The education sector has had some great news, with reports looking favourable for a strong re-entry to in-person learning in the fall. Your school can seize the opportunity to build momentum for the upcoming term, attracting new prospects by showcasing what your campus has to offer – and your social media is the ideal tool for the job.
The capability for experimentation with your social media marketing strategies has never been better thanks to continually evolving features on various platforms. TikTok and Instagram Reels are two notable examples, presenting various user-friendly effects for quickly and easily creating highly shareable videos. By leveraging these and the features offered on a few other social platforms, you can create truly compelling visual impressions of campus life at your school. Here, we give you a list of seven simple ideas for leveraging social media to showcase your school’s campus.
1. Give Your Prospects a Variety of Behind-the-Scenes Video Tours
With so many video tools available across a variety of social media platforms, it’s easier than ever to provide prospective students with a glimpse of what life is like within the walls of your institution. A behind-the-scenes tour allows you to showcase the aspects of your school that might otherwise be missed or underrepresented on your website alone. This can include the general energy of your students and faculty members, the range of athletics teams, activities, and clubs you have on offer, special events, and much more. You can also provide prospects with tours of your academic departments, and share video testimonials of your current students discussing or showcasing their own experiences in creative ways.
Example: This TikTok from the University of Kent takes viewers on a whirlwind tour of student life in and around campus, showcasing a balance of student downtime in and around Kent’s bustling pub life along with plenty of views of the beautiful campus itself. It’s completed by audio voiceover from a well-known television series asking “Have you ever been in love?” – recently added to many TikTok videos to animate video montages of things creators are passionate about.
Let your tours give your prospects a palpable feeling for your school, like this Instagram Reel posted by the University of Florida which lends a rare glimpse of campus life at dusk:
This unique perspective of the campus received over 71,000 views and more than 5000 likes. The addition of music from famed composer Hans Zimmer along with the comments from viewers lend further depth to the post, giving prospects an intimate glimpse of how students feel about their beloved campus.
With video tours, your school has the opportunity of presenting your campus passively, showing off various locations of your campus indirectly while viewers are entertained by the antics of your video creators.
Example: In this Instagram Reel from the University of Florida, a student casually skateboards around campus while waving a flag in support of the school “Gators” team. The video managed to attract nearly 80,000 views.
Using a similar approach, the UF College of the Arts has created dozens of highly successful TikTok videos of students “Chad and Emma” dancing around campus, with most receiving more than 10,000 likes – such as the one seen below:
🕺🏾💃🏼 = Chad & Emma from the School of Theater + Dance, UF College of the Arts.
While viewers are captivated by the duo’s dance moves, they’re simultaneously treated to informative glimpses of the UF College of Arts campus. Making the effort to create a series of videos like these has the added impact of keeping viewers coming back for more, giving your school ample opportunity to showcase multiple areas of your campus.
2. Collaborate with Your Student Ambassadors to Create More Entertaining Content
While working hard on your social media marketing for schools tactics, you may have overlooked your school’s own students, who are likely already out there doing the legwork for you. One of the most effective moves you can make to get prospective students excited about campus life is to involve student influencers in creating your social media content. The potential for your student social media influencers to make an impression with their peer groups is substantial, with one report revealing that 70% of teenaged YouTube subscribers relate to YouTube creators more than they do to conventional celebrities.
Your students are likely to have a great handle on the type of social media content that has the capability for going viral. That’s why it’s a great idea to let student influencers already talking about your school on social media help you capture the attention of a much wider audience.
Example: In this video, the student creator tells viewers all the reasons she’s enamoured with Stanford University. The video has attracted more than 17,000 views since being posted last year.
To identify influencers like these that may otherwise be flying under your radar, you can do a quick search of your social channels to see which students are using your school’s hashtags creating content about it. Take note on which of them are gaining the highest number of views and social interaction. From there you can ask these influencers to collaborate with you to market your school’s content, as the University of Central Florida (UCF) did with a student that was already promoting the school on her YouTube channel:
This student had already gained 10,000 followers by the time UCF recruited her to work with them. The university has since created an ambassador program to encourage the most social savvy of its students to create content through their own social platforms on behalf of UCF. Many colleges have launched similar programs to good effect, and it could be something to consider incorporating into your own social media for schools strategy.
