With the prevalence of social media in our everyday lives, there are a number of misconceptions around how to effectively create a social media plan and strategy for businesses. Some traditional organizations may mistakenly think that simply hiring a young person who grew up online is enough to improve their social media marketing.
Effective social media marketing isn’t mindless; it requires know-how, creativity, and finesse. Finding someone within your organization who you can train in social media marketing, recruiting a specialist, or hiring an agency is necessary for getting the most out of your marketing dollars. For academic institutions, this can be even more important, due to the added responsibilities of public organizations and representing higher learning. Here are some tips to keep your social media marketing professional and effective.
What are You Using Social Media for?
For most businesses, social media is used to boost brand awareness, engage with their community, and drive revenue. For an academic institution, engaging thoughtfully with your community is a very effective way to boost your school's visibility and to generate registration, especially when you are targeting international students.
Goal setting gives you the ability to track success and allow you to adjust on the fly. Your social media marketing plan is a vital part of a digital marketing plan and successful integration will allow it to be in sync with the rest of your marketing efforts. If you represent a smaller trade school or program, you may want to concentrate on registration numbers. For larger universities, brand recognition and public awareness may be your primary goal. Build your social media policies around the scale of your institution and the objectives you have set out.
An initial audit of any existing social media accounts can help shed light on strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. A baseline audit consists of evaluating your social media profiles, determining whether your presence is on brand, and laying the groundwork for your strategic planning.
Are you engaging with industry professionals and reaching out to potential students? Do your accounts post enough content? How are you dealing with commentary, be it positive or negative? These are all questions your team will need to ask, in order to get a good look at how well you have been performing, before diving deeper into strategy.
From your audit, you can start to plan your overall direction. Once you’ve determined which networks your target demographics utilize most, you can focus on those networks and adapt your branding, voice, tone, and style to fit the specific channels. For most academic institutions, a confident, concise and optimistic voice would be appropriate. However, the type of organization will play a key role in this. For instance, an arts college and a business school will each have a different approach finely tuned to their audiences.
Academic institutions need to watch out for any grammatical errors and their list of inappropriate words will most likely be larger than other business types. For platforms like Facebook, take advantage of language filters and investigate apps or plug-ins like Grammarly, to help you edit for grammar.
When planning content, your work should be 20% self-promotion and 80% helpful (yet relevant) information. The type of academic institution you represent will help guide your decisions on what content to share with your particular demographic. Keeping track of small details and having a style guide can ensure consistency through your posts, even if multiple people are posting on your networks. Consult your brand style guide, to better inform your decision-making.
Imagery Is Paramount
The importance of visual images on social media is well-documented and for good reason. According to Dr. John Medina, human brain development researcher, studies show that people who view a relevant image paired with other content retain 55% more information than people who do not receive an image.
Photos are an effective way to convey the experience your students go through at your academic institution. Having an in-house photographer can be a large asset; otherwise, you’ll have to hire one. In some circumstances, using another photographers’ photography makes sense but make sure you have the rights to your images or ask for permission first. We cannot emphasize this enough. It’s a matter of respect to the photographer and you don’t want a costly bill or lawsuit to hinder your success. Utilizing free Creative Commons images can be an easy and effective way to make sure your photos are always safe for use.
Test, Learn, Fix
The most important aspect of any successful social media marketing strategy is to frequently assess success, while adjusting for any opportunities to improve. Social media trends change quite rapidly and a strategy that may have worked this year may not work in the years to follow.
The demographics and trends of each social media platform fluctuate; the networks you are utilizing may become less relevant for your target demographic, while new networks become the stronger choice. Consistently asking yourself and your team whether you’re meeting the goals you’ve set in the first step will help you continually evolve your digital marketing strategy.
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