For institutions of all kinds, ‘back to school’ season is an exciting time. The new academic year brings a lot of anticipation, with new, enthusiastic students beginning their journey with your school, continuing students returning refreshed from their break, and faculty and staff eager to tackle new courses, projects, and challenges.
Around September, campuses all over the world are buzzing with events, activity, and people. So why not harness this energy and positivity in your online marketing efforts? Using social media, your website, blogs, and other digital channels, your school could create a range of different content around this time of year that will attract attention and engagement from your online community, and also leave a lasting impression on prospective applicants.
If your academic year or Fall courses are about to begin, here’s how to make the most of it.
1. Shoot Video or Go Live on Campus During Orientation
Many schools’ first few weeks will be filled with various orientation events and activities to introduce and prepare new and continuing students for the coming year. From orientation weeks, to move-in days, to welcome events, your campus is likely to be full of activity, so why not capture the action online?
Facebook Live can be the perfect tool for this purpose. Attracting over 2 billion views to date, the livestreaming tool has been one of the social media giant’s most successful additions in recent years, and offers the opportunity to capture and broadcast great moments on your campus and share them with the world instantaneously.
Armed with just a smartphone, members of your team can periodically venture into the heart of the action during your back to school events and give those watching a guided account of what’s happening.
Example: Humber International Centre in Toronto went live on Facebook during their recent orientation.
This is a great way to give prospective students a taste of the welcome they will receive at your school, as well as a bite-sized introduction to the facilities and support you offer. For instance, many schools will have stands and volunteers signing students up for student societies and extracurricular activities. If you have on-campus accommodation, going live from move-in days can be a great way to showcase your facilities at a time when they are full of life.
Best of all, unlike other livestreaming platforms, Facebook Live posts remain on the site to be viewed permanently after your broadcast, meaning your posts can continue to generate engagement and excitement long after the year has started.
Regular video can be a great option, too, allowing you to record footage during your events and edit it together later into a more streamlined, professional clip. Ordinary video also has the advantage of being sharable across a number of channels, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and most other social networks, as well as your own website.
Example: The University of Virginia’s President Jim Ryan decided to help students out at his school’s move-in day. The students were certainly surprised when they realized who was carrying their bags, and UVA’s social media team was there to capture the action.
"You look a little bit like him." 😂President Jim Ryan helped welcome the newest Hoos to Grounds on move-in day.
Posted by University of Virginia on Sunday, August 26, 2018
Even if you are a smaller school with a more understated orientation process, this time can still be a great way to show your school in a positive light. Chatting candidly with students, staff, and volunteers, filming excerpts of introductory assemblies or classes, or just capturing your campus at its most busy and vibrant can provide you with some great footage.
2. Create Back to School Stories
Another way to present the hustle and bustle of the early weeks of your academic year on social media in a digestible format is Stories. A mainstay of Instagram and Snapchat as well as Messenger and WhatsApp, Stories are essentially bite-sized slideshows of photos, videos and text, which appear to your followers for a limited period of time, usually disappearing after 24 hours.
The ephemeral, instantaneous nature of the feature has made it a huge hit among social media users, particularly younger audiences, making it a potentially great option for schools looking for exciting education marketing ideas at this time year.
Example: Boston University created an Instagram Story offering details of all its orientation week events.
As with Facebook Live, members of your team could make their way around campus during your events, looking for interesting visuals and happenings and taking either photos or short videos. Once you’re done, you can put together what you’ve gathered into a story that serves as a highlight reel of the day or week, overlaying your visuals with fun, interesting graphics and text to weaving it into a narrative whole.
Example: Brown University created a particularly visually striking Story using images from its orientation week.
While Stories have a limited shelf life, the best content you gather from creating them can always be repurposed into individual video or photo posts. Many schools also reshare their Stories as ordinary videos on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
3. Create Blogs for New Students
Moving away from social media, your website can also be a great place to create content centred around the beginning of term. At this time of year, you will have an enthusiastic audience of new students eager to engage and get involved with your school. Creating content for them can be a great way to reinforce this goodwill, and make them feel that they are being welcomed and supported as they begin their educational journey.
A great place to start is with blogs. You could post checklists for new arrivals, city and town guides, tips for moving, or anything else you think new students will find useful. As they adjust to life at your school, this kind of informative, relevant content can be greatly appreciated, helping them to settle in and start the year off on the right foot. These posts can be shared on your social media channels to amplify their engagement.
