Social media has develop into the buzz-phrase of the advertising planet the have to-have resolution to all advertising challenges. It really is low-priced, speedy and has reached close to saturation in some age groups.

But leveraging social media advertising – the art and science of receiving your message out applying this on line ecosystem – is not as quick as setting up a Facebook web page. The capacity to shape opinions of potential students, existing students, and alumni in this on line planet is largely determined by the social authority that your message carries. In other words, prosperous social media advertising campaigns rely on the trust the market place areas inyour messenger.

This really should come as no surprise. It really is the similar trust course of action we, as admissions experts, use when we go to higher schools, engage college counselors and have alumni-sponsored events in distant cities. The variations are just the delivery channel and the forms of trusted sources. For social media, the delivery channel is net-primarily based (by way of a social media web-site) and the trusted sources have a tendency to be students and peers, rather than adult authority figures.

In this playbook we outline how colleges can leverage their current sources to create an powerful social media advertising approach. We will also give some guidance on “do's” and “don'ts” for insuring that your message is heard, when also enhancing your brand identity.

Why really should you care?

So why really should college admissions officers care about all of this social media organization? Due to the fact your prospects care – a lot!

According to a current EDUCAUSE study[1], social media use has reached close to saturation levels, with 95 % of 18 to 19-year-old college students applying social media web sites consistently. Facebook nonetheless leads the way with 80 % of 18-24 year-olds checking in quite a few instances a day. Social media touches practically each facet of these students' lives. It has develop into the major way that today's students remain in touch with each and every other and the planet. It is exactly where their focus is focused and exactly where they initially appear for information and facts, such as specifics about colleges.

These trends have a direct influence on college admissions simply because higher college students are increasingly turning to social media, rather than a college web site, as they commence searching for a college. Today's college searches commence on web sites such as collegeprowler.com or Facebook (with enhancements such as Campus Buddy). Mash-up web sites with titles like “Ten techniques to use social media to choose a college”[2] are the new equivalent of the college section at the regional bookstore.

In a current study by Noel Levitz[3], 74 % of college-bound higher college seniors mentioned they assume colleges really should have a presence on social media web sites. Eighty-1 % of these students admitted that they rely on official and unofficial on line content material about colleges for the duration of their search course of action.

However, regardless of this apparent shift to social media content material, college marketers have failed to preserve up. The study also showed that only 26 % of private 4-year institutions had been intentionally applying social media sources in their advertising efforts.

Advertising and marketing have to attain its target audience to make a distinction. To be heard you want to meet your prospects on their turf. Social media is the foundation and future of contemporary college recruitment and advertising precisely simply because it is their turf. The ultimate purpose is to have your messages picked-up by the marketplace and passed on spontaneously – and generally exponentially – by trusted sources. You want your message to go viral! (“Going Viral” refers to when an image, video or hyperlink spreads quickly via a population by becoming often shared with a quantity of folks social media tends to make this sharing quick to do.)

So now, a tiny background.

three Components of Social Media

From the earliest days of the Web, people have looked to on line communities as a supply of trusted peer-primarily based information and facts. It began with the original dial-up systems of the 1970s – don't forget “moderators”? – and then evolved into net-primarily based communities in the 1980s and 1990s that had been packed with “collaborative filtering” web-sites. Despite the fact that the tools and technologies to engage in on line conversations have surely evolved, the underlying course of action is substantially the similar as it was 30 years ago. Similarly, its effectiveness and capacity to shape opinion are nonetheless primarily based on the credibility of the folks who serve as on line essential opinion leaders (KOLs).

Rapid forward to currently.

Modern day on line communities have exploded into an ecosystem bursting with millions and millions of fan pages, blogs and tweets. Facebook alone claims far more than 700 million customers, with far more than 50 % of these folks logging in each day. This development has turned an Web niche of obscure hobbyists into a marketer's dream – a vast audience of shoppers that can be reached in close to true-time at a quite low expense.

Social media is a unique kind of on line conversation held amongst a group of folks with a shared interest and is mediated by a “reliable” supply. (But don't forget, on Facebook a “reliable” supply may be a 17-year-old college freshman!) To effectively capitalize on this busy planet of social media, admissions officers have to comprehend its 3 core elements: channel, attain and credibility.

Teenage professionals aside, these 3 elements decide the capacity of a unique social media outlet to influence the market place and influence the opinions of its participants.

Extra Than Just Facebook

Despite the fact that Facebook is the most common social media web-site in the history of the planet, the bulk of social media advertising efforts never have to be focused there. Now, that is not to say that each admissions workplace really should not have a Facebook web page – they really should. But your Facebook web page is exactly where prospects will go right after they are currently interested in you (in all probability right after they decided to apply). After students are admitted, they will probably develop into day-to-day guests.

A Facebook web page is not ideally suited to be a recruiting device, it is meant to be a yield device, greatest made use of right after admission provides go out.

