When it comes to recruiting new students, what happens on your school’s social media platforms may be just as important as what unfolds on campus. Education market research tells us that 99 percent of universities now use some form of social media. And upwards of 94 percent of students are using those channels to evaluate prospective schools, and interact with institutions once enrolled. What will they find on your school’s platforms?
For colleges large and small, establishing an effective social media marketing strategy has evolved from recruitment “bonus” to absolute “must-have.” And getting there means much more than posting the odd comment, tweet, or video – students are savvy when it comes to scouting out your school’s true commitment to engaging their interest and joining their conversations. What will set your institution apart is your willingness to talk with students online, respond to their posts, questions, and even their criticism. These are valuable opportunities to showcase your programs, your attentiveness, and your genuine interest in connecting with followers.
Here are a few tips for organizing and optimizing the way you follow up online:
United School Voice = Consistent School Brand
Who speaks for your college? Chances are, more than one person responds to social media messages. Admissions, recruitment, student ambassadors – with so many voices in the chorus, your school’s brand may well get lost in the discord. It’s no good being quirky and sarcastic on your Twitter feed while your Facebook responses are totally straight-laced and conservative. Or responding to LinkedIn queries with useful links one day, and a scant one-liner the next. Erratic messaging makes for a confusing character snapshot of your school, leaving visitors lost as to what your institution stands for, and the culture they might encounter there as a student.
Streamline Your School’s Response System
In order to avoid moody messaging, duplicate responses, and inconsistent information, colleges should implement a social media management system. Digital marketing teams use programs like HootSuite, HubSpot, Sendible, and SproutSocial – collaborative management tools that streamline the process of updating social media accounts. They provide a single dashboard from which to schedule posts, monitor comments and questions, and keep track of your school’s mentions. Essentially, they collect all of your school’s social media messages in one place, and alert you to posts that require immediate response – helping you avoid unanswered questions. These systems allow each team member to see what the others are doing and saying online, as well as send internal messages and assign tasks. This type of integration goes a long way toward creating a seamless, brand-consistent response system for your college.
Answer Students With Actionable Advice
When prospective or current students post questions on one of your school’s social media channels, it’s critical that a team member responds as soon as possible. Not only is an inactive platform a turnoff to visitors, an unanswered concern represents a lost opportunity to engage and convert a promising new lead. Sheridan college does a great job of following up on a student’s question about accessing the school’s online portal:
Sheridan’s timely response demonstrates that they keep a close eye on their news feeds, and are ready to provide actionable information (like contact numbers and email addresses) for students who need further support. The responder went above and beyond the requisite “problem resolved” template by incorporating multiple follow-up options. Questions about academics, campus resources, or technical access provide social media monitors a golden opportunity to engage with prospects and show them more of what their school has to offer – a brochure, a CTA, an open house invite. For example:
- Question about living on campus = housing coordinator contact or link to appropriate webpage
- Concern about funding = financial services contact or link to scholarship info
- Question about a particular area of study = link to programs page or brochure
Capitalize on Positive Student Feedback
If a current student or alum posts a thank you or a career update on your school, you should always post a response. No student recruitment strategy or PR campaign can ever outdo a genuine testimonial from one of your social media followers. Leaving the comment hanging in virtual mid air tells leads that you either don’t look at your platforms or don’t prioritize following up. Plus, you miss the opportunity to promote your success rate and the marketability of your programs! Take a look at how the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS) capitalizes on positive feedback with this response to a student post:
The faculty member’s personalized and caring response really hits the mark in terms of leveraging alumni testimonials. As this example shows, one comment usually sparks others – which is precisely the kind of follower engagement colleges should strive for on their social media platforms. And when leads are checking out your pages to make a post-secondary decision, they see a range of positives: your school’s friendly and supportive brand, the marketability of your programs, and the accessibility of your instructors.
Don’t Ignore The Naysayer
Unfortunately, social media chatter is not always positive. We know you’d rather erase that negative comment lurking on your school’s Twitter feed, or that angry Facebook rant about one of your programs, campus resources, or administrative procedures. In their desire to boost lead generation, many colleges are tempted to eradicate less than stellar commentary from their social media channels. But the truth is students are no more impressed by squeaky clean social media exchanges than they are by traditional glossy college brochures. Like most consumers, students respond well to authenticity. They’re visiting your pages to get a sense of your school beyond its official, promotional image. And admittedly, there are times when an apology is in order and a grievance must be acknowledged and addressed. Leads need to see that you care about your students and listen to their comments – the good, the bad, and everything in between.
For more advice on handling criticism on social media, check out this simple, 6-step guide from Hubspot.
Does your school engage effectively with followers on social media?