The past decade has witnessed increased pressure on higher education institutions to compete for students and funding. A Social Media strategy is one of the marketing tools that many schools, colleges and universities are adopting to compete in an increasingly complex and fierce market. With, approximately 8000 global competitors, finding a clearer position for your educational institute in the market is vital. The people, i.e. our students, prospective students, parents, alumni and staff, all have ownership of educational institutions too and they will be quick to respond when they see something they do not like. The key is to listen, respond and remain authentic in the process. Be a person, not a computer.
Find your brand advocates
Do you know who your brand’s strongest advocates are? How are you rewarding or engaging with them? Particularly with a new brand or campaign (think of Open Day’s and GCSE/A-Level results days), you’ll want to reach out to these leading voices and influencers who can help spread an opinion about a brand faster than your own website can. These are the users who regularly write positive comments on your updates, share your content, recommend your courses and products, defend you if needed, write about you on their websites, blogs or social media profiles. You will know your brand advocates by their repeated conversations about you and your products or services. By engaging with them and, most importantly, retweeting them, you will be showing potential students that your institution gets this type of response from the inside.
Focus on your core values
This exchange between the University of East Anglia and the University of Bath shows the importance of listening and responding to potential students as quick as possible. Educational institutions should focus on their core values such as student satisfaction and academic integrity. In this case, UEA’s student satisfaction rate relies on quick responses, and commonly students or potential students go to social media to voice their opinions. By quickly responding to this potential student’s dilemma, UEA were able to steer the vote firmly in their direction. Bath took 3 days to reply and by this time, the choice had been made.
As mentioned above, students will naturally take to social media to make complaints if they are not happy with a service. With some UK private schools charging £30K a year, and University tuition fees rising to a maximum of £9000 a year, students and their parents are quick to pick up on any imperfect details. Things like striking tend to be a negative aspect for many parents so prepare for possible negative feedback.
Keeping up conversation is key to creating a successful social media strategy for your educational institution. Be as genuine with a potential customer as you would face to face with them. Understand the pressures and worries of current and potential students and provide them with the information they need in a way that is engaging. Involve current students on social media by incentivising them to share photos and testimonials and keep contact with current students and alumni to build your brand advocates.
How do you use social media at your education institution? Tweet us and let us know at @SocialBUK