Jason Boucher

Social Media Strategies Summit: Higher Ed

by Jason Boucher

Another Social Media Strategies Summit for Higher Education has ended… but only with making new friends, learning some recent trends, and understanding more about the role we all play in the world of social media for higher education. There were many outstanding panels, but let me try to recap what occurred with our extraordinary group for those who missed it or could not attend this year…

The panel, called ‘Student Recruitment Efforts and Authenticity – Strategies for Reaching and Engaging Prospective Students,’ was led by our marvelous moderator, Kirsten Clark, the Associate Director of Enrollment Services Communication & Marketing at the University of Houston. She started with a few slides on how UH capitalizes on trends and hashtags through social listening. Did you know they got Lizzo to visit campus from a tweet?

Kimberley Stern, Director of Social and Digital Media at Colorado State University, discussed how CSU has created a student vlog series on YouTube called A Ram’s Life that’s all about student life, including virtual campus tours and teaming up with admissions. BTW, Follow their blog. You won’t be disappointed.

Webb Lewis, Digital Content Specialist at The University of Mississippi, shared how Ole Miss uses Snapchat to reach prospective students to apply and increase their Fall visit day attendance. Ole Miss also has a family Facebook page to share all kinds of info, from financial aid to Greek life, which helps increase awareness and recruit new students.

I showcased our Instagram takeover series #ThisIsUNH, which shares a day in the life of a UNH Wildcat. It’s unscripted, authentic, and showcases what being a UNH student is like. I also briefly discussed that Gen Z is on YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat more than other social platforms, so we must fish where the fish are.

Next, the panel was asked how we measure ROI or a return on investment and how we measure the impact of our work with recruitment. When calculating ROI with undergraduate admissions at UNH, we look for increased campus visits and tour registrations, even a swell in applicants, and an increase in Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter messages. We also look for increased mentions, hashtag use, and check-ins via social media platforms. These act as KPIs and tell us that what we’re pushing out via social media is working. We also communicate our strategy and an analytics report to the recruitment marketing team and the undergraduate admissions team every month that shows data on many levels — from vanity metrics to demographics and in-depth click-through rates. We still need the ability to access the CRM our admissions team uses, so we can get a better sense of actual ROI and further prove what we’re doing works. We need to keep working at breaking down silos because we’re all on the same team.

For Gen Z, in particular, parents play a role when selecting a college. Engaging parents on social media is part of the strategy. The student affairs office at UNH runs a Facebook group for parents, which #UNHSocial is not responsible. We look at the undergraduate admissions audience and how it’s made up. Instagram is mostly for prospective students, whereas Twitter is primarily for high school guidance counselors and other schools. Still, according to our insights, Facebook, which is home to many audiences, is where parents tend to be more than anywhere else.

Authenticity is also important, and at UNH, we try to be transparent and show authenticity through our social media channels daily. For example, our student team creates and shares a weekly series comprising questions about trending topics. They interview actual students, unscripted, for their production of ‘Cat ChatsOn The Spot, and Take A Closer Look on Instagram Stories.

One question we needed more time for was about engaging with Reddit. I’m not sure how others use this platform, but it’s an influential space that many prospective and current students use. While we don’t post to Reddit, we listen and try to understand how to reach students more authentically and better. If you have the chance, check out the subreddit /applying to college and also look and see if your institution has a subreddit — chances are it does.

Thanks to Breanna Jacobs for putting this entire summit together and allowing us to share with our peers across higher education.