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The dawn of new millennium has witnessed exponential growth in internet technologies and its convergence with smart communication devices especially mobile phones. One of the largest beneficiaries of this communication revolution is the younger generation of college going students. This millennial generation characterizes a very different outlook towards the way things are perceived. For them, experience is prime and sometimes even more important than the product itself. Also, advertising spend in educational institutions is becoming more and more accountable day by day. Further, proliferation of higher education institutions is leading to rising competition in this space for attracting admission aspirants. All this has led higher education institutions in search of a communication channel which is not only cost effective and ensures a wide outreach but is also very effective in creating user intensive content. With advancement in digital technologies, it has now become very easy to locate and reach out to prospective target audience (in this case admission applicants) through Digital/Social media properties. Social media is quickly changing the admission marketing landscape in education sector.
Earlier Institutions had limited sources to market their programs namely print media, static websites, tele-calling and other traditional marketing channels to convey marketing messages. Advertising content used to be generic lacking customization based on user needs. The entire campaign was just a one sided affair where there was no possibility of capturing real-time feedback and take corrective action in middle of the campaign. There was still nothing different which the Institute could offer to its prospective admission seekers in order to help them make an informed decision. Considering this to be one of the most crucial decisions of one’s career it was quite disappointing.
But today there are wide array of social media channels to access prospective students for sharing vital information of your College/University. The best thing about social media is that it can be accessed anytime from anywhere. Prospective students are hooked on to popular social media platforms such Facebook, Youtube, Instagram etc. on 24/7 basis. Besides, helping to connect with prospective applicants, social media is also a very effective advertising tool to generate leads for driving admissions.
Today’s market is highly tech-savvy, more demanding, and constantly on the move. As a matter of fact, market intelligence suggests that 80% of internet users are now using a smartphone. What does this imply? It means that in the digital era, due to unlimited number of marketing channels, the attention span of a normal user is very less. The challenge here therefore is to attract maximum attention in short span of time. As such, developing a strong digital/social media strategy keeping in tune with emerging trends has become more important. But, social media is like an ocean of things. Without proper planning and direction, any effort made can go in vain. Social media is also a double edge sword. Admission marketers need to be very careful while developing relevant marketing messages. Wrong positioning and improper content can lead to de-branding of your Institution.
For making maximum impact, Institutions can make use of the following strategic plan:
a) The first step in crafting your digital/social media plan should be identification of the right target audience and mapping the social media channel accordingly which will eventually be used for reaching out to the desired target audience (applicants). The success of your social media campaign depends a lot on this process. Therefore, considerable amount of time should be spent in brainstorming on the right target group of prospective admission aspirants; their interests, career aspirations and challenges. This will help in understanding their thought process for zeroing on a choice of their interest to pursue their career aspirations and building compelling social media campaigns around the same to attract attention.
b) Secondly, after the target audience is defined and platform for promotion identified, creating an engaging content strategy should be the next logical progression in your effort for developing an effective social media strategy. This will help in crafting engaging social media posts and video contents that will generate curiosity in the minds of admission seekers. They will be compelled to explore more about your brand.
c) Now once you are ready with a broad set of content ideas and have also refined the list of the best social media channels to be used (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Blog, Instagram. SEO/SEM etc.), the next thing to do is to implement the whole strategy by creating a content calendar based on a certain objective and theme for promotion.
d) In the process of developing an interesting content planner it would be useful to involve and invite all internal stakeholders/departments on board for contributing in the success of your social media strategy. This collaborative approach will give you the ability to develop, change, and update your ideas, as well as your campaigns on a regular basis and keep the information flow going.
e) Finalize budget for running social media campaigns for increasing outreach and lead generation through SEO.
f) An effective strategy can go waste if you do not have the right resources to lead the campaign. It is very crucial to determine the team who will be delegated for helping you to run the campaign successfully and reach the desired campaign goals.
g) Lastly, it can be said that what gets measured gets done. Campaign deliverables need to be measured regularly to achieve best return on investment. Make use of social media analytics tool in Twitter, Facebook etc. and Google Analytics to track campaign performance. By measuring campaign results, you’ll be able to figure out how to build upon talking points for your campaigns, keywords etc. that will drive traffic and encouraged engagement. Learnings from mistakes well supported by insights gained through analytics will subsequently help in fine tune your entire communication strategy for making your digital/social media efforts sustainable and successful.
Remember, brand building of your Institution using social media is a step-by-step process that will take time to evolve. Higher educational institutions should focus on creating brand equity through truthful campaigns that are intended to highlight true potential of the Institute rather than spreading misleading information or making lofty statements about them. Intelligent use of social media based on honest marketing messages can seriously enhance the success rate of your campaigns to gain competitive advantage.