Top Five Things to do with Social Media in Higher Education.

For schools and universities, social media is the perfect avenue to raise their school’s profile for students, alumni, and the social community. If you are a higher education marketer, take a look at these top five things you can do with social media in higher education.
Veena Ramakrishnan
May 26, 2020 - 7 min. read

Wondering what Gen Z are doing when they are not dying their hair blue or binge-watching shows on Netflix during the lockdown?

Perhaps, making important decisions on which schools to attend?

We hope so.

At the time of writing this article, the world was amid a global pandemic depriving many students of taking the much-awaited campus tours. However, thanks to social media, they still had the option of touring the campus through pictures and videos on the universities’ social media pages.

This is just one of many instances of how social media can act as an indispensable resource for the student and alumni community. Schools and universities would be advised to spend a little extra time on social to attract and engage more students.

Let’s dive into how the academic world can benefit from social media.

1. Drive enrollment

Given that social media and technology have become an integral part of our daily lives, the obvious place for students to look up for information on what schools and universities have to offer is—duh—social media.

A simple tap on their five-inch screen is all that it takes to get the information they want.

For instance, Instagram is the place of choice when students want a visual treat of campus life. Snapshots of the residence halls, classrooms, celebrations, and outdoor strolling spaces give students a glimpse into what life at a university is like that pique their interest when deciding the school of choice.

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Riding scooters across the Yard⠀ ⠀ #HarvardinWinter⠀ ⠀ Photo by @aaron_america

A post shared by Harvard University (@harvard) on

Looking at your Twitter feed filled with the news of your latest achievements and your breakthrough in the fields of research would make any prospective student want to be a part of your stellar institution.

2. Build a community

Social media need not necessarily be considered for just marketing and advertising purposes. And there’s more to it than just memes and cute cat videos.

Social media has the innate ability to connect and communicate with a target audience and build relationships.

What you need to achieve on social is to build a community that is passionate about what you do and say on social.

Posting about sports events, recent developments in research, videos of lectures, and highlighting the work of your associates, students, and faculty, are just some of the ways to promote your brand and nurture a feeling of community with your audience.

3. Establish your thought leadership

Establishing yourself as an industry expert will give you more visibility and credibility. What you want to achieve is for people to come to you, not just for your services but also for the information you empower people with through social media.

Sharing your research studies and discoveries on social media is a way of advertising your university as a thought leader in the field of research and academia.

4. Promote your brand

Whether it is a tweet of your sports team winning the championship title or an Instagram post of your beautiful campus during winter, an effective brand promotion on social media will help you reach prospective students and drive enrollment.

Brand promotion not just increases brand awareness but also brings a personality to your brand that piques the interest of prospective students to discover what your school has to offer.

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Former Harvard tight end Kyle Juszczyk will play with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. Juszczyk, an economics concentrator and former resident of Pforzheimer House, says he dreamed about this since he was growing up in Ohio. ⠀ ⠀ Midway through his career at Harvard, Head Coach Tim Murphy sat Juszczyk down and told him that if he continued to progress he had a real shot at the NFL.⠀ ⠀ “I think it was hearing those words from him and getting that outside confirmation that really sparked me and kind of took it to the next level for me,” he said. ⠀ ⠀ Juszczyk ended his College career as Harvard’s all-time leader among tight ends in receptions (125, sixth all-time), receiving yards (1,576, seventh all-time), and touchdown receptions (22, third all-time).⠀ ⠀ Photo: Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletic Communications

A post shared by Harvard University (@harvard) on

5. Engage with students

Getting your own students to take the social media spotlight is a great way to boost student engagement.

A lot of universities ask their own students to give a virtual tour of their campus on social media in the form of YouTube videos or Instagram and Snapchat stories.

By doing so, prospective students get a better and more relatable insight into campus life.

You can also repurpose student-generated content to give your social media channels a different perspective and angle that you may have missed. 

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#TellUsTigers: “As an undergraduate at Princeton, I navigated busy weeks by planning vigorously, but at the same time, allowing for spontaneity. For example, this time last year, my friend Matt and I decided to let our poor overheated laptops take a break from running the code for our problem set, and we stepped outside for an impromptu photo shoot with the magnolias outside of Spelman. As I sat beneath the flowers, I felt relieved that amidst thesis, post-grad plans and all the other hefty contemplations of senior year, there were still small moments like this to lighten up the day. Similarly, during the past few weeks of #COVID19, I’ve been making mental notes of the little things that make my new work-from-home lifestyle less intimidating of a change. I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to work remotely from my hometown, Vancouver, where I can enjoy my dad’s delicious dinners, read and discuss my mom’s favorite books and use the cherry-blossom-lined streets as motivation to run more often. It also feels odd and lonely. But it doesn’t mean we should stop doing the things that keep us engaged. After graduation, I had set a goal to volunteer once a month in order to get to know Seattle (where I work) beyond its tech bubble. This was largely inspired by my #PrincetonU experience, where my extracurriculars — Princeton University Sinfonia and the Society of Women Engineers — allowed me to reach out to children & seniors from beyond our famous ‘orange bubble.’ In early April, I came across Code in Place, a free, public introductory coding course offered by two @Stanford professors as a community service during the pandemic. I am a volunteer TA for the class; once a week, I meet virtually with 10 students & guide them through how to think like a software engineer. ‘How do you have the time to do all of this?’ one of my friends asked. As paradoxical as it may sound, keeping myself busy has allowed me to feel calm & at peace — because it reminds me of how I am continuing to grow into the person I want to be, how I’m a part of a community and how we’re not alone.” — Kathy Fan ’19 (@kathy.zfannn); 📷 by Matt Wang ’19 (@creampuffsprite). #Princetagram #TigersHelping

A post shared by Princeton University (@princeton) on

Final Thoughts

Gone are the days when social media was just considered as a distraction to students.

Today, social media has proven to enhance learning, increase student and faculty engagement, and enable smooth communication.

As for schools and universities, social media is the perfect avenue to raise their school’s profile for students, alumni, and the social community.

Social media is a competitive environment. Hence, it is important for higher education marketers to experiment, track, and analyze which content strategy is the most effective for them.