Generating student “leads” for college enrollment is not too different than lead generation for business to business companies.
Whether you’re a marketing executive at a B2B company, or a college recruiter, qualified leads are the lifeblood of an institution.
Social media often plays an crucial role in the decision-making process of prospective students — early and often in that process. According to a recent survey conducted by Uversity of over 12,000 high school students, 75% use social media as a resource when deciding where to enroll.
Here are some guiding principles that we recommend following when it comes to using social media for student prospecting.
Positive brand visibility
Visibility breeds familiarity. Familiarity breeds word-of-mouth.
Many student prospects consciously use social media as a research channel. Countless others may not intentionally conduct research through social media, yet they are subconsciously affected (positively or negatively) by a school’s brand when they encounter it repeatedly in social media conversations. Their opinions of schools are shaped by what they see and read in their social media streams about them and from them.
That’s why it’s so important to initiate, engage in and lead those discussions — to control how your school’s brand is visible to prospects.
It’s much more likely that your school will make it onto a hot prospect’s short list if that student is familiar with your school’s brand in a positive way. At the very least, positive familiarity will increase the likelihood that a prospect will take a closer look at your blog or website.
If their follow-on experience on your website remains positive, they may subscribe to your newsletter or request some information, which will enable you to further market to those prosepcts through additional online and/or offline channels. A B2B marketer would refer to such an acquisition as a “marketing-qualified lead.”
Spreading human stories — and selling yours
Human stories sell by accident because they are not salesy.
Prospective students will be moved by real human stories connected with your college or university. Stories about students, alumni, teachers, administrators. Stories of their lives and experiences, made richer and more meaningful by your school’s environment. Stories of grand accomplishment, overcoming fear and adversity, having fun, and forming lifelong friendships with others.
Find those stories, furrow them out of your community, and showcase them through social media. These human stories will get more engagement that any other type of content published on social media. And that engagement will cause those stories — and your school’s brand — to spread.
The biggest donation alumni can make is through their public advocacy of your school.
Prior to online social networks, that online advocacy was limited to templated email newsletters and wooden testimonials published within digital web brochures.
Social media facilitates a dynamic 4-way virtual conversation among people spread around the globe that never could have occurred before — that between (i) prospective students, (ii) current students, (iii) educators/staff and (iv) alumni. A marketer’s most important job in such an environment is to simply act as a moderator of the discussion. Facilitate healthy dialogue, then get out of the way. Groups 2, 3 and 4 should do perfectly well in recruiting group 1.
Alumni can often be the most reluctant from these four groups to actively engage in their alma mater’s social media content. We get it. It’s not that they’re not grateful. They’re busy.
Although, alumni participation and advocacy can infuse a level of credibility and trust in prospects that cannot be matched by any of the other groups. It’s probably because alumni best represent proof of success from their education.
How about rather than ask for yet another donation from certain notable alumni during the next fundraising campaign, ask them to participate in an on-air Google+ hangout where they’ll be asked to talk about how their degree got them to where they are today? The marketing value you can create from such an asset could greatly outweigh a monetary donation.
Steal candidates from your competitors
Now for the good news: standing out on social does not mean getting it perfect… rather, it means simply doing it better than your competitors.
Performing consistently well on social is hard. It takes time, patience, and tight coordination with other marketing activities. Many schools that we observe on social media seem to be scraping by with the bare minimum in order to maintain an appearance of activity, yet they’re not deeply engaging with people in any of them. There is no apparent strategy. And there is no human element in a fundamentally human chanel.
Are the time gaps in your competitors’ social media posts getting bigger? Are they broadcasting their story rather than letting others tell it?
Well, more good news for you, then, because social-media savvy prospective students notice those differences.
Measuring ROI from your investment in Social
The investment you make in social is more an investment of time rather than money. A B2B marketer would measure the return on investment (ROI) in social content marketing as the increase in qualified leads that carry some estimated monetary value based on their likelihood to convert to closed sales and revenue.
As a student recruiter, you can think of your ROI as measured by the increase in qualified applications for admission. More applicants means higher average test scores of accepted students, higher average GPAs, and lower, more competitive acceptance rates. All those metrics should bode nicely for your school’s reputation.
If you’re having a hard time proving social media’s direct contribution to that increase, try comparing your recent applicant list to lists of your of social media followers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You’ll probably find a substantial overlap, demonstrating that social plays at least a significant contributing role in application decisions.
If you’re in the process of formulating and integrating your social media strategy, don’t overlook LinkedIn’s relatively new University Pages. They present a fantastic new communication channel for education marketers. You can grab a free guide for setting up and using LinkedIn University pages below.