Why Higher Education Should Embrace Social Media

Earlier in the month, we hosted Mike “Ambassador” Bruny for a live chat to discuss all things employee advocacy and the value of social engagement.  One thing that Mike continued to reiterate was the a program such as employee advocacy can really be tailored to any industry and vertical.  Advocates can come in all forms, professional levels and divisions. With established goals, a strategic plan and internal sponsorship, any organization or institution can win with employee advocacy.  Higher Education is an industry is that is spearheading social media platforms to engage with students, faculty, alumni, supporters, athletes, fans, and prospective students in new, collaborative and innovative ways. 

According to Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, “Millennials thrive in an always ‘on’ world filled with digital music devices, cell phones, the Internet, instant messenger and social networks. They are in constant touch, updating their friends with texts (80 per day on average according to Nielsen), tweets and messages on the ‘walls’ of their Facebook profiles. This world of interactivity and hyper-communication has fundamentally changed how teenagers and young adults receive, process and act on information” 

These Millennials are driving the forces and paving the way for social engagement at higher education institutions. They crave tools that will help them communicate and share content with the community in easy, quick way.  These millennials also take pride in representing their schools.  Providing them an advocacy program will harness their constant need for connecting and sharing to drive attention back to you an organization. 

So how can an advocacy program benefit a higher education organization? Here are three ways this initiative can socially connect your community to build out the brand of your organization:

Recruit Potential New Students

Thinking back to my days as a Berkeley student, I remember one thing my friends at school all had in common: student pride.  Whether that meant we were sporting the latest sweatshirt or cheering on our football team on a Saturday game day. We were proud to be members of the Cal Community and wanted to shout it from the mountain tops. Fast-forward 10 years and introduce social media, and you have a brand new game. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook provide an interweaved nervous system for students to connect over content, activities, announcements, social events, rallies, you name it. It’s not just the students who are on social networks to evangelizes for their institution. Faculty members, alumni, and general supporters are sharing content that showcases the pride and honor they have for the institution for which they are connected.  These are the folks that will drive new interest for potential new recruits. It mimics professional recruiting strategy to the T. You know someone that works for x company or in this case attends or promotes a university. They are sharing great, interesting, positive content about that business or institution that makes one raise their eyebrow and take interest in learning more about potential roles or in this case, attendance.  The Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth states: “There is continued evidence of enthusiasm and eagerness to embrace these new communication tools and there is also evidence that these powerful tools are being utilized more effectively each year. Schools using social media are clearly studying ‘rules of engagement’ in the online  world in order to maximize their effectiveness at recruiting prospective students.”

Make the Transition from Admission to a Member of the Student Body Seamless 

“Social networking is the most common form with 87% of admissions departments using it. 55% percent have a school twitter account and 51% have a blog. Almost all of those using a blog are using other forms of social media as well.  38% use message boards, 22% use podcasts and 13% use wikis." (Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) So what does this all mean for new students? It means there is a plethora of useful content and information populating multiple channels.  But how does this information get curated? How can the admissions department ensure that the students know they have access to multiple avenues of content that will make their transition to the student body seamless? They don't.

By providing them a platform that curates all of this content allowing any new student to have direct access on one single page will help make this transition seamless. No need to bookmark a handful of different blogs and microsites.  A new student already has so much on their plate diving into a new life chapter, that this time can be overwhelming.  Advocacy platforms can mitigate this chance of being over inundated with content. By segmenting content into different categories, students can utilize an advocacy platform to pick, choose and digest the content they need at that time. 

Strengthen Alumni Relationships & Encourage Continuous Involvement

As an institution, driving alumni engagement and involvement is up there with recruiting top students. Your alumni have an inherent emotional tie to your institution and mission.  But after they toss the cap in the air and step into the life that is adulthood, how as an institution do you stay connected: Social Media.  Social Media has provided a multitude of avenues for people to stay connected, converse and collaborate.  Alumni join LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Events, Twitter Pages, you name it, they are connected to it. But how can an institution ensure that their alumni are kept up to date with the most relevant, exciting, fun content? Advocacy.  Empowering your current students, faculty and members to curate and create unique content that positions your institution in a positive light and points to the most accurate, relevant information will keep your alumni engaged and up to speed. Your alumni  are in fact your most interactive and engaged members of your audience. They don’t just like photos or posts, they are commenting and sharing stories from their days as students. Harness these conversations as they are your best external advocates. 

To learn more about how your higher education institution can utilize employee advocacy to build stronger connections and amplify your message, let us know!