Social Media for Business Schools
Date posted: October 16, 2019
While the majority of business schools devote ample energy to their online presence, many don’t take full advantage of the opportunities that social media offers. Even business schools that do have a strong social presence often use soft engagement strategies that don’t funnel prospects through the admissions process as effectively as they could.
Since social media offers an image of your school that many potential applications consider more authentic than other channels, it is a powerful way to connect with prospects and offer them information of real value – thereby increasing their chance of applying exponentially.
Read on to learn how your school can create a social media strategy that has a tangible impact on your business school’s admissions process.
Consider your Business Student Personas
Before creating your social media marketing strategy, your first task is to think about the students you often come across in the admissions process: who are they, what are they looking for in a business school, and why would they be interested in yours? The better you understand your prospective student base, the easier it will be to create content that is relevant to those you’re trying to reach.
This process of conceptualizing your prospects is the first step of creating student ‘personas,’ which can help you to define and shape your social media strategy.
For schools, personas are representations of your typical potential applicants, and include common characteristics such as their age, gender, location, academic and professional background, and interests. It is also helpful to identify each persona’s motivations, as well as the challenges they face when deciding on which school to attend.
Example: Meet The Bachelor’s Candidate: an ambitious secondary school graduate looking for an enriching college experience and an internationally accredited degree.
Personas can help numerous aspects of your overall marketing strategy, but they’re especially helpful when it comes to social media for business schools. Since social media is a mostly indirect marketing tactic – in other words, students are coming to you, instead of you reaching out to them – you need content that’s as relevant as possible in order to make a real impact on the channel.
Your personas will help you figure out what your prospective students would find most useful, interesting, and appealing on social media. From there, you can determine what types of content to post, what resources to offer, and, most importantly, how you should present your school on different social networks.
Set Your Business School’s Social Media Goals
It’s easy to create posts, share content, and engage with users on social media, but doing this aimlessly won’t generate long-term results.
However, if you create a strategy based on well thought-out goals, over time your social channels will increase the benefit you get from the channel.
These goals can take many forms, ranging from softer outcomes like building awareness of your brand, to better engaging your online community, to more tangible results like driving increased inquiries and applications. Which outcomes will benefit your school the most will depend on your unique needs.
Once you have determined your goals, the next step is to set benchmarks that will let you know whether you’re progressing towards them. In the marketing world, these benchmarks are called key performance indicators (KPIs).
KPIs are quantifiable measurements, related to your goals, that you set over a given time period. For example, if your goal is to drive more traffic to your school’s blog, the amount of click throughs you generate from sharing your blogs on your social channels might be a KPI.
Whether you want to build brand awareness, engage directly with prospects, or drive new leads, clearly defined KPIs and goals will ensure your business school’s social media strategy is reflective of what you want to achieve with your campaign. Setting KPIs and goals will also make it easier to analyze your campaigns, evaluate the progress you’ve made, and identify the areas you need to improve.
Developing a Multi-Channel Social Media Strategy for Business Schools
There are number of different social media channels that your school must be active on if you want to build a solid online reputation and reach as many prospective students as possible. The greater your online visibility, the easier it is for students to learn about your school, and the more inquiries and applications you’ll receive as a result.
Each channel occupies a slightly different niche in the social media world, and your business school can adapt its social strategy to best fit each platform.
As the fastest growing social media channel, business schools can reach an increasingly large number of prospects through Instagram. Since IG is all about images, business schools can use their account to visually capture different aspects of their school.
Example: IE Business School posts high quality Instagram photos that showcase its exciting events, thriving clubs, and beautiful campus.
One of the most popular features on IG is Instagram Stories, which are short photo or video clips that disappear after 24 hours. On Instagram, you have the option to add different interactive elements to your stories, making them a particularly effective way to engage with students.
Example: Goodman School of Business showcases its events and achievements on this Instagram Story.
While Instagram may not drive web traffic to the same extent as other platforms, or seem like the most natural fit for business schools, it’s still the world’s second largest social network – as well as the one that the coming generation of your prospects are most likely to be active on. That should make it an essential part of your social media mix.
While Twitter’s growth has recently been eclipsed by Instagram, it’s still one of the most popular social media channels, so it’s imperative that your school puts time and energy into maintaining a strong presence.
Business schools, in particular, can benefit greatly from Twitter since it’s the go-to platform for news and topical content. Many of your prospects may already use it to keep up with business trends, so by sharing your own content and paying attention to trending business hashtags, you can offer them the relevant information they’re already looking for, and position your school as a trusted online authority in your field.
