Social Media Engagement 101 for Colleges and Universities

by Belfort Group | Thought Leadership
December 23, 2013

Social media is an essential component of any marketing campaign today, but for many colleges and universities, simply using social media to promote its programs is not enough. To truly drive interest and traffic, schools have to create and post the kind of content that will engage students on a regular basis.

So, what kind of content encourages response? Engagement is based on the academic programs offered by the school, the community’s culture and campus activities. When we created Facebook pages for all 26 campuses at Virginia College, we emphasized both overall school content as well as local content.

Most importantly, having team members on campus who share photos and updates brings campus life to social channels. What better way to attract new students than for them to see current students and faculty having fun, or working on interesting projects? Literally putting a face to campus culture can make a big difference, and help prospective students picture themselves at the school. As current students become more engaged with the school’s social media, they’re more likely to share their photos, comments and updates. Once that kind of community activity kicks in, the page becomes a virtual campus common.

To further this feeling of a virtual common, we actively seek out local events and community news to post Facebook. Each campus page is now a local information source students can use to not only learn more about the school, but also the surrounding community. In addition, sharing posts from local businesses and organization creates a friendly connection that not only positions the school as a good neighbor but drives business for the local economy. This can lead to opportunities for sponsored events and deals —a win win for retailers and students.

The real secret sauce is driving students to the pages in the first place. This requires unique and valuable content that they can’t get anywhere else. This can be content from faculty and administrators, or, something as simple as a sweepstakes or special offer. Once the student visits the page to take advantage of the content or offer, they’ll be exposed to the other great content there. Then they’ll engage, and hopefully come back or start contributing themselves.

The ultimate goal for these pages should be to create an interactive place where students, faculty, alumni and neighbors can interact with each other virtually, by sharing updates and information. This kind of activity is an organic and viral traffic powerhouse that can be highly influential to attracting new students. The effectiveness of this type of engagement campaign can have an impact far beyond paid advertising because individuals are more likely to believe and internalize what they see because it is a third party or friend who is endorsing or commenting on the college.

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