Social Media and the Student Lifecycle: 9 Tips on Increasing Engagement

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1 Social Media and the Student Lifecycle: 9 Tips on Increasing Engagement

2 Higher Education & Social Media by the Numbers 75% 69% 89% 84% 97% 39% Admissions 75% of the class of 2013 used social media in deciding where to enroll compared to 39% in 2012 Student Services 89% of higher ed institutions engaged current students through social media in 2013 compared to 69% in 2012 Alumni 97% of U.S. higher ed institutions engaged alumni through social media in 2013 compared to 84% in 2012 Stats taken from the white paper, The Social Campus: How Social Media is Transforming Higher Education.

3 Listening, Learning, and Conversing: How the Higher Ed Pros Succeed in Social The statistics echo what those in the higher education field already know: social media s role in post-secondary institutions communications with students prospective, enrolled, or graduated is integral. And it s growing. This is an exciting time for those who work in Admissions, Student Services, and Alumni/Fundraising Services. Instead of relying on traditional outreach methods, which limit interaction, universities and colleges that listen to their audiences and come up with new and different ways of connecting are seeing their efforts rewarded. We asked digital media pros from three top higher education institutions, the University of Southern California, Ryerson University, and The Ohio State University, to share their knowledge about using social media successfully. Hear their stories on the webinar, Making the Grade: Tapping into the Student Life Cycle Through Social Media. From the conversations, we pulled together some of their success stories and tips on how your institution can implement sound, successful social media communication strategies.

4 Prospective Students: Connecting and Maintaining Relationships Through Social

5 Juntae DeLane Digital Brand Manager, University of Southern California Juntae DeLane is the Digital Brand Manager for the University of Southern California s Enrollment Services Department where he provides digital marketing, branding and social media strategy for Admission, Financial Aid, Orientation, and Registration. The Hootsuite dashboard helped us pull all the pieces together by coordinating messaging across departments. We also used the mobile app to monitor social media activity any time.

6 3 Tips from Juntae DeLane, University of Southern California Tip 1. Create positive buzz and early engagement with virtual events. Connecting off-site visitors to online events based on real-life activities taking place at the school is an innovative and inexpensive way to share the excitement. Juntae and his team set up a live-streamed Virtual Open House on Facebook that coincided with an annual welcome to USC event for new and returning students. Viewers were required to like the USC Facebook fan page to watch the stream. The result? Students (and their parents) had a chance to check out the school without making a trip to the campus, whether they were still researching prospective schools or were enrolled but unable to attend. USC was able to boost event participation, and the Facebook page gained new, highly engaged followers.

7 3 Tips from Juntae DeLane, University of Southern California Tip 2. Decide on best practices for optimizing social media platforms. USC is using a number of social channels Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram so they need more than a one-size-fits-all approach. It s important to know the strengths of each platform and what type of content will get the most traction. Facebook, for example, is a great space to share rich media like videos, photos, and links (the Facebook audience responds favorably to interactive and visual media). On the other hand, Google+ allows you to post content for different audiences in your customized circles, and answer questions in real time during a Hangout session. Juntae and his team created a document of best practices for each of the social channels to ensure everyone was in agreement.

8 3 Tips from Juntae DeLane, University of Southern California Tip 3. Publish good content, consistently. While the focus should remain on creating unique, high-quality content, if your messaging isn t being sent out regularly, engagement levels will drop. USC publishes content at least once a week to Facebook, and increases to daily posts at important phases of the cycle. Hootsuite s scheduling options (Manual, Bulk, and AutoSchedule) can help manage frequency and even assist with publishing content at optimal times to reach your audience.

9 Current Students: Managing the Digital Hand-off From Admissions to Student Services

10 Kareem Rahaman Digital Media Specialist, Ryerson University Kareem Rahaman is a digital marketing specialist with a long history of digital communication consulting. He currently works at Ryerson University in the Undergraduate Admission and Registrar s Office as the Senior Digital Communications Officer where he uses digital media to recruit and convert prospective students to full time Ryerson students as well as helping deliver exceptional service through online channels to current students. The surveys showed that students wanted a student-run social media account that they could relate to.

