Each year the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) gives higher education marketing and social media professionals an opportunity to come together for three days of learning, sharing ideas, and, dare I say, even a little bit of a therapy session while everyone is away from their 9-to-5 roles. This year their conference took place in New Orleans, and I was lucky enough to attend.
There were three major themes that were shared by the presenters throughout the conference that could and should resonate with any higher education marketer:
- Find your tribe/content curation doesn’t need to happen in a silo.
- Not sure who your institution is? Enter “social listening.”
- Pay-to-play is here to stay.
1. Find your tribe/content curation doesn’t need to happen in a silo
When working on a college or university campus, it’s easy to get stuck in a routine where you’re doing everything in your power to stay on top of your to-do list. As Dr. Josie Ahlquist passionately talked about in her opening keynote, higher education faculty and staff need to stop simply surviving and begin thriving if we expect to avoid burnout, succeed in our roles, and help our institutions be a place prospective students want to attend. To do this, you need to find your tribe. We’re all educators, regardless of our role on campus, and we’re all working for the same common goal. Find those on your campus who can help advocate on your behalf, so your time and effort is spent aligned to the University mission, vision statement, and strategic plan.
Tyler Thomas from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln gave two ovation-deserving presentations on how to break down silos on campus in order to be more effective and efficient when it comes to content curation. I talked about this a bit in my last blog post, but working on a campus means you have access to a treasure trove of content that can easily be repurposed for your social media outlets and/or website. Other people have the stories and marketers have the skills to tell those stories, so step outside your comfort zone and break down the silos. (You can view Tyler’s tips here and here.)
2. Not sure who your institution is? Enter “social listening”
Social listening is just beginning to take off as a best practice in higher education, albeit behind the times of other industries. Dr. Liz Gross from Campus Sonar educated a packed room about the role social listening has for higher education marketers—it’s no longer a responsibility just for those who handle crisis communications or public relations on college campuses around the globe. We’ve reached a point where not knowing what prospective students are talking about will be a huge missed opportunity in helping our campuses grow to the ever-evolving needs of this next generation of students. Social listening is like having a focus group readily available for your every question, project, or idea. Take advantage to what these students are saying before someone else does.
3. Pay-to-play is here to stay
Like it or not, higher education marketers need to be investing some of their budgets toward paying-to-play on social media. And strategies for reaching our audiences on these platforms are getting more complex; you can no longer boost a couple Facebook posts and call it a day. Colgate University’s Matt Hames gave a 10-minute lightning talk on Facebook ads, while the University of Chicago’s alumni team spent 45 minutes sharing how they used Facebook’s ad data to connect their online activities with their offline goals. For anyone who hasn’t dipped their toes into the pay-to-play world yet, there are a few actionable takeaways that should be integrated into any further social campaigns:
- Bad ads won’t perform well on Facebook, which in turn will make it even harder for your organic content to beat Facebook’s algorithm. Be strategic about the ads you’re running, who you’re targeting, and what is being said in those ads.
- Make sure you’re including keywords in your ad copy, and in turn, use those same keywords as part of the targeting. Facebook pays attention to this correlation.
- Make sure you’re always A/B testing different copy, images, headlines, ad formats, etc. Each audience could gravitate toward something slightly different, so work on offering them a couple of options.
- Trying to reach people but they’re not opening any of your emails? Upload your email lists directly to Facebook and send that audience a targeted message specific to their unique needs and interests.
- The fewer Facebook pages you’re running advertising out of for your institution, the better. Not only are you competing against yourself when it comes to your paid efforts, but prospective students become current students who then become alumni—so why don’t you showcase the entire student journey in one place? It makes it easier for your audience to find that information.
You can follow Erika on Twitter @e_fields for more higher education social media marketing insights.