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Research, Marketing & Recruitment

Social Media Strategy for Colleges and Universities

social media iconsHow to Engage Students Online

Does your college or university have a targeted direct mail campaign to reach prospective students? As the mother of a high school senior, let me give you some advice: Save your money and focus your marketing efforts online.

This past summer, the onslaught of postcards and thick packets began arriving. Stacking them neatly on the table in my hall, I got excited just thinking about the possibilities hidden within each piece of mail. Guess what? After 4 months, that stack grew so unwieldly that I threw them all away, untouched. Despite my reminders and even laying out a couple of the glossy catalogs on the table, my daughter never gave them a second thought. In one argument, I asked her how she expected to learn about different colleges and what they offered. Her reply?

“Anything I want to know, I can google.”

Higher Ed Marketing Strategy for Gen Z Students

And there, my friend, is the marketing strategy for today’s Gen Z students. Answers can be found instantly, only a quick search away. Yet all is not lost. While prospective students will get most of their college information online, you can meet them where they are with a strategic online marketing campaign across all social media platforms.

According to Pew Research, younger Americans embrace a variety of platforms that they visit multiple times daily. This provides you with several opportunities to advertise your school for optimal visibility.

In this year’s 2018 E-Expectations Trend Report, students reported that when it comes to college research, your website and the emails you send are considered authoritative sources for academic and financial information. However, social media is the medium students use to see what it will be like to be a student at your school. They turn to visual social media channels to see student experiences and campus life.

Top 7 topics students look for on social media
Source: 2018 E-Expectations Trend Report


Social Media Targeting Prospective College Students

Which channels should you be using? According to the E-Expectations report, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter are holding steady as top platforms for Gen Z favorites. This makes sense: they’re visual and quick. Information is reduced to its essence without a lot of fluff.

A surprising statistic is that getting college information on Snapchat decreased among seniors this past year, but I suspect that’s because college marketers haven’t yet figured out how to use the platform to their advantage. While my daughter can swipe and tap with the best of them, the process to access news and stories only confuses me—probably because of my age. As marketers catch on, it will be interesting to see next year’s data.

Most popular social media platforms for info on colleges
Source: 2018 E-Expectations Trend Report


Facebook Is for Moms

One trend that makes a lot of sense is the decrease in Facebook use among students. In fact, the number of students declined 20% between 2017 and 2018. My daughter and her friends have Facebook accounts, but their posts are generic and bland—in other words, censored because they know that parents use Facebook over other platforms. This simply means that your marketing efforts should be targeted for parents’ interests, specifically academics, safety, financial considerations, and deadlines.

There may be a percentage of prospective students who will open mail from your school, but your best bet in reaching Gen Z is online. Use the data to your advantage and post often across multiple platforms. It’s complicated to stay current with these technologies, but the payoff is that you’ll gain visibility and access that can’t be found with more traditional marketing approaches.

Interested in more data about engaging prospective students? Check out the 2018 E-Expectations Trend Report.

Download report

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