Mar 6, 2018

The Importance of Social Media in Higher Education

by Digital Marketing Institute

The intersection of education and technology offers an exciting opportunity for those with digital skills. Educators and administrators alike can leverage social media marketing to enhance their programmes, grow their student body and improve their enrollment procedures.

Whether you’re looking to nurture your student community online or develop your social media channels from scratch; this blog will guide your approach to a successful social media strategy.

Recruit high-potential students

With the number of students enrolled in higher education expected to reach 262 million by 2025, higher education facilities are starting to realize that they need to stand out amongst the crowd, both online and off. Recruiting students requires creative social media strategies implemented all year long to keep prospects engaged with the school.

Whether it’s providing each department with leverage over their own social media channels or highlighting interesting courses on a regular basis online, universities and colleges can create meaningful connections with prospects with a well-curated social media presence.

Stay connected with your alumni

For the most part, post-secondary facilities require an amount of donated or fundraised money to continue offering best-in-class education. Traditionally, marketing efforts have been directed towards alumni from the school who are now successful members of society. Although this fact remains the same, how they’re being targeted for fundraising has changed.

Social media platforms allow alumni to be reminded to donate to specific funding areas when it’s needed most. From sharing a fundraising event on Facebook or celebrating successes on Instagram, post-secondary facilities are able to connect with alumni in a more meaningful and personal way on social media.

Promoting Research Endeavors

Higher education and research go hand-in-hand. Social media has provided a base for universities and colleges to share their future-forward innovations and research opportunities with a much wider base than ever before.

Social media challenges for higher education institutions

As with any digital marketing strategy, there are obstacles that need to be overcome to find success on social media channels. For the most part, higher educational facilities are made up of various faculties, each of which offers a unique experience and culture for students and professors alike.

According to Hootsuite, one of the major challenges faced by higher education institutions when developing a social media presence is providing each faculty with the ability to manage their own social media efforts while maintaining some type of “brand” or regulation as to the content that can be shared. Some tips to overcome this complex issue include:

  • Creating a social media policy to be followed by all faculties
  • Designating a “community manager” for all campus social media accounts
  • Using a cross-platform social media monitoring, scheduling, and reporting tool

Chances are, your university or college already has a designated marketing team dedicated to increasing awareness of your higher education institution and generating funding and recruits. However, with the overlap of technology and education becoming increasingly present, it’s vital that your school’s marketing department is well-versed in digital marketing practices and streamlined social media management.

​Statistics on social media use in higher education

  • The Applied Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities and Arts faculties use social media more often than Mathematics, Computer Science, and Natural Science faculties
  • 88% of faculties reported that they used online video while teaching
  • 33.8% of faculty use social media for teaching purposes
  • When it comes to teaching purposes, teaching staff are more likely to use blogs to share content with students

Creating a social media strategy for higher education

When it comes to creating a social media presence that communicates professionalism but also actively engages with multiple audiences is no small feat. As a higher education facility, your social media feed, and content must speak to current students, prospects, parents, researchers, fellow institutions, and alumni.

With so much to say, share, and manage, how can you develop a social media strategy that checks all the necessary boxes for success? The experts at Top Hat have compiled a comprehensive list of ways that higher education facilities can combine technology and education to create a well-rounded and process-driven social media strategy.

Focus on community engagement and responding in a timely manner

Similarly to digital marketers in other industries, engagement is key to a successful social media strategy. When students or prospects comment on a post or send a direct message (DM) to ask a question, it’s vital that a social media manager answer them in a timely fashion.

This is of special importance when a comment is offensive or dangerous. There should be someone in charge of an institution’s social media feeds for the larger part of the day to vet any critical occurrences or respond to a negative comment.

Let faculties handle their social media channels

In higher education institutions, faculties are often held accountable to maintain the same values and mission as the university or college they belong to but operate separately by teaching specific content. These faculties provide unique educational experiences, so letting them provide unique social media experiences just seems right.

When a faculty has authority over their social media feeds, they can better communicate with their target audience of students, staff, and prospects while increasing the personal essence of their online engagements.

Keep social media content light and engaging

An educational institution’s social media strategy should reflect their outlook, mission, and values. Although it’s important to maintain a formal presence online, keep followers engaged with interesting and timely content. For example, share the latest campus events organized by students, celebrate educational successes of staff, students, and alumni, and regularly engage by posting polls.

Combine Edtech and social media for a broader user experience

Engagement thrives on visibility and accessibility. By linking to helpful Edtech resources, programs, and administrative functions, you can increase engagement while making it easier for them to find helpful tools to drive their success.

Your social media channels can act as a link between your higher education institution’s resources and users. By ensuring that any needed information (like faculty websites) can be accessed easily via your social media channel profile descriptions, you can help students and staff have a more positive and streamlined online experience.

Broaden your social media scope

Has your higher education institution already implemented a social media strategy on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? If so, congratulations! However, you still have the potential to increase your reach and engagement by using other social media platforms or content types.

For example, consider holding a live webinar on Facebook Live to discuss your institution with interested prospects, or create a YouTube channel and unique videos for each faculty in your higher education institution.


Higher education thrives on a healthy community, and a college’s social media presence is an important extension of that community. Throughout the world, universities and colleges are implementing social media strategies to connect with students, parents, prospects, staff, and even other educational facilities.

Not only can a best-in-class social media presence better your relations with all parties involved with your institution, it can also make their lives easier like any well-marketed product or solution should. If you’re missing a robust social media strategy for your higher education facility, you’re missing out on a variety of opportunities to generate high-quality leads and prospects.

If you wish to further integrate technology and education in your role or institution, a digital marketing certification will provide you with the skills necessary for successfully implementing and overseeing a successful social media strategy.

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