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Today, social media is more than just a tool for connecting with friends and family; it has become a vehicle for brands to engage digital audiences around the world. For schools, that means more opportunities to reach prospective students and boost admissions. 

As of 2021, there were 4.2 billion active social media users worldwide. It’s no surprise that many successful schools are now active on social media, working to garner attention, build their reputation, and increase admissions. But there’s a lot that goes into building a successful social media presence. You can’t just post information about your school and expect the applications to roll in. Harnessing the power of social media platforms requires careful planning and management; it requires a social media strategy. 

If you’re wondering what your school can do to optimize its digital presence, here’s a closer look at some key considerations for implementing a successful social media strategy. 

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1. Identify the Values and Mission You Want to Promote

A good social media strategy starts with understanding your goals. Your social media channels are an extension of your school’s digital presence, so your activity across those channels should align with your other digital marketing efforts. 

You may be looking to promote your school as a research institution, or you may be looking to diversify international applications. To understand what the big pillars of your institution are, a good tip is to consider which aspects of your school attract prospective students the most. This often involves the creation of student “personas” – a profile of your school’s typical prospects that cover their desires, motivations and concerns. You can then use those personas to frame your social media strategy and ensure that you are creating content relevant to your target audience. 

Example: Here is an example of a persona developed by HEM called “The Ambitious High School Student.” Here, we identify the persona’s key motivations when deciding on the right school for their education. 

higher ed social media marketing

With a few personas like these, you can identify what attracts students the most to your campus. In other words, your school’s Unique Selling Points (USPs). The example below illustrates some USPs that your school may create based on their target personas. 

social media marketing strategy for schools

Compiling a list of unique selling points is a great way to determine what aspects of your school should be showcased on social media channels. By leveraging information on your current students, you can cultivate a persona-oriented social media presence that develops a clear image of your brand. 

Example: This Instagram post from Audencia Business School serves to solidify its reputation for offering high-ranking and globally accredited programs, which is no doubt a key selling point for the school.

social media in higher education

Source: Instagram

By identifying what it is that makes your school special, you can be sure to put your best foot forward on social media and create content that is linked to your overarching brand. 

2. Curate Content Across Platforms 

Once you understand what it is that you want to say, you need to know how to disseminate that message effectively. The average social media user engages with an average of 6.6 different social media platforms. To maximize its reach, your school should be thinking about what kind of platforms your audience uses so that content can be tailored. 

Every social media platform has its own style and benefits. A good social media strategy for higher education should account for that fact and take advantage of the unique features available across different channels. 

Video is currently one of the most powerful vehicles of communication. According to a HubSpot poll, 85% of marketers rank short-form videos as the most effective type of social media content in 2021. The rise of video is largely thanks to apps such as Instagram and TikTok. 

Example: The University of Cambridge created a TikTok to promote its Summer School. Here, video is an engaging format that is well-suited to content in the school’s Music program. It allows prospects to visualize life at the school while also receiving important information on registration deadlines. 

social media strategy for higher education

Source: TikTok 

Instagram reels are another way to spread key information in a concise and appealing form. For example, the University of Sydney created an Instagram post on the opening of its new Engineering and Technology precinct. Rather than just making an announcement, the school uses the video function to give users a teaser of the new facilities. 

social media marketing strategy

Source: Instagram

While video can do wonders for social media engagement, it’s important to note that video content takes more time to plan and execute than other posts. In that case, your school may want to consider creating a video content strategy to make proper use of these platforms.

3. Shine a Light on Your School Community

Social media in higher education is a chance to turn your school and its brand into a living, breathing community. Prospects are not only investing in your brand, but in the experience it offers. Through content that showcases student stories, clubs and activities, and faculty members, prospects can get an idea of what life on your campus is truly like. 

Your current students are some of your best resources when it comes to attracting new students; their experiences are what will entice prospects to follow in their footsteps. That’s why many schools have turned to student-generated content to supplement their social media channels. This involves creating online communities for your students, faculty, admin and alumni and encouraging them to get involved with your school’s social media accounts. 

The University of Melbourne regularly allows students to take the stage on its TikTok accounts. The example below is a student-led post that illustrates the different clubs on offer at the university.  

social media strategy for schools

Source: TikTok

Schools should aim to strike a balance between content on the academic and social experience at their institution to give prospects a better idea of what they can achieve on campus. 

Example: The University of Edinburgh’s Instagram page features a series of posts titled “Creative Sparks.” This series highlights ways in which its students and staff have gone on to succeed as entrepreneurs in creative industries across the UK. 

higher education social media strategy

Source: Instagram 

Nowadays, prospects don’t just want to hear about your school’s selling points; they want to see evidence of them in action. When you tune into what’s happening on your school’s own campus, you’ll find a ton of real-life content that speaks for itself. By bringing that content into the spotlight and making the community the focus of your posts, you can leverage social media to authentically bring your institution to life. 

