When it comes to recruiting – colleges, universities and private schools are finding the rules of engagement have changed.
Applicants avoid phone calls and emails—they want to have conversations at their leisure and through their communications channel of choice. Often times, that channel is social media.
In our integrated marketing and lead-generation work for schools, colleges and universities, we’ve found social media to be a highly effective tool for not only engaging potential students but driving direct conversations with applicants – conversations that convert to enrolled students.
Here are three ways to effectively use social media to drive enrollment:
Regardless of platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or LinkedIn), it’s important to create thematic content that educates (tells students something interesting about the school), has purpose (encourages them to take action) and at times, is humorous (as everyone responds to humor). Let’s take a college or university that is trying to drive enrollment for an online degree completion program—or a business school that is also targeting 25-35 year-old women. This potential student is a single mom, a mid-career professional who’s looking to make a change (or both), or someone trying to get ahead in a competitive working environment.
Thematic content, in this scenario, could include:
- A picture of a mom, in her kitchen, later in the evening with a caption that reads, “Your classroom doesn’t have desks, start times or limits. Jumpstart your career at your pace;”
- A short 30-second video that depicts a 32-year-old woman professional, working late and looking frustrated by her stagnant career. Her laptop is open to the school, college or university homepage with an inspirational message on the screen. She clicks “enroll,” or;
- A short podcast featuring a graduate who talks about her journey to becoming a C-suite executive at a notable company. That podcast is shared on Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, iTunes and other online/mobile channels.
With thematic content, you are telling a story that puts your target student into an educational experience where they say, “That can be me!”
It’s Still About Conversations
When it comes using social media for enrollment marketing, consider Facebook, Twitter and text messaging as your customer service engines. Applicants have questions. They need to know about deadlines, financial aid, time commitments, faculty expertise, curriculum design, job placement and other topics that will impact their decision. Make it easy for them to respond via social channels—and you’ll get more and better inquiries.
Schools, colleges and universities need to answer questions expeditiously. Applicants are busy and if they don’t hear from you quickly, they move on. Our suggestion is to respond as soon as possible—and within 12 to 24 hours at the latest. Texting can be a tactic to help you do just that. Be sure to ask for a phone number on your form fills so you can text back immediately.
Once an applicant opens the door to having a conversation, it’s an opportunity to build a relationship and get them closer to enrolling and depositing. So, chat back on the channel they used to contact you—time is of the essence.
Force Your Content Into the Stream
Social media is like a raging river. If you stand by the riverbed, you’ll see the water rushing by. The minute you walk away, you’re missing what’s in the stream.
The same can be said for social media. Consumers are inundated with content on their channels of choice. And the information keeps flowing.
Schools, colleges and universities should not expect to get every piece of content in front of every applicant. It’s impossible. To combat the raging river, we suggest using “paid posts” as a life raft.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, all offer various forms of paid content opportunities that force a message into streams of your target audience. By pinpointing the demographics and interests of your potential students, you can design the content in a creative way that features unique calls to action. Using sponsored posts to force the message into the stream is a near-perfect way to directly reach your target applicant.
Social media is evolving and changing, just like enrollment strategies and your potential target student. Be open to changing the methods you use to reach them and expect better enrollment results.