Example: HEC Paris Business School frequently shares its own blog posts, many of which focus on topical business trends. The school also retweets articles written by professors and alumni to offer Twitter users further information and insights, and demonstrate its engagement with the wider business and academic communities on the platform.
As the world’s biggest social media site, it’s crucial for business schools to develop a strong Facebook presence. Simply put, you have the potential to reach a much larger audience on the platform than on any other social network. For example, Yale School of Management’s Facebook page has 85k followers, which is considerably higher than their 55k followers on LinkedIn, 50k followers on Twitter, and 27k followers on Instagram.
While Facebook’s organic reach has dwindled in recent years, certain strategies can still help your school find success. For instance, the platform’s livestreaming feature generates a great deal of engagement. In fact, Facebook Live videos produce 6x as many interactions as regular videos.
There are many ways for business schools to leverage Facebook Live as a recruitment tool. You can allow prospects to dialogue with professors and alumni through a Q&A format, offer virtual tours, and even allow viewers to take part in exciting events on your campus.
Example: University of Alberta School of Business livestreams lectures and other events, giving keen prospective students the chance to learn about the different kinds of opportunities the school offers.
Last, but certainly not least, is the business-centric platform of LinkedIn. Considering that LinkedIn users tend to be career-driven professionals, it’s no secret to business schools that their target audience overlaps with LinkedIn’s user base.
What’s more, LinkedIn offers tailored features for higher education institutions, including a unique profile specifically for schools. These pages make it easy to communicate with prospects, alumni, current students, parents, and even employers, faculty, or donors.
Example: One particularly effective part of LinkedIn’s school pages is the alumni section, where prospective students can access the professional profiles of your institution’s graduates.
How much of your attention you devote to each of these sites will depend a lot on what target audience you are trying to reach, as well as your school’s unique selling points, but having something of a presence on each one is desirable. And while much of your content can overlap on different social platforms, keep in mind the particular benefits of each in order to make the most of social media marketing for business schools.
Planning Your Business School’s Social Media Content
The content you post is the crux of your social media strategy – it’s what will attract, engage, and convert prospects, as well as define your business school’s image.
With some strategy and creativity, business schools can make their social media profiles into intellectual hubs where students can simultaneously gain business insight and learn more about your school. Here’s a few ideas to get you started.
Creating Topical Posts on Social Media
Since many millennials receive their news from social media, why not make your profile a place where prospects can go to learn about what’s going on in the business world? Doing so will simultaneously demonstrate your expertise in a prospect’s field of interest and attract quality student leads organically.
Example: Tepper School of Business frequently shares articles from respected business publications on its social accounts. This particular piece is actually written by a Tepper professor himself, elevating the school further in the eyes of readers.
If you can figure out how to connect the informative content you share back to your courses and programs, you’ll both offer helpful resources to prospective students and further pique their interest in studying at your school.
One easy way to do this is by creating your own blog posts around topical content and business trends and sharing them on your social media channels.
Example: When a major business news story breaks, consider writing a blog post on it and sharing it to social media, like McGill Desautels did with this article on recent Boeing 737 software issues.
Highlight Student Success on Social
If business schools really want to stand out on social media, it’s not enough just to demonstrate your industry expertise. If your school really wants to boost its online reputation, you need to show how that expertise has impacted your students.
One effective way to do this is by leveraging alumni success stories. Think about the graduates you have who are charting new territory in the business world and highlight their accomplishments on your social accounts. By showcasing how your school has advanced the careers of its students, prospects will be more likely to trust you and see studying with you as an investment in their future.
Example: There are many ways for schools to showcase their alumni online. Yale School of Management occasionally shares articles that highlight the accomplishments of their alumni, as shown in the first example. In the second example, the institution compiled numerous alumni stories in their online magazine and shared it on social.
Showcase Campus Life and Networking Opportunities
While academic and career opportunities are usually the most important factors in a business student’s decision-making process, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to have an enriching social experience at your school. After all, the business world is all about networking.
Fortunately, it’s easy to capture campus life on social media. With various content formats like photos, videos, livestreaming, and stories, your school can present different facets of the business school experience in different ways.
Example: Carlson School of Management uses Instagram Stories to alert students of upcoming networking opportunities, and to share photos from those events.
Since each platform offers different posting formats, and social networks are constantly creating new features, business schools will never run out of fresh and unique content ideas for their prospects.
Organize Your Social Media Content
Once your school has content in the bank, the next step is to determine when to post it.