4. Build Your School’s Reputation in the Education Sector

Like all content you create, your school’s social media presence reflects its image and standing in the sector. Your school is not only fighting for exposure on social media platforms; it’s also competing with a host of other educational institutions. In that case, your higher education social media marketing efforts should consider ways to support the credibility of your institution. The best way to do this is by integrating relevant content that appeals to industries today. 

For many schools, their reputation in the education sector is based on their status as research institutions. They are at the forefront of leading conversations in different subject fields. To maintain that perception, your school’s social media strategy should consider content that demonstrates its authority in the field. 

Example: A Facebook post from The University of Manchester highlighted how one of its Professors was recognized for his contribution to the field of Computer Science. 

social media marketing for education

Source: Facebook

LinkedIn is another great resource that attracts budding young professionals looking to advance their careers. As such, the platform is a suitable choice for sharing industry-related articles or academic updates. 

Example: Yale University used a LinkedIn post to announce the launch of its new cutting-edge MSc program – the first of its kind that combines surgery and engineering. 

social Media marketing for schools

Source: LinkedIn

Prospects come away from these posts with the knowledge that they are joining a reputable institution that is keeping up to date with – and pioneering – the latest industry trends. With a strong social media presence, your school can boost brand awareness while simultaneously reinforcing its academic reputation.  

5. Keep Your Social Media in Higher Education Updated

A consistent social media presence is the key to keeping your school in the minds of prospective students. And consistency means keeping your platforms active with regular posts. A dead social media channel not only hurts the recognition of your brand but also calls into question the relevance of your institution in today’s sector. If no one is talking about or hearing from a school, then maybe it’s not so renowned. 

Frequently updating your social media channels will prevent your school from getting lost in the void. We’ve already seen several examples of the kind of content you can post to garner attention. Open houses, graduation days, online information sessions and sporting events are all things that you can share to illustrate the experience on offer at your schools. 

While consistency is key, keep in mind that the quality of your posts is more important than the quantity. Each post should retain a purpose and contribute to an overall impression of your brand. In addition, your posts should be optimized to ensure information is clear and visitors are easily directed to the relevant web page. 

Automate the Process

Of course, maintaining multiple social media channels with regular content is easier said than done. That’s why many schools turn to marketing automation software to streamline the process. Tools such as HubSpot or HootSuite are designed to help you create and schedule posts across various platforms. This ensures that you have a regular flow of content while still allowing you to tailor posts to different networks. 

Along with scheduling and managing posts, marketing automation tools also offer a function for social monitoring. By monitoring your school’s reputation and visibility on social media, you can identify which platforms are most relevant for your school and which content best engages your audience. By tracking engagement on posts, your school can also ensure it responds in a timely manner to comments or questions from prospective students. 

If you want to take some of the work off and make the process even easier, consider investing in paid social ads. As competition for views on social media channels remains high, paid ads can ensure that your efforts don’t go unnoticed. You can be sure that people will see the content you’re posting. Many social media platforms, such as Facebook, will even let you pay to target your ads to specific audiences based on age, location, interest, education and more. That way, you can tailor your ads to prospective students, parents and friends. 

Keep an Eye on Your Competition

As we noted above, competition on social media channels can be heavy; maintaining your social media presence is largely about differentiating your brand and getting a leg up in the digital space. But first, it’s a good idea to know who you’re up against. The easiest way to do this is to identify your school’s competitors and browse their social media accounts to monitor their activity. 

Look out for how they’re addressing student interests in their content, along with the level of engagement that their posts gather. You can use this information to inspire your own posts and set the bar for the level of activity you should be working towards. By comparing the social media presence of your competitors, you can get an idea of how well your current social strategy is performing and find opportunities to improve. 

Example: This is a template of a social media competitive analysis report. The spreadsheet can be used to evaluate your competitors’ presence on various social media platforms, with key information on their active accounts and followers. 

education social media marketing

Source: Aha!

As more and more schools work to expand their digital presence, a strong social media strategy is essential to compete in the education sector today. Starting with a social media self-assessment is a great way to measure how effective your social efforts are, discover how well your school is meeting its marketing goals, and identify areas of opportunity for meaningful engagement. 

Today, social media has become more than a tool for communication and connection. It is a form of visual storytelling that you can use to create a vibrant and compelling narrative around your school. Every school has their own brand and unique messaging. With the right social media strategy in place, you can spread the word and reach prospective students far and wide.  

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