Influencer vlogs aren’t the only way that students can help to promote campus life through your social channels. Student ambassadors can also showcase school events and activities through regular social media posts, as seen in this Twitter post from a student of the Royal College of Nursing in the UK (shouting out to a fellow third year student of Salford University):
Your student ambassadors can even be the subjects of your social media posts themselves to help animate areas of your campus or to showcase deeper aspects of student life – as seen in this Facebook post from Kent State University, highlighting one of the school’s senior student ambassadors:
3. Feature Compelling Student Stories in Your Content
There’s nothing more compelling to prospects than hearing from your school’s own students and alumni. Featuring student stories on your social media also happens to be a great way to showcase your school’s campus life. To that end, your school might choose to work with some of the student ambassadors you’ve identified, featuring stories of the campus-life experience from the perspective of students. These “A day in the life” and “What it’s like to be a student here” stories have proven to be popular on social media as a next best thing to shadowing a student in person around campus, and can be highly effective for influencing prospective students pondering college options.
Example: This YouTube video titled “International graduates at Oxford” from Oxford University features a montage of clips from current international students, seen moving around various regions of campus and talking about what it’s like to attend the school.
Your school has the added advantage of some of the creative liberties your school can use to make your video creations all the more compelling.
Example: This extended TikTok takes a more playful and creative approach to the “day in the life” video format. It starts with the preparation of the “not so healthy drink” we see below, then takes the viewer on a minute long tour of the various spots the student visits throughout their school day, from the library to the campus snack shop, and finally onto a bus to a nearby beach to hang out with friends. All set to music, the video gives viewers a refreshing overview of campus life at the University of Kent.
Student stories highlighting aspects of campus life can also be effectively featured through your school’s blog.
Example: Algonquin Careers Academy in Ontario, Canada regularly features the achievements of students and alumni in its blogs:
These inspirational student stories can be shared through your school’s social media to draw prospects to your website, where they can discover additional glimpses of your campus and student life. Below, you can see how ACA promotes one of its blog student stories on Twitter:
Ultimately, when you share inspiring student stories and views of campus life on your school’s social media, you are more likely to connect on an emotional level with potential students – increasing the likelihood of encouraging them to move further down the enrollment funnel.
4. Show off Your Campus Experimenting with TikToks and Instagram Reels
TikTok persists in its reputation as the fastest growing social media platform, recently overtaking Facebook as the world’s most downloaded app. Your school can take full advantage of TikTok’s ongoing popularity to showcase its campus. To do so effectively, conduct some research to find out what’s trending locally on the platform and create videos in kind. Your own students can be helpful pointing you in the right direction here.
Example: The “Hoosier Check” clip below is from a series of videos made by Indiana University Bloomington following the volleyball team around. This was inspired by the TikTok “Rich Kid Check” – a trend where kids show off tours of their mansions. Indiana University Bloomington capitalized on this trend to bring attention to its own “fancy” campus and facilities. The idea was a triumphant success, gaining a hundred thousand likes and close to a million views within a week.
Just like TikTok, Instagram’s Reels tool lets you create highly entertaining shareable videos by using several features and effects, and setting your video creations to music. Schools are already having great success creating and sharing videos using the platform. You can make your content more discoverable by following some of Instagram’s best practices for Reels creation, based on ongoing observations of how users interact with their recommended Reels. Some of Instagram’s own tips include creating videos that are “entertaining, funny, and interesting” to make more of an impact with the Instagram community. Making content that’s more discoverable and shareable increases opportunities for your prospects to see your campus.
Example: The University of Cambridge did a great job entertaining viewers with this post, choosing to be creative with the event itself by lighting up one of its central buildings to celebrate the milestone of achieving one million followers on Instagram. The video event was highly effective for drawing new eyes to the school campus, attracting more than 144,000 views.
Note additionally the use of original audio (indicated by red arrow). If a user likes the original audio added to a Reels video, they have the option to share it, crediting your school and creating even more opportunities for exposure to your campus.
If you’re debating whether you should use TikTok or Instagram Reels for gaining campus exposure, the good news is there’s no need to play favourites between the two. Both are gaining in popularity all the time, so your school stands to attain a great level of exposure and reach by using either of them – or even better, by using both. If it sounds like too much work to experiment with both video sharing formats, you might be encouraged by the re-purposing practice used by many schools to save time and energy – simply posting popular TikToks they’ve already created to their newer Instagram Reels feature, for example.
