to daily life, no one in Generation Z has any memory of life without a screen.
It seems this new generation is reluctant to trust their careers to corporations, wanting more of a stake in their future than any preceding generation. In fact, up to 72% of high schoolers say they want to start a business someday.
They’re global minded.
Past generations have been globally aware, but Generation Z is globally minded. Their digitally integrated world isn’t hindered by geographic or political barriers as they converse with friends and followers from around the world on social media.
They are the only generation not to know what the world was like before 9/11. They’ve never known a day without a 24-hour news cycle. They can’t imagine a world without social media. They’re also growing up in homes that were significantly affected by the Great Recession that started in 2008.
Mix terrorism, violence, and economic distress with 24/7 access to an Internet that will show you the gruesome details of it all, and it produces a harshly realistic view of the world.
Another interesting quality of this generation is that although they’re tightly connected to their world, young people desire to be unique, to make a distinct impression. They want to make a change that uniquely reflects their individuality.
Time for a Different Approach
For some time now, marketers in every field have become enamored with the ability of technologies to create personalized experiences with education brands.
But even with the latest innovations like messaging apps that respond to prospective student’s queries, nothing can beat the unique feeling for a member of Generation Z than getting a truly unique message.
High-touch enrollment marketing resonates more deeply with Generation Z than previous generations because they have a realistic view on how technology can mimic human interaction.
This partly explains the frustration admissions officers are feeling with the limited ways to reach Generation Z. Many of them lament how prospective students don’t read email, respond to texts — let alone answer a phone!
Generation Z students’ strong individualism also plays a role.
This individualism (which translates into entrepreneurialism for many of them) might come from a feeling of responsibility to put the world back together.