Social media can be a powerful method of communicating with prospective students — if your career college uses it correctly. About two-thirds of high school students use social media to research colleges, and more than one-third of those students use social media to help decide where to enroll, according to a survey conducted by Zinch, an online scholarship- and school-matching service.1,2 Follow these five best practices to boost your career college's enrollment efforts and give prospective students insight into your school.
Have a Clear Voice
You know what your institution represents: building workplace skills, gaining hands-on experience, enjoying new interactions, building relationships, or a combination of these and more. Be clear in this vision, and be sure that it comes across on social media platforms. Certain schools may want to emphasize a fun and friendly campus by taking that tone in social networking, while an online university can focus on work-school balance. Find your voice and stick to it; don't confuse prospective students by frequently changing the tone of your social media posts. Make sure your followers will be able to easily understand your institution's brand.
Know Your Audience
Conduct research into your key demographic and reach out to them accordingly. Are they more likely to be browsing on a phone or desktop? On average, how long will they spend on a Web page? What is this age group's most popular social networking platform? How do they like to receive their content? Analyzing the answers to these questions can help you determine the best times of day to post, best topics to focus on and the most effective way to present content. Speak the language of your prospects, and they will pay attention.
Showcase Your Institution's People
According to the same survey by Zinch, when prospective students get on an institution's social media pages, they are mostly looking for a way to communicate with real people — current students in particular.2 Respond to comments, both positive and negative, to show that your institution cares and is interested in hearing feedback. But don't just be reactive; create an environment where users feel comfortable asking questions. Get current students involved using a Twitter Q&A or in a discussion on a Facebook post. Open dialogue is powerful in connecting with potential students and helping them feel accepted into your community. Show students of all backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, etc., so it becomes easy for prospects to picture themselves fitting in at your school.
Post Frequently, But Don't Overshare
With so much information to share about your school, it may be difficult to find a balance in how often you should post on different social networks. Research from Buffer, a social media posting app, and SumAll, a firm for social media reporting, found that each social media platform has its own "sweet spot" for number of posts per day that are most effective. Twitter accounts should have at least three posts per day, Facebook should have two posts per day at most, and LinkedIn posts are most successful when there is only one per day.3 Find harmony here by soliciting student feedback and paying attention to the types of posts people are most interested in, but not bombarding their social feeds with content. Measure the success of your social efforts by establishing concrete goals for your social campaigns. If you want students to comment on or share your post, visit a website, or even enroll in your school, look at the details of older posts that lead to the results you wanted - whether it's the time of day, day of the week, or type of post made - and try to recreate your results on newer posts. You should be the amazing institution they can't wait to learn more about; don't become a nuisance in their timelines.
Newer social media platforms such as Instagram, Vine and Snapchat are almost entirely centered around image and video, and these sites are seeing great growth rates, particularly among students. Stake a claim to their turf. Seventy-seven percent of college students use Snapchat every day, according to a recent study by Sumpto, a New York-based marketing company.4 In addition to these new platforms, it is statistically more likely for a post on Twitter to receive more engagement if there is a visual attached. In fact, a study from HubSpot found that tweets with images saw a 36 percent increase in clicks, a 48 percent increase in favorites, and a 55 percent increase in leads overall.5 Beyond getting more attention from users, visuals are a great way to show a school's culture and expectations. A Snapchat Story of different ways students are celebrating their commencement can show more about a university's culture in a minute than reading an entire website could.
Educational institutions can boost enrollment if they strike the right balance in their social media posts. Overall, it is crucial to understand your prospects, and connect with them where they are comfortable. Use social media to share your information in a way that is casual, convenient to your audience, and shows your personality.
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Resources: Photo credit. (1) Social Networks and College Choices (2) How High School Students Use Social Media in Their College Search (3) How Often Should You Post on Social Media? (4) Study Finds 77% of College Students Use Snapchat Daily (5) A/B Test Finds 55% Increase in Leads When Images Added to Tweets