How Higher Ed can get the Most out of Social Media

March 13, 2019 Sarah Parker

How Higher Ed can get the Most out of Social Media

Social media isn’t just for the students attending colleges and universities; it’s the perfect place for higher ed institutions to connect with prospective and current students, not to mention alumni and faculty who are active on social. 

With comprehensive social listening in place, colleges and universities know what the conversation around their brand is and how it might differ among those groups. Prospective students will want something different from a school on social- and may expect to find them in different places- than current students or alumni and faculty will. 

Maybe your school is active on social, but could be doing more to really maximize their presence there. In any case, here’s our guide to social media for higher education. 

Why comprehensive social monitoring and listening are important: Strategy

Social monitoring and listening are often used interchangeably but they don’t mean exactly the same thing. Monitoring is looking at all of the direct mentions of your brand (your school is a brand, after all) and listening expands out from that to include important keywords, competitive listening, and more.

Having a program like this in place lets your school know who is talking about you, where and how. Analyzing that over time- plus the performance of your current content- lets you know how to shape your social strategy going forward.

For example, what is your school trying to achieve on social? 

  • Community building? Alumni might want that on Facebook while current students want it somewhere else
  • If it’s share of voice, you need to measure your baseline and see where you are vs. your competitors on social (then ask: what are they doing that you aren’t?) 
  • Want to find influential students, alumni or faculty to track and engage with? (We’ve got more coming on this soon!)
  • Want to increase your engagement with students, and more? Current and prospective students might be more interested in things like Snapchat filters to show off their school or schools they’re touring than alumni do 

Leave room to experiment with newer platforms like Snapchat or new media formats on current platforms, but don’t think you have to go all-in on every new thing. Things like Snapchat filters also give you the opportunity to combine social and in-person campus events.

You can start with geofilter frames for big events along with in-person photo booths that encourage branded hashtag use, but think about how you can go deeper with this too, in ways that are unique to your campus and culture.

Why comprehensive social monitoring and listening are important: Crisis management 

Most crisis comms situations these days start and end (or fizzle out) on social media. Comprehensive social monitoring and listening allows your brand to do several things:

  1. Know as soon as a crisis situation begins, allowing you to take appropriate action
  2. Monitor that situation in real time to see how it changes and if your response needs to change
  3. Have enough data at the end to build a comprehensive crisis plan if you don’t already have one, or revise yours if you do  

Sometimes in a crisis, no response is the best response of all because it’s one disgruntled account without a lot of reach or influence tweeting something negative about your brand incessantly. With the right measurement in place, you know that it’s not worth your resources to respond to.

In other cases, ignoring a small but legitimate complaint can cause it to snowball until it reaches the attention of enough people in your audience- or just one who’s influential enough- to become a full-blown crisis situation. 

You need a plan in place for each kind of situation- including a chain of command for who is responsible for responding- and the monitoring and listening in place to know when to act.

What else?

This really only scratches the surface of why higher ed needs to not only be active on social, but actively engaging in comprehensive social monitoring and listening around that presence too.

It can help meet a lot of goals for your college or university, from community building between current students and alumni, to recruiting the best prospective students. It can help your school prevent a crisis comms situation which frees up your resources for pursuing bigger and better things. 

Let us know if you need help getting started, or if your strategy has gotten stale and just needs a data-infused kickstart.

You can also grab our playbook right here

About the Author

Sarah Parker

Sarah A. Parker is the Content Marketing Manager for Cision, planning, producing and curating content across channels. She previously managed content and social media for several different brands, in addition to working as a freelance writer. Find her on Twitter @SparkerWorks where she is happy to talk all things social media strategy, Digital PR, and mastiffs.

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