Joe Crowley
Digital Strategist

Connect With Prospective Students

Using the newer and fast-growing social media platforms.

Written in collaboration with Meg Falat.

Social media is no longer a fringe element in the higher Ed marketing arsenal. By now, everyone should be operating a Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn channel to help engage prospective students. If your organization is not utilizing these avenues to communicate with your audience, you should stop reading now and get to work on a plan.

Already have your bases covered with mainstream channels of social media?

Then it is time to talk about other, new channels that you can utilize to reach prospective students – Snapchat and Instagram.

A number of higher ed marketers have moved their organizations onto Instagram in recent years and with great reason – Instagram boasts an audience that is 400 million users strong (second only to Facebook), and has an advertising network that is actually larger than Twitter. We recommend Instagram because, unlike the aforementioned channels, it is a visual-based medium that relies on photo and video to tell a story. For a university, this is a great channel for showcasing student life and campus aesthetics.

Beyond a visual outlet, Instagram has a strong influencer network, which is important for reaching millennial prospects. Marketers need to understand that millennials don’t trust brand sites or ‘manufactured opinions.’ Instead, they trust opinions from their peers. In order to reach out to millennials, we have to market with them rather than market to them. Where you have an advantage is your campus is full of potential brand ambassadors in the form of students and faculty. Working with these groups to help promote the brand agenda can be a very effective tool for reaching new audiences.

Keeping with the theme of influencer marketing, Snapchat is quickly emerging as an effective channel for reaching millennial prospects. And while their network of 100 million users falls short of the other channels mentioned here, consider that 70% of their base is under 35. Business Week recently investigated Snapchat and found that it reaches 41% of all 18-to 34-year olds in the U.S. each day. Additionally, they report that users are spending an average of 27 minutes per day on the application.

What these stats tell us is that users love to provide their followers with constant updates. Inviting existing users on campus to post their stories to the official school account – especially when there is an event happening – is a great way to create authentic user generated content and extend brand awareness. Another tactic that has shown a lot of promise is creating a free geofilter for your campus. Before you ask – a geofilter is a graphic treatment provided by the institution that users can overlay on their own pictures inside Snapchat. For a better idea, here are some examples from higher ed. Geofilters can help users make a personal connection with the university, while at the same time providing an inside view of campus life.

A decline in teens applying to college, and in Snapchat users, doesn’t seem likely in our near future. Choosing a college is not solely based on choosing the top program for your major anymore. Students take in campus life as a whole in decision-making. Connect with prospective students, who are on the verge of choosing your school, on a personal level with a platform they are comfortable with—Snapchat. As 2016 winds down, and we collectively turn our attention to 2017, consider your own social media landscape and view the emergence of these new channels as a rare opportunity to get ahead of the curve.