In this playbook, nonetheless, we are far more concerned with social media advertising as a implies of creating your brand identity – and creating your prospect pool. So we're going to concentrate on recruiting higher college juniors who are just beginning to assume about college. Facebook is good for maintaining “buddies” – but how do you locate new ones?

four Actions To Producing New 'Friends'

The initially step to generating new buddies on social media is to assume like a digitally connected higher college junior – minus the gossip and other baggage, that is. Today's students are substantially far more active seekers of information and facts. Bear in mind, today's students:

  • Use their social media network to remain connected to buddies
  • Use search engines to locate relevant blogs, mash-ups and useful web-sites
  • Stop by college web-sites and college content material on social media web sites such as Facebook, YouTube and other people.
  • Want the “inside” story appropriate now!

The second step is to do some study.

Prior to attempting to straight enter any social media conversation or friendship, survey the “buzz” that is out there about your institution. This can be an onerous and time consuming process but it is worth it. You will find out fairly a bit about how your college and its culture are becoming portrayed and perceived. You are also probably to come across a variety of misperceptions and falsehoods that you can commence to alter as you move forward in the course of action.

The third step is to use social media aggregator solutions and analytical tools such as Radian6, HubSpot and Twitalyzer to enable you monitor the ongoing conversation and make adjustments to your messaging as your market place perceptions modify. When there are definite fees involved with this monitoring, it is the only way to actually know what is operating for you and what is not.

Ultimately, and this is only right after you comprehend the lay of the land, move on to step 4: enter into the conversations and commence to disseminate your personal content material in techniques that make sense to your young, connected audience.

Colleges can send their content material straight, which implies content material is “created” by official offices or personnel of the college, or indirectly, which implies content material comes from folks familiar with your campus, but who are not acting in an official capacity. These indirect senders of content material are normally existing students, former students and “fans.” Each forms of content material – direct and indirect – are valuable and can be complementary. But don't forget, each really should be monitored and guided (if not fairly controlled) by your designated “Social Media Ninja.” Your Social Media Ninja is accountable for monitoring the messaging and the content material as nicely as any reactions or inquiries from your followers. We'll speak far more about this function in a subsequent playbook.

A Handful of Reminders

Diverse social media channels perform for distinctive people. Feel about the sorts of content material you would like to make out there and exactly where it tends to make the most sense to post it. Setting up a YouTube channel is a good way to provide a “virtual campus tour” or share video of a unique occasion, like a concert. Student-generated videos can present a far more informal appear at campus life and can generally be far more powerful than professionally created advertising pieces – as lengthy as they are completely vetted and cautiously chosen. If you are fortunate (or unlucky, based on the content material), 1 of these videos may possibly go viral and expose your campus to millions of prospective prospects.

Facebook, blogging and tweeting are other techniques to get your message out and present a variety of selections for sharing information and facts and influencing the perceptions of several constituencies. You can encourage existing students to participate in the conversation and preserve topical Facebook pages devoted to distinctive elements of your college. (But be positive to remain involved and actively monitor the content material.) Twitter offers you the capacity to update potential students on approaching deadlines, send reminders and engage folks in conversations about timely subjects. Blogs can present insight into the admission course of action from a counselor or student point of view and make a forum for exchanging thoughts about admission connected subjects, like writing a individual essay, the use of test scores or factors to do on campus.

As you enter into these conversations, there are a couple of quite vital guidelines to preserve in thoughts.

Social Media Do's

  1. Be genuine. Make your blogs and posts true and truthful. Authenticity builds credibility gradually, but shameless promotion can destroy it rapidly.
  2. Be responsive. If comments are posted, make positive to comply with up with clarifications and added content material. Take feedback seriously never dismiss criticism out of hand.
  3. Contribute to the broader conversation. Not anything requires to be a advertising message. Engage prospects on relevant subjects and present them with valuable information and facts on economic help sources, testing approaches and individual essay writing. Enable them navigate the admission course of action never just attempt to recruit them.
  4. Be constant, create your brand. Feel cautiously about your image. Who are you? What differentiates your college? Be constant in your messaging. Your on line identity can take on a life of its personal, so you want to be constant across channels and accurately portray the campus culture.
  5. Leverage your human sources. Social media, as we have mentioned, is actually an on line conversation among groups of folks with a shared interest. The far more participants you involve, the livelier and far more engaging the conversation will be. Admissions officers, administrators, faculty, employees, parents, students, alumni and buddies all have a function to play.

Social Media Don'ts

  1. Do not be a 1-way bullhorn.Do not turn the conversation into a 1-way broadcast that fails to engage participants in a conversation.
  2. Do not translate your view book into a series of weblog posts. It really is not just about you it is about engaging in conversations with your audience about subjects that are relevant to them.
  3. Do not be rude. Bear in mind that your audience can be very easily place off if you inadvertently snub a query or subject that is relevant to them.
  4. Do not neglect your content material. Stale content material is worse than no content material at all. Admissions offices historically have been on a multi-year content material cycle. Each and every couple of years, we employ a advertising consultant and “update” our components. That strategy no longer operates. Social media is a true-time conversation and your content material have to reflect true-time interests and events.
  5. Do not permit graffiti. Social media channels by their quite nature are open communication forums and inevitably an individual will post some offensive content material or a gratuitously important comment. Delete it straight away. You personal your outlet and are accountable for what is on it, even if you weren't the 1 who place it there. The purpose is not censorship, but to demonstrate that you are on best of factors and spend focus to your followers.