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Using social media to communicate with your student audiences is pretty standard operating procedure for most colleges. In fact, if you are not doing it, and doing it well, your approach to marketing and communications is definitely behind the times. With social media you can interact with your target audiences, measure and track numerous important metrics and grow your share of social media voice (aka share of conversation).

Share of social media voice relates to your standing amongst competitors in regards to the number of articles, posts, tweets, videos or images that mention your school. It is, essentially, a measure of how often your school is mentioned and involved in the online “conversation”.

As an example, take a look at this graphic highlighting the share of social media voice for community colleges in the province of Ontario for the month of May, 2011 (this graphic was generated with the use of Radian6).

Looking at this image, we can clearly see that Centennial College leads the way by quite a large margin. They have accomplished this by focusing on social media engagement and monitoring.

In order to grow your share of social media voice in this way, your school has to encourage social media interaction with visitors by providing calls to action (“Stay Connected with us!”) and links to your profiles on major social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and your school blog. Of course, this means that you have to establish and maintain a presence on all these sites, as each one has a role to play in your engagement with the different audiences visiting your website.

Let’s take a closer look at what these social media sites can provide:

  • Twitter
    Twitter provides an easy outlet for daily interaction with students, alumni and parents of students. Your school can offer a range of college news, well wishes, announcements, student congratulations and retweets of positive messages, pictures and videos.
  • Facebook
    Your college Facebook page can act like a gateway to other social media streams, with news, pictures, videos and posts from your school blog.
  • Flickr
    Photostreams on Flickr are a nice way to focus on special events sponsored by your college or held on your campuses.
  • YouTube
    With an array of video clips on YouTube, you can deliver messages from staff and faculty, student profiles, events and more to all your different audiences.
  • Blog
    A blog gives your school a platform for longer stories about the community, student population and college, with the potential for student tips, pics and videos.

Taken together, you can see how a comprehensive social media strategy can provide a well-rounded sense of the college, its programs, students and campuses. These varied social media marketing methods also cover the whole spectrum of interaction with their website’s potential visitors, helping you attract prospective students (who may be part-time, international or continuing education students, among others) and retain your connection with current students, staff, alumni and more.

Following this share of social media voice, therefore, is increasingly important. By doing so, you can start to understand what needs or problems all your target audiences have with your school or programs, how these discussions take place in real time and how prominent your college is in these discussions.  You can’t obviously control all the information out there, but by being an active part of your social media presence, you can help guide and drive the conversation. In turn, this can help you solidify your brand reputation, gain the trust of the online community and grow your share of social media voice.

How are you managing your college’s share of social media voice?

For more information on Social Median Monitoring and share of voice, please see the following presentation, “Social Media and Traditional Media: What Works Best for Colleges and Institutes”, presented by Higher Education Marketing founder Philippe Taza at the 2011 ACCC conference.