11 3 Tips from Kareem Rahaman, Ryerson University Tip 1. Streamline accounts. Ryerson never had any problems with welcoming new recruits, and in fact, their outreach efforts to new and existing students, though well-meaning, were starting to get confusing. With three separate accounts sending welcome messages to new students, it was unclear who was responsible for answering questions and providing support. De-fragmenting this experience was a high priority for Kareem, who assembled a steering committee to bring about collaboration between the university s top-performing social media accounts. The result? During admissions, students now receive personalized Tweets that lead them to the correct university accounts they can follow as current students. This digital hand-off smooths the transition from admissions to enrolment by targeting the correct accounts at the different stages. Kareem s long-term plan is to continue this digital hand-off process right through to alumni.

12 3 Tips from Kareem Rahaman, Ryerson University Tip 2. Measure everything. As part of the streamlining process, Kareem and his colleagues use ubervu via Hootsuite to tag social media profiles and track students as they make their way through the admissions process. They also use social media metrics such as sentiment, reach, and conversion obtained through Hootsuite to build a comprehensive picture of how their efforts are paying off. By correlating this data, the team can see exactly how many touch points it takes for students to get all the information they need, and at what stages. This hard data is important for proving ROI and justifying the investment in social media.

13 3 Tips from Kareem Rahaman, Ryerson University Tip 3. Encourage authentic communication. Through a survey, the Ryerson social media team learned that students wanted an account that was run by their contemporaries. It might seem counterproductive to put an institution s social media reins in the hands of non-professionals, but Ryerson has proven that with a bit of preparation it can actually strengthen the messages being sent out. Monitor, don t micromanage, is Kareem s advice then it comes to student-run social media accounts. Although the social media team supports the account with overall strategy and training, students are allowed encouraged, in fact to use their authentic voices when communicating on the school s social networks. Kareem credits a thorough vetting process and training program with the account s success, and there haven t been issues of off-brand or problematic messaging. Feedback has been positive, and the team has seen marked increase in authenticity, sincerity, and trust.

14 Alumni: Cultivating Digital Relationships that Resonate

15 Kristen Convery Director, Multimedia Content, The Ohio State University As Director of Multimedia Content at The Ohio State University, Kristen Convery leads the team that manages osu.edu digital storytelling, university social media efforts, photography and video production. She combines a journalism background with an interest in technology and a drive to innovate. It s all about relationships, so it s important to follow up and say thanks. We compiled Buckeye stories in Storify for our website to show how much the school values this shared material.

16 3 Tips from Kristen Convery, The Ohio State University Tip 1. Experiment with different ideas and remain flexible. Kristen and her colleagues follow the principle of being always in beta which allows room for creativity and innovation depending on audience engagement. A good example is OSU s tag-yourself Facebook project that they created during Welcome Week to engage alumni during a time that is meaningful for current students. The OSU Facebook page had shown very high levels of engagement with alumni, who liked and commented more often than current students something they hadn t originally expected. The social media team posted images of the school s residence halls and other parts of the campus, and ask former students to tag themselves with stories of their time at OSU. The campaign was wildly successful, with some of the pictures reaching the maximum number of tags.

17 3 Tips from Kristen Convery, The Ohio State University Tip 2. Tailor content /campaigns to harness the momentum of current social media trends. The throwback Thursday hashtag on Instagram (#tbt) presented a perfect platform for showcasing old photos of Buckeyes in love. Through social listening, Kristen s team discovered that current OSU students were using the #buckeyeforlife Twitter hashtag to show their excitement about post-osu life as a proud graduate of the school. Kristen s team saw a chance to leverage the popular hashtag for engagement with another audience: alumni. By asking former students to share #buckeyeforlife stories, they brought a whole new dimension to the conversation, which expanded beyond Twitter to include other social platforms.

18 3 Tips from Kristen Convery, The Ohio State University Tip 3. Know thy audience and their preferred social media channels. OSU quickly discovered that their alumni responded most favorably to visuals, and predominantly use Facebook as an online connection platform. (The statistics back this up: In 2013, 45% of internet users age 65 and older used Facebook. And that number is growing. In late 2012, 35% of this group were active on Facebook.) Rather than focus one message or campaign across multiple platforms, the OSU social media team responded by making photography a central part of the institution s multimedia group. The team is able to tailor the messaging and purpose of their social media activity based on who they know will be listening.

19 Learn more about how your higher education institution can use social media to make connections in all stages of the student lifecycle. Watch the webinar /hootsuite /company/hootsuite /+hootsuite

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