5. Build Excitement Around Events Leveraging Social Media Stories
Both Snapchat and Instagram Stories share the format of posting videos and images that disappear after 24 hours, and both are wildly popular, each attracting hundreds of millions of daily active users.
While it’s great to post permanent videos and images to your account to stand as digital style brochure snippets that prospective students can refer to when perusing your social channels, the temporary format found in social media stories has its own value for prompting engagement with anyone who’s following you, including your prospects.
Social media stories let your school promote events that you may not necessarily want included as permanent posts. By publishing a regular stream of content showcasing fun and fleeting imagery of campus life, live events, and nods to school anniversaries, your followers will feel more connected to your school day to day, giving you a better shot at grooming interested prospects further towards enrollment.
Example: This social media story from Harvard University was a great attention grabber, detailing some of the people that had visited the school in 2018. The cast of characters included everyone from Bill Gates to Hilary Clinton to Elmo from Sesame Street.
Another interesting option that your school should know about is Instagram’s Highlights feature, where you can add your story permanently to your IG profile if you decide you’d like to keep it beyond the standard 24-hour window. You can even create categories for your highlights, as we see below from Santa Fe College. The school has even included a category specifically dedicated to “Campus Tours”, as indicated by the red arrow here. Highlights let viewers quickly select content they may wish to further explore.
Instagram’s highlights are advantageous as they allow both new and current followers to grab a quick peek at what’s happening at your school without going through your newsfeed. They also happen to be placed prominently in your Instagram profile, making them a great way to quickly show off your campus life to prospects.
6. Include Live Streaming in Your Social Media for Schools Strategy
Taking it a step further from the video snippets and photos from live events you can post on your social media stories, you may also choose to live stream an event through some of your platforms. Live streaming a concert, game, graduation, or other event lends a much more intimate view of what it’s like to take part in your school’s campus activities.
Example: Creighton Community School chose to live stream its high school graduation ceremony as a means of handling COVID restrictions in the region. While the purpose for live streaming here may have been more practically based, the approach in general is a great way for your prospects to virtually attend your live events, gaining a better feel of your campus and school spirit.
When planning to live stream an event, it’s a good idea to create a hashtag in order to give the occasion some advanced promotion. This will help to build excitement around the event both beforehand and as it plays out on your live stream, and will raise the likelihood of engagement and sharing of the live event throughout your social channels.
7. Get Creative with the Imagery on Your School’s Social Media Posts
While video is undeniably one of the best ways for your school to showcase its campus life, you should also continue to pay just as much attention to posting eye-catching and intriguing photos of your school. Those following you on Instagram, Facebook, and other social channels can learn a lot about your school from a single image, and in many cases, that single image can stir emotions even more effectively than video.
Example: This graduation image from Georgetown University posted around Father’s Day doesn’t need much explaining, but just in case, you have the added advantage with your regular social media posts of adding a description with emojis and hashtags to increase context and engagement, heightening the emotional impact. Here, Georgetown has opted to keep its description light and sentimental in nature as a tribute to the occasion.
In posts designed to promote your campus, be sure to use images that showcase the best features of your school, such as striking statues or historic buildings.
Example: This post from Cardiff University scores points for showcasing the school’s impressive main building, with artistic merit for its beautiful lighting and the inclusion of magnolias in bloom in the foreground as well as spontaneously capturing a seagull fluttering in the middle of it all.
While gorgeous images of your campus like these don’t hurt for attracting new enrollments, your images don’t have to be artistically award winning. They simply need to attract attention. The goal is simply to stop your prospects from scrolling through their social feeds long enough to see your content, building a connection with your school over time.
Example: This post from the University of Leeds is quirky enough in nature to cause the viewer to stop long enough to wonder, “What’s this picture of a sheep in a field about?”
The university chose to keep up the light and playful nature of the post in the description, giving a tribute to “Yorkshire Day” by listing some fun facts about England. While this post doesn’t showcase the school’s campus, it’s still relevant to potential students in helping them to understand more about the school’s location and psyche, providing a wider geographic and cultural context, referring to something that’s important to the local community and to students of the school.
The creative possibilities presented through social media for showcasing your campus have never been better, and you can be sure they’ll continue to evolve. With this in mind, your approach to social media marketing strategy for schools should prioritize keeping up with the trends, researching what’s new and most effective at any given time on each of the platforms. In the meantime, following any of the above seven ideas for showcasing your campus on your social channels will serve as creative inspiration as you prepare for the return to school in the fall!