When creating your social media marketing strategy, you should share content that is informative, educational, and entertaining alongside content designed to showcase your school. Many marketers follow the 80/20 principle, which states that 80% of your posts should be of interest to your personas, and 20% should be self-promotional.
Keep that principle in mind as you plan out your social media posts. Make sure to spread out your lead generating content, such as an event signup page or an admissions guide, with awareness and engagement-building content like insightful articles and fun videos.
A social media scheduling tool can be useful for making sure you’re maintaining a content balance and organizing your strategy efficiently.
Many marketing automation programs offer social media organizers that make it easier for schools to both schedule and monitor their social posts.
Example: HubSpot’s social media scheduling platform helps ensure your posts go out at precisely the right time.
The more streamlined your social media efforts are, the more effective they will be, and the more time your admissions staff can devote to other marketing activities.
Social Media Advertising for Business Schools
With 6,000 business schools around the world searching for top quality students, paid advertising is practically essential if your institution wants to gain a competitive edge.
Social advertising can be a huge part of this strategy. In fact, a recent Association of MBAs study found that business schools are spending almost a third of their marketing budget advertising on the channel.
Although you can create ads for every social media channel, the two ad platforms your business school will likely find most beneficial in terms of generating returns are Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Ads.
Find Business Students With Facebook Ads
As the second biggest advertising platform after Google and the biggest social media ad platform, Facebook Ads can play a major role in your school’s online visibility.
Facebook Ads Manager enables you to customize your target ad audience based on characteristics such as:
- Location (city, community, countries, etc.)
- Demographics (age, gender, education, job, etc.)
- Interests (hobbies, passions, etc.)
- Behaviour (purchasing history, device usage, etc.)
- Connections (events attended, apps used, pages liked, etc.)
Example: If your school is looking to promote one of its graduate degrees, you can target those with the relevant work experience and academic history for your program.
Facebook also offers a wide variety of advertising formats – from stories to videos to photos to direct messages to promoted events – to suit any type of ad campaign.
Example: This newsfeed Facebook Ad from EU Business School is simple, clear, and captivating.
Facebook ad campaigns can also be an opportunity to experiment with Instagram Ads as well, as both can be created and run through Facebook Ads Manager.
Create Successful LinkedIn Ads for Business Schools
Just as LinkedIn is one of the most effective social media platforms for reaching prospective business students, LinkedIn Ads have proven particularly successful for business schools.
With LinkedIn, you can set professionally focused parameters that are highly relevant for your institution, allowing you to pinpoint an audience with the academic background and work experience you’re looking for. The profession-focused fields are particularly detailed, and can include industry, company, job title, and group memberships.
Ad formats on LinkedIn include sponsored posts and text ads, as well as the ever-popular Sponsored InMail, which shares characteristics with both instant messaging and email marketing. The platform is set up somewhat like Facebook Messenger, but the messages are set up like emails, with subject lines and the option to place linked CTAs within the body. However, in contrast to email, LinkedIn messages have a 400% higher open rate. Through LinkedIn Ads Manager, you can send InMails en masse without having to connect with the users.
Example: As you can see, InMail comes in email format – using subject lines and CTAs – but the message comes from a real user’s profile, making it feel more personalized than a display ad.
Many business schools, in particular, have found InMail to be highly effective. For instance, a Jon M. Huntsman’s School of Business InMail campaign generated a 27.5 percent open rate and a 71 percent conversion rate. However, keep in mind that this effectiveness comes with a cost – LinkedIn Ads are on the expensive side of social media advertising, so budget accordingly.
Monitor Your Business School’s Social Media Marketing Outcomes
Since it takes time to develop an engaged social media audience, it’s essential for business schools to pay close attention to their performance if they want to continuously grow their presence across different social networks.
On each social media channel, you can see how your posts are performing, and who is engaging with them.
Example: Facebook Insights offers useful reports to evaluate your progress on social media.
Schools can also glean insights from other reporting sources like CRM and marketing automation software, as well as Google Analytics, to measure your social media performance across channels. These reports also allow you to analyze how many leads your social strategy is generating by showing how many people visit your website from social, and how many of those people ultimately submit inquiries and applications. If paid advertising is part of your school’s social media strategy, you can also view detailed results data on your platform of choice to monitor and optimize your ad for maximum success.
The better you understand your social media campaigns, the easier it is to identify areas of improvement. With a robust monitoring strategy, your school will be better equipped to meet the goals it set out to achieve through social media.