The impact of social media on every area of our lives over the last decade cannot be overestimated. Sites such as facebook, Twitter and Instagram have fundamentally altered the way that we relate to each other, communicate our thoughts, and present ourselves to the world. It’s little wonder then that they have also changed the way that colleges reach out to their students, and also the way that those students relate to the schools they are either attending or hope to attend in the near future.
It’s been demonstrated that high school students’ decisions on where to go to college are hugely influenced by social media conversations with their peers, as well as the social media presence of the institution to which they’re applying. These days, it’s unheard of for a school to not have a social media presence. If they’re not on Facebook, for instance, then they might as well not exist. While in the past, colleges existed as vague ideals in the minds of high schoolers, at least until they were able to visit the campus, social media lets these colleges take on a greater reality in the minds and imaginations of potential applicants.
Colleges need to attract students, and their admissions teams are as target driven as any other business. As such, a clear and effective social media strategy is at the top of their agenda. Like any advertising agency, they recognize social media as the promotional tool of the age and will employ people with excellent SEO skills and the ability to make the most of the various platforms available.
Similarly, colleges will have a communications team dedicated to handling public relations and making connections across a wide range of media. This will include handling the college’s main Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. However, other departments will most likely have their own social media accounts and followers, as will the various student groups, societies, and sports teams.
This is especially the case for science-based colleges with departments that are engaged in significant research as well as teaching. These departments will post about their work to an audience interested in the latest developments and discoveries occurring in their particular field.
Giving the right impression
The admissions department must take specific responsibility for engaging with prospective students. It is important that it projects a contemporary image that reflects the strengths of the college and appeals to the needs, interests, and concerns of today’s young people. The Instagram account of Bryant & Stratton College is a great example, showing a modern, up-to-date private college offering a wide range of educational opportunities to students.
Colleges must work to project the same message across every social media platform that they use while also playing to the strengths of each individual platform. Instagram is all about images, and these should be carefully chosen and curated, each one conveying a particular message. Twitter is great for short, sharp news updates, unambiguous statements, and witty one-liners, while Facebook is perhaps the best place to carry on a broader conversation, facilitating pictures and video alongside the exchange of views and opinions.
Colleges can find out who is already mentioning or reaching out to them by a simple social media search for the college’s name. They can then reply when appropriate and start building an invaluable one-on-one relationship with prospective students or other interested parties.
It should go without saying that colleges will also share or retweet posts that show them in a good light. Students sharing their excitement at being accepted by the college are a great example. Positive reflections by graduating students are also often shared.
A helping hand
Colleges can also use social media to promote self-care and good working habits among existing students. Examples of this might include gentle reminders to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep while studying, to links to counseling services or resources for anyone with alcohol-related problems. Many students suffer from stress and depression, but if this isn’t reported, then it’s hard for colleges to offer effective help. Social media is a good way to offer help and support and also to look out for students who may be struggling.
Social media is an amazing tool for colleges and students alike. It facilitates a closer relationship between individuals and institutions, allowing concerns to be addressed more immediately and for information to be more readily shared. Colleges are all about communicating knowledge, so it’s no wonder that they have seen the potential of social media as a positive force for achieving exactly this.