Example: Queen’s University Belfast enlisted the help of a student blogger to offer new students advice on moving into student accommodation.
The great thing about this kind of content is that if you do it well, it can potentially be used year after year. A pre-arrival guide or checklist for incoming students, for instance, could be reposted at the same time every year provided you update it to reflect any changes or new information students may need. If you use the same webpage, its existing page authority will carry over, while also gaining a boost for recency, meaning its SEO value will increase exponentially.
4. Use Education Marketing Content to Tell Students What’s New
School that don’t run classes or only have a limited course schedule during the summer will often use that time to implement improvements in their courses, facilities, or the general service they provide students. This could mean anything from the construction or renovation of buildings, to the purchase of new equipment, to the development of a new course curriculum.
If your school has undergone any major changes over the break, you can be sure that both your new and returning students will want to hear about them. Highlighting what’s new on your social media pages and your website can be an excellent way to emphasize your institution’s continued commitment to improving student experience, and dedication to offering your students the very best.
Example: The University of Pennsylvania took to Instagram to highlight their newly renovated dining facilities.
Changes may also have taken place within your faculty and staff, too. If this is the case, it can be worth taking the time to thank those who have left, and introduce their replacements to students. Profiles in blogs or on social media of new instructors and support staff highlighting their backgrounds, roles, and personalities will help convince your audience they are in good hands, and become more familiar with the school and its key team members.
Example: The University of Cape Town posted a video on Facebook to introduce its new Vice-Chancellor.
5. Feature New and Returning Students on Social Media
With many new faces arriving at your school, the start of the academic year can be a perfect time to feature new students in your education marketing efforts. Your team can approach new arrivals and ask them about their backgrounds, why they chose your school or courses, and what they hope to accomplish. Their answers could make for great social media posts, blogs, or even testimonials.
Example: Curtis Institute of Music posted this interview with a new student on its website.
If you’re targeting international students, these kinds of posts can also be a great way to draw attention to your increasingly diverse student body. Seeing students from their own country or region will tell potential international applicants that they are welcomed at your school, and could even give them the push they need to make an inquiry.
It’s also worth doing the same thing with your returning students. Check in with them about what they did on their vacations, what they are looking forward to in the new year, and what they missed about your school during the break.
Example: Brown University got the best of both worlds by asking returning students to share their advice to new recruits in a video on Instagram.
This sort of content can be formatted in any number of ways, including videos, photos with text, or even as a story post. Keep in mind, though, that it’s important to ask a student’s permission to use the material, and be respectful and mindful about their privacy.
6. Spotlight Your Hard-Working Staff and Preparations in Your Education Marketing
The start of a new term can involve plenty of hard work for your staff. From instructors preparing course material, to admissions departments organizing timetables, to groundskeeping and maintenance work, a lot of dedication and hours are spent making sure everything is perfectly in place when students arrive.
This tireless effort should be celebrated on your digital channels. In the weeks leading up to term time, you can post blogs, news, and social media content offering updates on your preparations, which will serve to build anticipation among your students, as well giving the unsung heroes who make their education possible their due.
Example: Oaklands College posted this shot on Instagram of its extracurricular team preparing to welcome students at its induction.
7. Let Prospective Students Know About Remaining Course Places
On a more practical level, many schools find themselves with remaining spaces to be filled on their courses right before term time. While it may not always be possible to attract prospective students within such a short timeframe, you can still use your digital channels to alert potential applicants that places are still available.
There may be many good prospects out there who may have thought it was too late to apply, chosen another option only to have it fall through, or just simply taken time to decide whether or not your school was the right choice. Posting about your courses on social media and on your website or running paid advertising campaigns for your remaining spaces will ensure that you don’t miss your chance to connect with them and reach your targets.
Example: Due to the UCAS Clearing system, many UK schools have available spaces to fill on their courses at this time of year. Here, Hugh Baird College uses Twitter to alert prospects of its remaining slots.
These are just a few ideas for creating great higher ed marketing content during this period, and your school can supplement these efforts with regular blog updates, news pieces, and social media posts of photos and videos from around campus as your students settle in for the new year. By taking the time to invest in your digital marketing activities now, you can establish a vibrant and engaging online presence throughout the next academic year and beyond.