Social media is often where many institutions showcase the lighter side of school life. From stories and posts highlighting student social events, to photos and videos that capture the beauty and bustle of a campus in full swing, the channel’s visual, casual, and communal nature makes it one of the most engaging marketing tools available.
But what happens now that, in the wake of COVID-19, many schools are moving their operations online for the foreseeable future? How do you find Instagram-friendly visuals when your campus is empty? How do you create a sense of community among your students when they are studying from home? And how do you highlight everything your online courses have to offer in a way that will speak to a social media audience?
With many schools also facing the challenge of breaking into the online marketplace for the first time, this channel may be especially hard to navigate. Fortunately, there are plenty of inventive ways to showcase online learning on social networks, and even use the change in medium to your advantage.
Intrigued? Read on to learn how to promote online courses on social media.
1. Before You Begin, Define the Personas & USP of Your Online Courses
We’ve mentioned before that the impact of COVID-19 and switch to online delivery could force many schools to rethink their student personas, but it’s a fact that bears repeating. This exercise can drive your school’s approach across a number of digital channels, and social media is no exception.
Your team should think carefully about how different the potential audience for their online courses will be compared to their classroom prospects. Will the accessibility of online learning lead to you attracting prospects from further afield? Will the flexibility of the format mean that more students study while working? Will they be older, now that the economic impact of the pandemic has led to people rethinking their career paths?
Example: Online course provider FutureLearn understands the needs and wants of its audience, and the content it shares on social media very much reflects that.
Asking these questions and creating a picture of your ideal online applicant will also help to clearly define the unique value proposition of your online courses. Again, this might be very different from your traditional courses.
For instance, many language schools have traditionally leaned heavily on the attractiveness of their location as a study destination, emphasizing opportunities for sightseeing, social life, and language immersion. In moving online, however, this benefit has been negated, and these institutions have needed to bring the strength of their course content, instructors, and online learning facilities to the forefront.
Example: This Facebook post from Everest Language School lays out the value of their new online courses quite well.
Once you have a clearly defined persona and key messages for your online courses, you can tailor your social media strategy around that. In fact, you will probably even find ideas for posts, tactics, and priority channels become much clearer right away.
2. Choose Social Networks for Promoting Your Online Courses Carefully
It’s important to consider which social networks you are focusing on to promote online courses. As obvious as this may seem, it’s worth reiterating because you may find that the social channels you use to promote your classroom-based courses don’t generate the same engagement or reach the right audience for online learning.
For instance, you might have a very strong Instagram presence, but the highly visual nature of the site could make it less than ideal for showcasing your online courses. The fact that you cannot place links in posts could also limit the amount of leads you generate, which might be particularly limiting given many schools need to drum up interest in new online courses fast right now. Recent data suggests that Instagram has also seen something of a decline in engagement during the pandemic, as its audience switches its attention to more news-focused social media:
This isn’t to say that Instagram should be counted out entirely – it is still one of the most popular social networks globally, after all. It’s just that you should analyze your current social calendar and what attention you give to certain sites carefully, and not be afraid to shake things up.
3. Optimize Your School’s Social Media Profiles
For schools marketing online education for the first time, half of the battle will be just informing your current audience that the option is now available. One thing you should consider to help get the message across is optimizing your social media profiles to make your online learning options more prominent.
For instance, you could update the About section on your Facebook page to include information about the courses you provide in your Company Overview, Products and Milestones sections.
Example: IE Business School includes recent awards and recognition it has received for its online MBA program in its Milestones section. In the current climate, this kind of information will inspire confidence in prospects.
You could also update the main link in your Instagram profile to direct prospects to your online courses, or change your Facebook cover image during this period to help draw the attention of prospects.
Example: Speak Up London Language School now has a video on its Facebook cover promoting online ESL classes.
These small details will all help to raise awareness and reposition your school as a reputable online learning provider.
4. Video is Your Friend When Marketing Online Courses
Because online classes are largely based on video platforms, the material you develop for your courses can be easily repurposed for promotion. You can use relatively inexpensive video editing software to create eye-catching clips that offer a glimpse of your learning management system (LMS), showcase the value of your online courses, and drive prospects towards inquiries.
Example: In this recent YouTube video, International House London combined footage of its remote students and its LMS to create a vibrant and engaging promotion for its new online ESL courses.
One of the major benefits of this option is that video tends to attract a lot of engagement and reach, which could help you gain traction and leads for your online courses from social media a lot faster.
