Just creating digital content won’t generate leads
The Fourth Annual Survey of Social Media in Advancement conducted by CASE, Huron Education, and mStoner revealed that colleges are using social media in increasingly sophisticated ways. Nearly a third of the institutions surveyed called themselves “successful” or “a model” institution for the use of social media. Most schools used social media to engage current students and alumni. And, fifty-nine percent said that their fundraising and development campaigns involved social media channels.
However, despite these findings, 78% schools still report they struggle to engage students online, saying they’ve had only mid to low success with their social media campaigns. This isn’t surprising. In a digital world inundated with product content, event content, and advertising content it’s hard to stand out. The problem is that most schools are using their digital feeds to produce more noisy content, not to create a successful content marketing strategy.
What’s the difference between digital content and content marketing?
It’s important to know the difference between content and content marketing, so you can turn “likes” into applications. Michael Brenner from the Content Marketing Institute explains that content marketing attracts an audience to some specific destination, like your college website, that you own and optimize to achieve your marketing goals. Content marketing attracts an audience to your platform, rather than buying their attention on someone else’s platform.
Why is content marketing so successful at attracting and engaging an audience? Because unlike other advertising content, content marketing is created to address the customer’s needs. For instance, we know that prospective students are preoccupied with paying for college. Sharing a link to financial aid resources on your college website helps them access information they genuinely want, and so they are more likely to click on it. It also establishes your school as a trusted source of helpful information.
What kind of content should my school be sharing?
Community colleges offer a wide variety of programs, but many are aimed at nontraditional students. Prospective students over 25 are preoccupied with their careers. Many have never considered college as a viable pathway, maybe because they are first generation students, or they feel they can’t take time out of the workforce. However, we know the flexible and focused degree and certificate programs at community colleges could earn them a pay increase and help them reach their career goals.
Community colleges are most likely to reach prospective nontraditional students when they share information about college as a career pathway. It’s important to focus on relatable stories and quantifiable results. Accurate information about the median pay for an ultrasound technician and the job opportunities in that field are more useful than a paean to education. The story of a student who found work as an ultrasound tech after earning his credential adds emotional resonance, and makes education seem like a viable career choice.
How many leads should my social media generate?
Part of the issue with evaluating social media campaigns is that schools that feel they’ve been unsuccessful often don’t have a clear set of metrics for analyzing success. Different institutions track various outcome measures to evaluate social media initiatives. These range from numbers of active “friends,” “likes,” and comments, to event participation, anecdotal stories, donations, and applications for admission. Depending on your goals and target audience it may make sense to evaluate success by any of these.
However, the CASE study found one unifying feature among institutions that were using social media successfully. These schools closely aligned their marketing, social and fundraising initiatives across all channels. They use social media to reach constituents, but also used email, direct print mail, outreach and marketing at events, and more. These schools didn’t post to their social media channels sporadically or unthinkingly, but as part of broad and effective campaigns.
Content marketing dispels digital chaos
So, if your community college’s social media strategy seems unsuccessful, ask whether you’re just tweeting or if you’re content marketing. If you feel like your school is just shouting into the void, without building a following or generating any real leads, you probably are just creating content. Of course, successful content marketing requires having informative and well-written content to share. Maybe you don’t feel like your marketing department has time to continuously create appealing content.
That’s where Aperture Content Marketing comes in. We have a deep library of articles that you can easily tailor to your school, giving your college plenty of content to share. You can also use our proprietary CampaignBuilder to easily create multi-channel content marketing campaigns. Are you ready to start engaging prospective students on social media? Contact us today for a demonstration of our services.