9 Ways Universities Can Use Facebook Marketing to Connect and Engage Students
Facebook is a social networking service that was created by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg in 2004. Initially designed as a networking tool for Harvard students, it quickly spread to other schools and was finally opened to the public in 2006. Facebook is now, by a very wide margin, the biggest social network worldwide.
No doubt it remains the most-used platform among millennials with India leading the overall number of Facebook users as of April 2018. (270 million, source https://www.statista.com)
Over a period of time, Facebook has evolved itself as a viable alternative tool for information searching. People can get updates about news and events through Facebook Pages and join Facebook groups for collaborative work. It is also a usual practice for prospective students these days to research on Facebook while deciding on their choice of university and course.
With Facebook becoming an essential part of students’ lives, there are many things that universities can do to market their brand and engage students.
Here are some of the ideas that universities and colleges can use to leverage benefits of Facebook marketing.
1. Getting Started
To begin with, start sharing interesting news and updates about the university that might be relevant to your target audience. These could be feeds on important events, scholarly achievements of students and professors, life at campus, key milestones achieved by the university etc. This will give your audience a sense of happenings in the university while they are on Facebook.
Here it is also important to mention that your social media team must be able to distinguish what is news and what is simply noise. Ideally, not more than two posts a day should be posted on your timeline. If you want to get better results from your posts, use Facebook Insights on your page to track user interaction. By using Facebook Insights you’ll be able to determine the best time of day to post, the best day of the week to post and what type of content is most popular.
2. Tell your University’s Story with ‘Milestone’ Feature’
Facebook is a dynamic social media platform where new features are added regularly to magnify one’s social media presence. Milestone feature on your Facebook page is one of them. These are a type of Page post that let you highlight key moments.
One of the best marketing opportunities that Milestone provides is being able to tell brand stories. You can use this feature to educate your audience about your University’s rich history. You can use captivating images to project important events that transpired to bring your institution where it is today. Use a Milestone to convey inspirational journey of your University. Communicating your University’s depth in the field of education can help create a favourable brand perception.
In a nutshell, Milestone can be used to create the following advantage:
- Displays your growth to existing and new members.
- Showcases interesting aspects of your educational entity.
- Increase member participation and retain their interest.
To list a milestone on your university’s Facebook timeline, click on the three dots below the Page cover photo and proceed.
3. Create Engagement by Event Page
One of the favorite tools on Facebook is to create a Facebook event to promote an actual event. To highlight an important event, you can create a separate event page. A Facebook event page is typically created to notify users of any upcoming workshop, seminar or inter-college events etc. You can invite members of the group or fans of your page to join the event. Event updates can also be boosted to reach out to a larger audience who might be interested to attend it.
Facebook events don’t just notify users that their friends are going to an event in their newsfeed but it also shows up in suggested events for the attendee’s friends. This is as good as a direct invitation.
4. Set an Impressive Brand Identity with Cover Photo
One of the most attractive changes in your Facebook Timeline is characterized by a splashy, high-impact header photo that refreshes users mind every time they land on your page. The cover image can be used to symbolize what your University is all about.
University must find creative ways to use Facebook cover image such as sharing your value proposition, celebrating memories of popular events, display student life at campus, or convey experiential learning inside campus using videos.
5. Manage your University’s Reputation and SEO Ranking through Facebook Reviews
One of the innovative ways to connect with your target audience is to make sure that your online reputation is managed well. An important tool that is often overlooked in doing so is utilizing and maintaining reviews on Facebook.
Facebook’s star rating system allows your audience to share their opinion or experience about your brand with others whether positive or negative. Facebook star ratings let educational entities create greater brand awareness. Reviews help in building brand transparency and increases integrity and credibility. They play a bigger part than anything else in influencing decisions of prospective students.
In addition to University’s website, prospective students also check out social media reviews to research their university options and course.
Facebook provides a section for you to collect reviews and ratings from current and past students, where you can also react or comment on the reviews. By responding to reviews especially unpleasant comments, you can show your prospective students and other stakeholders that you value their association and feedback.
Online reviews also affect your search engine rankings in web space. So, take them seriously.
You can turn on the review section of your Facebook Page by navigating to “Settings” > “Edit Page” > “Tabs”. Besides “Reviews”, click on “Settings”, toggle the “Show Reviews” option, and then hit “Save”.
6. Create Engagement with Students, Alumni and More Using Facebook Live
About 24 percent of Facebook’s total user base is between the ages of 18-24, which is the perfect age of college-going students (prospective or current). This is pretty good news for Universities hoping to engage with students. And Facebook Live does exactly the same in a more interesting way.
Thanks to Facebook Live you can now engage with students in a more interactive and interesting way. Using live video feature Universities can organize webinars/ chat sessions with Deans, conduct live and interactive campus tours, engage alumni, or simply go live to make a direct appeal for raising awareness about some good cause.
Facebook Live enables Universities to communicate directly with their audience. Live videos are more likely to show up first in people’s feeds.
Identify passionate students who are interested in capturing live moments around the campus and get started. All they need is a smartphone.
7. Engage new students and Alumni with Facebook Group
Facebook groups help new students to connect with the University and their batchmates even before the program starts. Through this group you can share admission related updates and other events/ activities happening on campus.
During admissions, students enquire a lot about campus life, placements and other joining details. Such groups allow Universities to efficiently manage these queries on one platform.
So it makes sense to have a Facebook Group for new students where they can ask questions, interact with one another, and get information about events and activities of the University. In this way, students can get to know the University better before joining.
Once the students are on campus, you can share news and announcements related to their course, upload photos and videos of the commencement day to create cherishable memories for them. The first few days in campus can serve as an interesting theme to engage current and prospective students.
Besides, Facebook group can also be used for staying in touch with the alumni. Such groups can help in bringing the Alumni together to contribute in the growth of the University in many ways.
8. Start Hashtags
Using strategic hashtags can be of great value because Millennials are socially savvy people who constantly look for ways to start conversations about public events, people, and topics of common interest. Hashtags are more organized and convenient way to generate buzz and monitor discussions around popular events.
Universities can start a hashtag campaign to leverage cross promotion across social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.
9. Facebook Notes
There are a lot of great ways Universities can use Facebook Notes. Here are a few of them.
- Notes are generally created to share updates on activities or events in greater detail.
- Notes can be used as sub-Facebook Pages within the main account to summarize latest blog posts, post important news etc. and create backlinks to drive traffic back to your website.
- Create Notes to briefly describe your University.
What other ideas do you have?
Facebook has evolved as a great marketing channel to engage millennials. Universities can use it to stay in touch with current and prospective students.
What other ideas can Universities explore to connect and engage with students in a better way using Facebook? Do let us know.
We will also be happy to hear anything innovative that you do at your College and/or University using Facebook.