5. Use Facebook Live to Showcase Your Online Courses
In addition to posting videos on social media, you can also go one step further and broadcast live. Livestreaming have been one of the biggest social media success stories of the past few years, particularly on Facebook. Since its launch in 2016, Facebook Live has attracted over 2 billion viewers, and attracts 6 times as many interactions, 3 times the average watch length, and 10 times as many comments as regular videos.
What’s more, the Facebook Live format is perfect for showcasing online learning. Your school could host live Q&A sessions, tutorials for your LMS, or even offer free introductory classes through the platform.
Example: Vancouver Island University hosted this online information session last month in relation to its online ESL program.
Livestreaming will give your prospects a firsthand taste of the online environment you create for students, and the interactivity and communication the format can facilitate.
6. Share Resources From Your Online Courses
In addition to using video to offer a sneak peak of your online classes, you could also share some of the other components of your online courses on social. For instance, if your courses include quizzes, reading material, or other kinds of learning resources, you could repurpose some of these assets into content which can be posted on your accounts.
Many schools are taking this even further and offering free trials of their classes to prospects, which could be particularly beneficial if you are new to the format.
Example: IH Bristol offers free trials of its online language courses to followers on Facebook.
Offering content with this level of value will show prospects that your online courses are robust and rich in learning support, as well as giving them the chance to sample aspects of your classes to get a feel for what it is like studying with you.
7. Create Stories Related to Online Learning
Given their very visual nature, stories might not seem like a natural fit for online courses. However, the format’s versatility could actually give you plenty of scope the showcase online learning. For instance, you could use some of your learning materials to create quizzes or polls to test prospects’ knowledge and give them a preview of what to expect.
The interactivity of stories can also be a great way to build community and engagement remotely. For instance, in the aftermath of COVID-19, a number of schools have utilized the format to offer practical tips for studying remotely. This could help to assuage any concerns students may have about studying online.
Example: The University of Glasgow created a story which asked students to share their best tips for studying from home, then shared some of the answers.
8. Don’t Forget the ‘Social’ Aspect of Online Learning on Social Media
While online learning doesn’t offer quite the same amount of opportunities for socializing as studying on campus does, many established online course providers still try to create ways for their students to meet and connect with one another.
Schools that have been forced to close campuses due to the pandemic have also been mindful of this aspect of the student experience, and many have worked to create virtual events and activities to fill the void.
Social media can be the perfect place to promote this aspect of your school’s new reality. You can create posts, stories and videos both to raise awareness of your events, and show prospects what they are missing.
Example: Socializing has always been a big part of the language education experience. Now, in the absence of on-campus activities, many schools are running virtual social programs for their online students. IH Manchester, for instance, runs concerts, quizzes and other events online, and promotes them on its Instagram account.
‘Social proof’ can also be incredibly valuable, particularly in the early stages of your ventures into online learning. Sharing testimonials from students who have had positive experiences studying online with you will reassure prospects that your courses represent good value.
Example: ILSC Toronto shared a video testimonial from an online student. In it, she praises not just the course but also the opportunities for socializing online with fellow students, making it an incredibly valuable promotional asset.
9. Use Social Media Ads to Make a Name for Your Online Courses
When considering how to recruit online students through social media, it’s important to remember that your organic reach on most popular networks is likely to be quite limited these days.
With that in mind, investing in paid social media ads could be a prudent move, especially if your student personas have changed significantly with the move to online learning. Advertising could help you to get your courses seen by the audience you are now targeting, and allow you generate leads quickly.
Example: EF English Live run Facebook Ads to reach prospective online students in the Taiwanese market.
10. Post, Post, and Post Some More About Your Online Courses
As much as these tactics will help you make your online courses stand out, the very best thing you can do when marketing online courses is to post, post, and post some more. When trying to get the word out about a course, mentioning it frequently on your social accounts is really the most surefire way to create awareness.
Example: Inlingua Malta has made posting about its online courses its top priority on Facebook in recent weeks.
This is especially true if you are new to the online learning arena. In this situation, your followers and prospects may not be aware that you now offer online programs as an option, and posting about it on social could just be the tool to reignite their interest in studying with you.
Posting regularly across different social channels could also help you attract new followers. Finding popular hashtags about online learning and using them in your posts will make them more discoverable in searches.
Example: ILAC Language School uses relevant hashtags in its Instagram posts.
If you can free up a small budget, you can also promote your posts to amplify their reach amongst your target audience.
As with any new course, it can take time for online courses to gain traction and interest. Along with consistent efforts in content marketing, SEO, advertising, and email marketing, incorporating promoting them into your social media initiatives is just another thing you can do that can to help move the process along, and establish your school as a trusted online course provider.