With application submissions for the Fall 2022 semester wrapping up, admissions leaders are shifting focus to the class of 2023, examining how to best attract this new pool of prospective students to their institutions. Since the start of the pandemic, admissions and marketing teams have had to pivot - working to find new strategies to engage with students as on-campus visits, tours, and events were canceled or limited. And with the overall number of enrollees decreasing, it’s become more important than ever to continuously engage with students and parents to maintain interest and excitement in an increasingly competitive landscape.
Enter social media. The high usage and easy accessibility of social media in the 15- to 25-year-old demographic makes the channel an ideal way to communicate on a large scale, build and manage a positive culture and reputation, and ultimately, increase interest and enrollments.
So, how are prospective students using social media in their college search and what do they want to see from a higher education institution’s social media page?
First, it’s important to note that even though this demographic might use certain social channels more than others, they may not necessarily want to engage with content from universities and colleges there. According to a 2021 survey of high school juniors by Niche.com, most students say that they are most interested in engaging with and viewing content from institutions on Instagram and YouTube, likely due to the more visual nature of these platforms. Additionally, these students note that they are most interested in seeing classrooms, academics, and campus life as well as updates on deadlines and important events. And in the last two years, more and more prospectives are reaching out to current students via personal college vlog posts or in public forums like Reddit to seek guidance on the application process and reassurances on post-Covid college life.
Here are some ideas on how to attract, engage and retain students to your institution using social media:
Show off your campus. Showing prospective students a visual, behind-the-scenes glimpse into student life is one of the unique benefits of social media. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth millions. If students cannot yet visit your campus for an in-person tour, bring the VIP tour to them by giving them inside access to not only the campus but inside dorms and classrooms as well.
Enlist college ambassadors to engage on your behalf. There are already tons of user-generated content on YouTube detailing a ‘day in the life” perspective from pretty much every college or university. Marketing teams should recruit, and credit, some of these standout content creators to share their experiences and testimonials via vlogs, interviews, and student takeovers to give an authentic view into what aspects of the school current students love most.
Bring program offerings to life. Prospective students want to know what to expect in the classroom as well as on campus. Introduce your programs and highlight why they are unique. Showcasing your incredible staff and their teaching methods and backgrounds is another great way to give students an idea of what it would be like to attend your institution and get them excited about continuing their education with you.
Communicate your mission, vision, and values - and be sure you can support it!. These are uncertain times and students, and parents, want to know how institutions are working to provide a healthy, safe, and welcoming environment for their enrollees. Having your campus leaders speak to the overall culture and their commitment to ensuring the entire community is embracing these values is meaningful – just be sure it’s not just talk! If there is any reason this could be construed as disingenuous, address it head-on instead of brushing it under the rug. Ignoring any perceived issues could do more harm than good.
Highlight wins and success stories. Prospective and current students alike want to hear from alumni and their experiences during their time at your institution and post-graduation. Select alumni from a variety of programs and highlight their journey from freshmen year to joining the workforce. And don’t be afraid to brag a bit about special recognition, awards, and other reasons to celebrate your institution – whether it’s an academic, athletic, social or aesthetic win, go ahead and flaunt it!
Continue the conversation in the comments. Designate who will be responsible for responding to comments and questions, and be sure the response is timely. Just like the posts themselves, authenticity is key. For example, if you are highlighting a current student’s vlog, it would be best to have a student ambassador respond instead of a faculty member. Occasional posts that encourage students to comment and engage are a great way to start a conversation and learn more about your followers who are prospective students.
The best way to pinpoint exactly what prospective and current students want to hear from you is to ask them directly! Vennli can help you quickly gather student research that will inform actionable insights when developing your content strategy. For more information, contact us or check out our eBook, “5 Easy Tips for Using Student Research to Improve Your Content Strategy”.