The rise of social media is one of the biggest digital trends of the 21st century. At the beginning of 2018, statistics showed that 83% of the UK adult population were using at least one of the main social media channels.
The connections that social media creates with students and potential students in the higher education sector shouldn’t be underestimated; students are the bread and butter of most institutions, so engaging them early on is key. Gone are the days of students perusing a prospectus and basing a decision on that alone.
It’s a fact that students use social media, amongst other things, to choose a university. Through it, they can share valuable information with friends and family, make value judgements based on the content they see shared across a university’s digital channels and get instant access to staff at a university. Institutions should be taking full advantage of these would-be consumers, starting early conversations that resonate with their core audience.
The trick is to come up with genuine content that will strike a chord with your target market and increase brand loyalty at the same time. If a university has a strong, active online community, it will significantly strengthen the brand perspective. Today’s students are media savvy digital natives and can spot a fraud a mile off – so be mindful about projecting an authentic message across all channels.
Many universities use brand ambassadors and digital gurus as part of their social media offering. This works particularly well when planning content around Open Days or Fresher’s Week. The University of Sussex is one of many that’s harnessing the power of digital gurus, using current students to blog, vlog, make video content and create engaging Instagram stories. Since starting the scheme, Sussex’s engagement rates and follower numbers have seen an increase. It’s a shrewd, cost-effective move that means prospective students get an unofficial student view of a university that they wouldn’t find on university websites or inside a prospectus. Harness these brand advocates – they are one of your strongest promotional tools.
Clearing is another opportunity for universities to use the power of social media. A-Level results day can be a hugely stressful time for students and families. Social media is a great way to instantly engage with candidates who may be struggling with results day. During the clearing process, universities such as the University of Bradford take to Facebook to offer students a place. Not only does this build loyalty with would-be students, it also improves their overall experience of dealing with an institution, particularly during such a stressful time. This can only be a good thing when it comes to students recommending a university to their peers.