Attracting and engaging with students online
Sharing content, getting likes, boosting your enrollment numbers: It seems like it should be so easy. But, for some reason, your Facebook page is languishing, and you aren’t getting the kind of online engagement you want from prospective students.
Institutions like Columbia and the University of Michigan are using their social media pages to engage alumni for multi-million-dollar fundraising campaigns. Community colleges may have more modest goals, like increasing your fall enrollment numbers, but after facing steadily declining enrollment for years, it might seem easier to raise a million dollars.
So, how can you write better content for your college’s social media pages? Why isn’t the content you’re posting already getting the kind of engagement you want? You need a content marketing strategy that works for your school.
You need sharable content to post
Your college should post content that’s not just immediately engaging. It should also be widely shareable. The most highly shareable written content is long-form, which means it’s over a thousand words long.
People prefer to share things that they find helpful and emotionally resonant. Post the links to long articles and blogs, which by their very nature are more likely to be helpful and contain compelling narrative elements. That’s why they are far more shareable than short posts.
Everything your college posts on social media should be well-written
At some point your professors will be grading students on their writing. It looks pretty bad if your institution’s publicly-shared content would be earning a ‘C+’ grade. That’s why it’s important that the articles you share and the posts that you write are stylistically unimpeachable.
Of course, writing well also matters because good writing is far more likely to be helpful, compelling, and interesting than bad writing. But, as an academic institution, to earn trust, you have to maintain a certain level of excellence – even on Facebook.
Good social media copy includes visual elements
A picture is worth a thousand words, and an infographic is easily worth three thousand. Rich media elements can tell your story or make your argument for you. Graphs, videos, and high-quality photos attract attention and likes on social media.
This doesn’t mean that you should load up your feeds with stock images. A good picture of a real student will be much more compelling than a generic photo of a college campus. Prospective students are much more interested in seeing people like themselves represented on your social media page.
Good social media copy leaves some whitespace
Eyes need room to rest. That means your sentences should be short. Don’t use too many conjunctions or clauses, cramming your words into one long line. Keep paragraphs short, too. Ideally, they won’t be more than three lines long.
This is even more important now that everyone reads content on their phones. The small screens make long paragraphs look even longer. Without enough white space, your readers won’t be able to scan the text comfortably.
Social media copy should address the reader
Listen to the difference between these sentences. First, here’s a typical academic platitude: “University X is a leader in innovation and research, nationally acclaimed for its approach to education.” Second, a reader-focused sentence full of direct pronouns: “At University X, you are the author of your own story.”
Especially on social media, you should always address your audience directly. It’s not surprising that the second type of sentence earns a much higher engagement rate from people browsing online. It especially appeals to younger audiences. Gen Z prefers a personal approach.
Always be as honest as possible
Community colleges are public institutions. They have an obligation to be honest with prospective students. That’s one of the things that sets them apart from for-profit schools and makes them trusted authorities in the eyes of the public.
Plenty of community college students have excelled in the classroom. Many have also struggled academically, personally, and financially. Colleges should speak openly about those challenges, from paying for tuition to getting a ride to class. What you share on social media is no exception.
Be as responsive as possible on social media…
Your college has an online presence, which means that students and prospective students will be engaging with you online. You probably don’t have the marketing personnel to monitor every single post. Still, you should respond.
If you receive a message or a comment, take the time to write back. Public comments especially matter, since other people see how quickly you handle the questions and complaints. Make sure that your online engagement is prompt and professional.
…but don’t use social media to contact students
Students and prospective students, especially those in Gen Z, do not want your college to contact them through social media channels. When they reach out, they prefer to use email or speak to someone directly.
So, even though you should respond quickly to inquiries on your page, and especially to any public complaints, don’t use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to directly contact students. Update your page, create events, and share long-form content instead.
Feeling overwhelmed by the task of creating long-form content?
The content you share online has to be fact-based, well-written, and highly engaging. It also has to feel personal, and relevant to your audience’s concerns, and dovetail with your broader marketing strategy.
If that feels like too much to handle every week, why not call in the professionals? With access to our deep content library you’ll be able to create a winning social media strategy in a fraction of the time. Our custom content can help your college succeed where other digital strategies have fallen flat. It’s time to start earning those likes.