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The End of Free Social Media

Zach Atwood
Account Coordinator

Higher education institutions recognize the need to be on social media and are using those channels for many different purposes. You can participate in most channels inexpensively or for free. Yet, to really be effective, you need to pay to play.

Social Media Pages

First, individual social media channels offer free pages for brands to represent themselves. These pages are relatively easy to set up and offer you the opportunity to control the imagery and content on your page to follow brand standards.

Continually update all of your social media pages as your brand evolves.

Even though the page itself is a free opportunity, organic fan growth is a tough battle to take on. With over 50 million business pages on Facebook alone (Forbes), grabbing the attention of potential fans and increasing awareness of your page is hard to tackle without putting in any budget.

Social media channels allow you to set up campaigns that just focus on growing your fan base. Leverage admissions data, internal recruitment knowledge, and your current audience to create look-alike audiences that mirror those already following you on social or those similar to past applicants.

Be warned- fast growth isn’t always good growth! There is always the temptation to want to grow your fan base quickly, either with a broadly targeted campaign or even paying for fake social media fans. Neither of these options will aid in growing your brand. You’ll be stuck with fake fans that don’t interact with your content and, more importantly, will not become advocates for your institution.

Social Media Postings

Post actively with interesting content to keep your fan base engaged.

Secondly, through each of these social media channels you are able to manage your institution’s conversation. Institutions should represent themselves on each channel to control comment responses, questions, and concerns about their brand.

These posts can help engage your audience and increase brand awareness and understanding, but depending on the channel, your audience may not even see your post. For example, non-sponsored posts on Facebook reach around 16% of a page fans (Forrester). All of that creative input to only reach 16% of your fan base? That stings!

Each social media channel use algorithms to determine what posts are shown when and to whom. To counteract those limitations, set up engagement campaigns on your posts. Set targeting parameters for each post to maximize ROI. For example, if your post is geared toward drawing in new applicants, set age and education parameters to target the next generation of students. If there is a post you need current students to see, target the current page fans and those who have listed your institution as their current college.

Targeted Advertising

Lastly, it’s often great to share your story and engage with your fans. Ultimately, one of your main goals is to increase the interest of qualified applicants. Targeted social media campaigns allow you to create advertisements. Targeted campaigns aid in increasing awareness and reach, provide information and engagement during the consideration and research phases, and convert social media users to apply. These more actionable advertising campaigns allow you to better meet the goals and objectives of your institution’s overall marketing plan. For example:

  • Advertise alumni events to users who have your institution as their “previous education” in their profile
  • Encourage current students to sign up for on-campus activities
  • Advertise master’s programs to college graduates that live around campus
  • Post student generated content to showcase student life to potential applicants

Whether you are interested in focusing on growing your social media presence, engaging with current fans, or looking to meet specific marketing goals, with the right targeting and budget allocation, you’ll see the best of social media in action!

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