Aug 15, 2018

The What, Why & How of Social Media for Higher Education

A large part of our daily internet use revolves around social media.

This is especially true for the younger generations and provides a great opportunity for higher education institutions that are hoping to persuade new students to enroll.

A solid social media strategy can help drive enrollments, and many global educators are already putting best practice tactics to great use to do just that.

It’s obvious that social media marketing has a lot of potential, educators just need to know how to get started.

What are the benefits of social media (and how are others doing it)?

Some education institutions have already found ways to implement successful social media for higher education, using it to connect with students using relatable voices on the platforms they use every day.

But what are the key ways that social media can help your college, university or training company reap the rewards of a great social media strategy?

1. Increase Student Engagement

Columbia University holds an annual fundraiser every year coined the Giving Day Campaign to bring together Columbians everywhere to make a big impact on the students, faculty and researchers who will change the world.

Using various social media platforms, they mobilized their fundraising efforts with the help of some social media ambassadors and engaged alumni and broadcast live video streams to a wide audience on their social media channels.

In 2017, the 24-hour fundraiser raked in an incredible $15.6 million from 15,088 gifts donors all over the U.S., plus more than 50 other countries and took to social media to express its thanks.

Columbia University 'Giving Day' social media

Social media has massive potential to grow an audience, and with paid advertising, you can target very specific groups within your audience, based on location, age, or interests.

If the advertising budget at your institution is restricted, try stirring up more interest by creating niche groups.

2. Boost Brand Awareness

Over 70% of prospects are using social media to research their college options, which means higher education providers can start communicating with prospects long before an official campus visit.

The University of British Columbia uses social media to showcase innovation in the sciences by using Twitter to shine the spotlight on the accomplishments of its faculty and students, establishing themselves as a thought leader in those areas.

University of British Columbia twitter account

By adhering to the best practices of social media marketing for just one or two platforms, it’s possible to create a thriving brand that people recognize long before they start actively researching your college as an option for enrollment.

3. Drive Enrollment Numbers

As the digital landscape makes online learning more appealing to many college-age students, there is increasing pressure for higher ed institutions to up the ante with student recruitment.

The University of New South Wales in Australia leveraged social during their annual recruitment week, promoting their curriculum, school faculty, and campus culture with a well-defined social media strategy.

University of New South Wales Instagram

This is a great way to reach more people and can exert a major influence on students who are torn between several college options.

Which platforms can prove effective for higher education?

It’s clear that social media is a big part of people’s lives today, and that influence extends to their research for colleges and schools.

Research indicates undergraduates are 44% more likely to be influenced by social media when deciding on where to study abroad.

Every platform has unique benefits.

  • LinkedIn and Facebook are great for building professional networks with both current students and alumni.
  • Visual platforms have been on the rise for a while, and higher education providers can use the likes of Pinterest and Flipboard to build their brand image.
  • Snapchat and Instagram are perfect for short video content while YouTube enables institutions to build a fanbase around a dedicated video channel.

By focusing on social media stories, which combine short videos, good photos, quirky captions, and popular filters, educators can publish engaging content that prospective students find relatable and easy to access.

Social media is now a key part of any educator's digital marketing strategy in order to raise brand awareness, drive student engagement and be an authority that students go to when they require assistance, reassurance or answers.

The key is to create content that resonates and curate imagery that showcases your institution best. Also, don't underestimate the power of blogs - from faculty and user-generated from students and alumni - using simple platforms such as WordPress and Medium which can be used to grow your brand through content marketing.

This boosts organic search rankings, which may make a big difference when students are researching different college options.


Change is constant in digital marketing, but with a great social media strategy, higher education institutions can engage prospects, alumni, and current students on the devices and mediums they use every day.

With careful consideration of your audience and budget, it’s possible to boost brand awareness and drive enrollment numbers with some clever social media marketing.

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